49ers

49ers' Robert Saleh blown away by Chiefs' 'Olympic relay team' speed

49ers' Robert Saleh blown away by Chiefs' 'Olympic relay team' speed

SANTA CLARA -- Arrowhead Stadium ran out of fireworks during the Chiefs' divisional-round win over the Houston Texans because Kansas City scored so many times. 

The Chiefs followed up their 51-point performance against Houston -- which included 41 unanswered -- with another powerful offensive display against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game. 

After trailing the Titans by 10 midway through the second quarter, the Chiefs got rolling and put up 28 unanswered points.  

This did not go unnoticed in Santa Clara. Having faced the Chiefs once in the 2018 regular season and again in the 2019 preseason, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense has become even more effective since their last encounter. 

“Very explosive,” Saleh said. “Mahomes has gotten better. They’re at every position -- it almost looks like they got their roster from the Olympic relay team and threw them all on the field. Not to say that they can’t run routes or can’t catch either, because they can do that.  

"They are a special group and you can see why they are there." 

The Chiefs lead all teams this postseason with an average of 43.0 points per game. They have also moved the ball the most effectively, gaining 6.9 yards per play. The 49ers rank second with 32.0 points scored per contest and seventh moving the ball, averaging 5.6 yards per snap. 

The 49ers' defense has improved facing mobile quarterbacks over the season, but Mahomes and the Chiefs might be the biggest challenge yet. 

“They are the fastest team by far,” Saleh said. “To try to compare it to another team would not do them justice to be honest with you. But anytime you have speed like that it will naturally stress the defense.”  

Saleh’s defense will need to be firing on all cylinders on Super Bowl Sunday and getting to Mahomes will be a key part of the scheme. The last time the two teams faced off in 2018, the 49ers sacked Mahomes twice but still lost 38-27. 

[RELATED: 49ers ready to take Super Bowl game plan to practice field]

At the time, the 49ers did not have Nick Bosa, and Dee Ford was on the opposing sideline. 

”When you have edge rushers, it speeds up the process of the quarterback,” Saleh said. “And, not that he needs speeding up, he already gets rid of it pretty quick. But, it changes the game. Like I talked about last week, it unlocks the offensive line so it creates a little bit more space and it gives the guys inside more space to operate. So, having those guys out there, having them at full speed, will do nothing but help.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

Watch 49ers' Robbie Gould use kids as goal posts in kicking session

Watch 49ers' Robbie Gould use kids as goal posts in kicking session

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

With the global coronavirus pandemic forcing athletes to stay home, they are finding unique ways to train and stay in shape.

For 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, that means he can't practice his craft at the team's facility or any other football complex.

So, on Sunday, Gould got creative.

Yep. Gould lined his kids up as makeshift goalposts and picked footballs over them.

As Gould noted in his tweet, he did make sure his kids were wearing protective gear.

It's definitely an interesting way for Gould to bond with his kids, but again, the choices are limited while everyone is staying home in an effort to flatten the coronavirus curve.

Last year, Gould asked the 49ers to trade him, a request they did not fulfill. Instead, the two sides agreed to a new four-year contract.

By Gould's standards, he's coming off the worst season of his 15-year career. He made 23 of his 31 field goal attempts, a 74.2 percentage. The 37-year-old did make 41 of his 42 extra-point attempts in 2019.

[RELATED: Could Gore or Walker return?]

If Gould bounces back in 2020, you can give some of the credit to his kids.

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks is not shy about reaching out to his former NFL team to provide tips on college prospects he knows well.

Hanks, who played eight seasons with the 49ers (1991-98) and won a Super Bowl, is the Senior Associate Commissioner of Conference USA, which consists of 14 football-playing universities.

“We want to make sure and give our young men every opportunity to be viewed by NFL clubs,” Hanks said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “So I tend to call my peer group around the NFL to make sure they’re paying attention to our players.

“Oh, I bug everybody, (including) the 49ers with John Lynch and Martin Mayhew, that whole staff. They do a great job of sourcing talent from Division III all the way up to the (power five). They go to where the good players are, and we have some good players in the conference.”

The 49ers have six players from Conference USA on their roster, including such draft picks as safety Tarvarius Moore (Southern Mississippi), and receivers Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech) and Richie James (Middle Tennessee State).

The 49ers signed quarterback Nick Mullens (Southern Mississippi) as an undrafted rookie in 2017, and he started eight games for the club in 2018.

One of the top prospects from Conference USA this year is Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant, who undoubtedly is on the 49ers’ radar.

The 49ers will be looking to add a tight end in the draft to pair with George Kittle. Bryant was the 2019 Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football.

“He reminds me of Brent Jones,” Hanks said, “a good pass-catching tight end and a willing blocker.”

Hanks also mentioned defensive back Amik Robertson of Louisiana Tech. Hanks envisions Robertson overcoming his less-than-ideal size (5-foot-8, 187 pounds) to carve out a 10-year NFL career with a playing style that reminds some of Tyrann Mathieu.

With the restrictions on private workouts and pro days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanks said he believes the college athletes from Conference USA or from any college program who were not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine are at an inherent disadvantage this year.

“Those players are in a bit of a tough spot, in the sense that teams won’t be able to circle back and get on campus and really take a look at them,” Hanks said.

[RELATED49ers Mailbag: Could Frank Gore or Delanie Walker return to franchise?]

One Conference USA prospect who might not suffer from not being invited to the combine is Middle Tennessee defensive end Tyshun Render.

New England coach Bill Belichick went to campus in late-February to pace Render through a workout while most of his NFL peers were in Indianapolis for the combine.

“Conference USA has been fortunate,” Hanks said. “We’re a football-playing conference in every sense. We put a lot of resources toward football and NFL clubs understand that they can come get good players.”

49ERS FROM CONFERENCE USA
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee State
S Tarvarius Moore, Southern Mississippi
QB Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
RB Jeff Wilson Jr., North Texas