49ers notes: Evaluating Reuben Foster-Fred Warner linebacker duo debut

49ers notes: Evaluating Reuben Foster-Fred Warner linebacker duo debut

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Chiefs took advantage of the 49ers’ eagerness at inside linebacker in the first half Sunday with some misdirection plays.

It was a rough opening game for the 49ers’ young linebacker duo of Reuben Foster and Fred Warner, but chalk it up to a learning experience in the 49ers’ 38-27 loss at Arrowhead Stadium.

Foster was encouraged with how he and Warner played together and seemed to improve as the team progressed.

“It went well,” Foster said. “It’s like me and Fred never missed a game together, like we’ve been playing together since high school or middle school. It felt amazing with him next to me, calling the plays out.”

The 49ers expect Warner and Foster to line up side-by-side for years to come. Foster was a first-round draft pick last year. He returned to action Sunday after serving a two-game suspension. Warner has started every game at middle linebacker since arriving this year as a third-round pick from BYU.

Veteran Malcolm Smith made his 49ers debut Sunday, and the natural inside linebacker lined up outside in the team’s base defense. Smith played 34 snaps, as Kansas City’s multi-receiver personnel groupings dictated the 49ers deploy their nickel defense for most of the game.

Warner registered a game-high 11 tackles, and Foster was credited with seven. Smith had one tackle and a quarterback hurry.

[RELATED: 49ers report card vs. Chiefs]

Questionable calls

The 49ers were flagged for 14 penalties totaling 147 yards, but some of the bigger calls came with plenty of questions about referee Tony Corrente’s crew.

On a third-and-16 from the 49ers’ 32-yard line, nickel back K’Waun Williams was called for pass interference in the end zone against Chris Conley on a Patrick Mahomes pass that did not appear catchable. Instead of a long field goal attempt, the Chiefs had a first down at the 1, and scored on the next play.

C.J. Beathard took one snap and found tight end George Kittle in the end zone for what appeared to be a 7-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. If the touchdown had stood, the 49ers would have trailed by a touchdown with five minutes remaining.

But fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who lined up as a wideout on the right side, was flagged for a pass interference when Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford stepped in front of him to cut off his in-breaking route. Kittle made the catch behind where Juszczyk and Ford came together.

“I was shocked, actually,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I thought we were going to get a call there, so I was real surprised our fullback got a call of pass interference.”

FOX analyst Dean Blandino, the former head of NFL officiating, even criticized the call on the TV broadcast.

"This is not a pick play," Blandino said. "This is a flag that really should not have been called."

Grounds for a comeback

The 49ers fell behind by four touchdowns before scoring 17 unanswered to get back in the game in the second half. The defense finally made some stops, but the offense got going because it did not give up on the run game.

“I think we just focused on the run,” Kittle said. “We didn’t say, ‘Hey, we have to air it out now because we’re losing by 28 points.’ “

Matt Breida led the 49ers with 90 yards on 10 carries, and Alfred Morris added 67 yards on 14 rushing attempts.

“Whenever you can run the ball, it opens up the passing game,” Kittle said.

Injury report

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s expected season-ending knee injury was the most serious, but it wasn't the only injury the 49ers sustained Sunday.

Safety Adrian Colbert appeared in 28 plays before leaving the game in the second quarter with a hip injury. Rookie D.J. Reed replaced Colbert and played the final 52 snaps of the game.

Cornerback Richard Sherman is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his left calf area. He left the game after playing 36 snaps. Ahkello Witherspoon, who has been battling an ankle injury, replaced him.

Cornerback Jimmy Ward left the game because of cramps. In the five snaps he missed, rookie Tarvarius Moore filled in.

Foster took a shot to the midsection and missed one play.

Breida appeared to hyperextend his knee, but he came back into the game and played well.

Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas also was shaken up after colliding with teammate DeForest Buckner while hitting Mahomes. He left the game briefly.

Right guard Mike Person aggravated a foot injury and left the game for seven plays, replaced by Erik Magnuson.

