Steelers might eschew run game vs. 49ers


Steelers might eschew run game vs. 49ers

The 49ers are in position to set an NFL record for fewest rushing touchdowns allowed in a season. It's a topic the players would rather avoid."We don't like talking about records and stats and stuff like that," 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald said. "We just like go out there on Sunday and play hard."The 49ers will have the same approach on Monday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they look to put the clamps on running back Rashard Mendenhall. He enters the game with 710 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.Pittsburgh might find it easier to try to beat the 49ers over the top. After all, the 49ers have not given up a rushing touchdown in 13 games -- the first team since the 1920 Decatur Staleys to accomplish that feat. The NFL record for fewest TDs allowed rushing in a season is two. It's been done four times, most recently by Minnesota in 1971 during a 14-game regular season.
While the 49ers rank first in the NFL in run defense, the club is 19th in total passing yards allowed (234.5 per game). But they are tied for seventh-best in the league with an opponent passer rating of 76.8, thanks largely to their 18 interceptions. (In comparison, quarterback Alex Smith's passer rating is 91.5.)Last week, Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton had success while beating the 49ers, 21-19. Skelton completed 19 of 28 passes for 282 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.If Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (left ankle) plays Monday night, he will likely try to exploit the 49ers' pass defense with speedy receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. The 49ers expect Roethlisberger to play.
After all, it seems unlikely Mendenhall will be able to succeed where so many others have failed this season:Game 1 vs. Seattle: Marshawn Lynch carried 13 times for 33 yards and did not touch the ball in the fourth quarter.Game 2 vs. Dallas: Felix Jones sustained a shoulder injury on linebacker Patrick Willis' tackle in the first quarter. He rushed nine times for 25 yards.Game 3 at Cincinnati: Cedric Benson gained 64 yards on 17 carries and did not touch the ball for the final 10 minutes of the game.Game 4 at Philadelphia: LeSean McCoy was shaken up while trying to pick up Ray McDonald on a blitz. He returned and finished with 18 yards on nine carries, but he did not touch the ball for the final 9:30 of the game.Game 5 vs. Tampa Bay: LaGarrette Blount gained 34 yards on 10 rushing attempts and did not return after sustaining a hamstring injury when safety Dashon Goldson upended him with a third-quarter tackle.Game 6 at Detroit: Jahvid Best gained 37 yards on 12 rushing attempts and did not play in the final 10 minutes of the game after sustaining a concussion.Game 7 vs. Cleveland: Montario Hardesty started and had two carries for 6 yards before leaving the game with a non-contact calf injury.Game 8 at Washington: Rookie Roy Helu carried 10 times for 41 yards in his first career start. He also lost a fumble.Game 9 vs. N.Y. Giants: Brandon Jacobs started and carried 18 times for 55 yards (3.1 average).Game 10 vs. Arizona:: Beanie Wells gained just 33 yards on eight carries. A week later, Wells gained 228 yards on 27 carries against the St. Louis Rams.Game 11 at Baltimore: Ray Rice had 59 yards on 21 rushing attempts.Game 12 vs. St. Louis: Steven Jackson gained 19 yards on 10 carries.Game 13 at Arizona: Although the Cardinals won the game, Wells had even less success against the 49ers than he had three weeks earlier. He gained 27 yards on 15 carries. The starting backs against the 49ers this season have rushed 154 times for 451 yards (2.9 average) and, obviously, no touchdowns. Those same backs in all their other games have carried 1,899 yards for 8,439 yards (4.4 average) and 69 touchdowns.

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.