49ers

NFL capsule: 49ers 12-point favorites vs. Rams

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NFL capsule: 49ers 12-point favorites vs. Rams

ST. LOUIS (3-5) At SAN FRANCISCO (6-2)Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOXOPENING LINE - 49ers by 12RECORD VS. SPREAD - St. Louis 5-3; San Francisco 5-3SERIES RECORD - 49ers lead 62-61-2AP Pro32 RANKING - Rams No. 26; 49ers No. 4LAST MEETING - 49ers beat Rams 34-27, Jan. 1, 2012LAST WEEK - Rams had bye; 49ers had byeSTREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - Niners have won seven of last eight in series. ... Rams on three-game losing streak. ... San Francisco tries to move to 2-0 after bye week under coach Jim Harbaugh. ... 49ers beat Rams 26-0 last Dec. 4 at Candlestick Park to clinch franchise's first playoff berth since 2002. ... RB Frank Gore became 49ers' career rushing leader in that game by passing late Hall of Famer Joe Perry. ... 49ers have 11-game home winning streak against NFC West dating to Oct. 26, 2008, loss to Seahawks. ... St. Louis begins stretch with three of four vs. NFC West. It's team's first road matchup against division after beating Arizona and Seattle at home. ... San Francisco QB Alex Smith connected with nine receivers in 24-3 road rout of Cardinals on Monday night game of Oct. 29. Completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards, three TDs, and 157.1 passer rating. ... San Francisco defense held Arizona to 7 yards rushing on nine carries, tying franchise record for fewest yards rushing allowed in game. ... 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree has TD catch in each of last four games vs. Rams. ... Rams WR Danny Amendola has missed three straight games with right shoulder injury, including 45-7 loss to Patriots at London's Wembley Stadium on Oct. 28. Limited in practice this week. LT Wayne Hunter sat out last two games with back injury. ... Rams QB Sam Bradford threw for 205 yards and TD against Patriots, has passed for 1,797 yards and eight TDs this year. ... Rams LB James Laurinaitis and 49ers RT Alex Boone were roommates for year at Ohio State and both insist they plan to trash talk as much as possible.

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

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USATSI

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

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AP

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.