This ‘n’ that

Antone Exum started at strong safety in place of Jaquiski Tartt, who was out with a shoulder injury. Exum recorded nine tackles, his first career sack and a forced fumble. . .

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead was credited with a sack when Mahomes ran out of bounds in the second quarter. It was Armstead’s first sack of the season and the seventh of his career. . .

Kicker Robbie Gould extended his own club-record streak with field goals of 39 and 35 yards, giving him 31 consecutive successful attempts. Gould has made at least one field goal in 23 consecutive games, dating to Dec. 11, 2016. However, Gould missed an extra-point try in the third quarter.


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Why 49ers couldn't get football to George Kittle to break NFL record


Why 49ers couldn't get football to George Kittle to break NFL record

SANTA CLARA -- The task seemed simple enough.

George Kittle needed just 5 yards to break the NFL record for single-game receiving by a tight end. And he had 30 minutes to get it done.

But after a seven-catch, 210-yard first half, Kittle was held without a reception in the second half of the 49ers’ 20-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

“The only people that were happy were probably Shannon Sharpe and my dad,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.

Sharpe owns the single-game record for a tight end with 214 receiving yards, and set that mark while with the Denver Broncos in 2002. His coach was Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father. In that particular game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 20, 2002, Sharpe caught one pass for 8 yards in overtime. The Broncos won 37-34.

So, Kittle does have the NFL record for most receiving yards from a tight end in regulation. But through two quarters, it appeared he would be no problem shattering Sharpe’s record.

So, what prevented the 49ers from getting the record for Kittle?

“First of all, I wish that we did, and I definitely could have just said, ‘Hey, my goal in this half is to get George the record,’ ” Kyle Shanahan said. “We had a number of plays called to him. One, we had a lookey call to him, and he got doubled, so you go to Dante (Pettis) on it. That was good.

“Fourth play of it, we had a play called, and they got under it in zone coverage, so we threw it away. After that, I think you have to think in a very humble way when you call games. You try to win the game, and you try to do what’s right.”

There even was a play call in which Shanahan said he wanted quarterback Nick Mullens to get the ball to Kittle on a shovel pass.

“It was covered,” Shanahan said. “If we would have forced it, then he would have lost 3 yards, and now he would have needed 8 yards instead of 5."

[RELATED: Even Broncos sing Kittle's praises after big game]

The 49ers ran 66 total plays in the game, but just 27 of them came in the second half, as the team had difficulty getting first downs and staying on the field.

“I thought it would happen naturally throughout the game,” Shanahan said.

“Every play mattered there at the end, so you’re just trying to call plays to try to win the game, not to break a record. That’s what you feel bad about. I wish he could have broken the record. He deserved to.”

49ers' Pierre Garçon will have season-ending knee surgery, head to IR


49ers' Pierre Garçon will have season-ending knee surgery, head to IR

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon will undergo a season-ending procedure on his knee on Tuesday. 

Garçon, 32, missed the past four games with a knee condition and will go on injured reserve this week, coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.

The veteran wideout appeared in eight games this season and caught 24 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown, but Garçon’s future with the 49ers is in question. He is scheduled to earn $6 million in salary and bonuses next season.

The 49ers have three wide receivers on the practice squad who are candidates to be promoted for the final three games: Victor Bolden Jr., Max McCaffrey and Steven Dunbar.

[RELATED: NFL Power Rankings Week 15]

In other injury news, defensive end Cassius Marsh reported to the team facility with concussion symptoms on Monday and was placed in the NFL’s return-to-play protocol.

Cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (ankle) and Tarvarius Moore (shoulder) are day-to-day. Running back Matt Breida (ankle), safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder), cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee), and linebackers Mark Nzeocha (groin) and Malcolm Smith (Achilles), will be re-checked on Wednesday.

Rookie defensive lineman Kentavius Street, a fourth-round pick who tore his ACL in the pre-draft process, might practice this week, Shanahan said. Street remains on the non-football injury list. He will not play this season, but the 49ers can get him on the practice field for the final three weeks.