49ers

Tank Carradine finally in 49ers system that fits his style

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AP

Tank Carradine finally in 49ers system that fits his style

SANTA CLARA -- In dire need of a pass-rush specialist, the 49ers selected Tank Carradine in the second round of the 2013 draft after he recorded 11 sacks in his final season at Florida State.

Five years later and scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March, Carradine has found his niche as a run-down specialist while lining up at “big end” in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

“At first, they didn’t think I could play the run like that,” Carradine said. “But I think once I got into a scheme that fits me, I showed that I’m capable of stopping the run in this defense.”

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh described Carradine as an “elite” defensive end playing on base downs lined up against the tight end. However, Carradine’s season was derailed in Week 3 when he sustained two torn ligaments in his right ankle against the Los Angeles Rams.

Carradine missed eight weeks and came back rusty against Seattle in Week 12. After sitting out one game, he showed his power in the run game last week with a strong defensive effort in a 26-16 win over the Houston Texans.

“It’s not all healed, but it’s healed enough,” Carradine said. “I know I got the power back. I’m not 100 percent. I’m good enough to play and finish off the season. I want to play. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s what I’ll do.”

Carradine has not played a snap on third down in the five games in which he has appeared this season. He believes he still has a lot to offer as an inside pass rusher, but his presence has been felt for a much-improved run defense.

Last season, the 49ers were the worst run defense in the NFL, yielding an average of 4.8 yards per rush attempt. This season, the 49ers are vastly improved. At 3.9 yards allowed per attempt, the 49ers’ run defense is No. 7 in the league.

It all makes sense, according to Carradine, because Saleh has installed a system that fits the players in the team's front seven.

“Because you had guys in a scheme that didn’t fit them,” Carradine said of last season’s problems. “Moving to a 4-3, we have guys who fit the scheme and can just attack, get up the field. Last year with the 3-4, it was reading and playing your keys. When we moved to a 4-3, we had more guys with 4-3 potential.”

Carradine’s weight hovered around 300 pounds to take on the demands of being a 3-4 defensive lineman. Now, he is down to 270 pounds, which is closer to his ideal playing weight. Carradine does not have a contract for next season, but he made it clear he wants to return and make a mark under the direction of a coaching staff that has finally figured out how to utilize his style of play.

“I want to be here. I love it here,” Carradine said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve only played five games this year and I didn’t get to show a whole lot.

“But, hopefully, I can finish strong these last couple of games and come back next year and play because I love this scheme. I’d love to come back next year and play for the 49ers. If not, I have to move on and try to go to a team with a scheme that fits me.”

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

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USATSI

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

UPDATED: The 49ers announced Monday morning that Joe Staley has accepted a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team. He will replace Dallas offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

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Veteran 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is expected to benefit from the Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the Super Bowl.

Staley, originally chosen as an alternate, is expected to be named to his sixth Pro Bowl to take the place of Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson.

The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, Jan. 28, in Orlando, Florida. Members of the Super Bowl participant Eagles and New England Patriots will not play in the all-star game. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The other Pro Bowl offensive tackles representing the NFC are Dallas’ Tyron Smith and Los Angeles’ Andrew Whitworth, who replaced Washington’s Trent Williams.

Staley got off to a rough start last season as the 49ers opened on a nine-game losing streak. The idea of his career coming to an end began to creep into his mind, he said recently on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

But Staley said he had a talk with coach Kyle Shanahan that got him refocused for the remainder of the season. The 49ers finished with a five-game win streak to finish with a 6-10 record, and Staley played well down the stretch.

“I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment early in the year that I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that,” said Staley, 33, an 11-year NFL veteran. “I feel like I can still play.

“I think this last half of the season I played some of the best football of my career. I feel very confident in what we’re doing schematically with the people surrounding us, and it shows in my own play.”

Staley would join fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who was the only 49ers player named to the Pro Bowl when the teams were announced last month.

Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII

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USATSI

Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII

BOX SCORE

PHILADELPHIA -- Hey Philly, maybe it's time to forget Carson Wentz. Nick Foles might be good enough to win the Eagles their first Super Bowl.

Foles was on fire Sunday night against the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Philly made big play after big play on both sides of the ball in a stunning 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship.

Next up after their most-lopsided playoff victory: the Eagles' first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, against the team that beat them then, AFC champion New England.

Foles replaced the injured Wentz in Game 13 and finished off a rise from last place to first in the NFC East. There were plenty of doubters entering the playoffs, but the former starter in Philadelphia (15-3) under another regime has been brilliant.

His best work might have come against Minnesota (14-4) and its vaunted defense that was torn apart in every manner. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise, escapability and moxie in going 26 for 33.

In doing so - helped greatly by the Eagles' domination on defense and a spectacular weaving 50-yard interception return TD by Patrick Robinson - Foles ruined the Vikings' hopes of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium

Instead, the Eagles will seek their first Super Bowl crown in Minnesota on Feb. 4; their last championship came in 1960.

OVER AT HALFTIME: Minnesota made it look easy at the outset, driving 75 yards on nine plays, each of which gained yardage. The payoff was a 25-yard throw from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph well behind linebacker Najee Goode as Philadelphia's defense looked confused on the play.

That didn't happen again for Philly.

Defensive end Chris Long had a huge hand in Robinson's 50-yard interception return. Long burst in from the left side and got his arm on Keenum to disrupt the throw for Adam Thielen. The ball went directly to Robinson, who sped down the left side, then made a sharp cut to the right and got a superb block from Ronald Darby to reach the end zone.

Inspired, Philly's D forced a three-and-out, the Foles led the Eagles on a 12-play, 75-yard masterpiece of a drive. LeGarrette Blount showed all his power and escapability on an 11-yard surge up the middle for a 14-7 lead.

Turnovers, something Minnesota rarely committed with an NFC-low 14 during the season, hurt again and not only ended a solid drive, but set up more Philly points. On third down from the Eagles 15, Keenum was blindsided by rookie Derek Barnett, and the ball bounced directly to Long.

It was only the second strip-sack the Vikings have been victimized by all season.

A blown coverage - another rarity for Minnesota - on third-and-10 allowed Alshon Jeffery to get wide open for a 53-yard TD, and Philadelphia tacked on Elliott's 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.

DANCING IN THE LINC: Fifty seconds into the final quarter, with the score 38-7, Eagles players on the sideline and waiting to kick off on the field were dancing up a storm and fans were chanting "We want Brady."

They get Tom Brady and company in two weeks.

BACK TO THE BIG GAME: Long won the Super Bowl last year with the Patriots, as did Blount. Now they return on the other side.

QUICK DRIVE: Philadelphia got the ball with 29 seconds remaining in the first half at its 20. Foles hit passes of 11 yards to Jay Ajayi, 36 to Ertz and 13 to Ajayi before Elliott's field goal to end the half.

THIRD DOWNS: Minnesota was the league's best team defending third downs and was third in converting them. Yet Philadelphia went 10 for 14.

NEXT UP: Minnesota returns home to watch two other teams play at its stadium for the Lombardi Trophy.

With the entire stadium singing "Fly Eagles Fly" during the NFC trophy ceremony, Philadelphia can look forward to facing New England in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4