49ers' run defense tightens, but Tannehill picks secondary apart

49ers' run defense tightens, but Tannehill picks secondary apart

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The 49ers’ last-ranked run defense had the answers on Sunday against Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi.

But the 49ers were seemingly helpless to defend against quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who came through with one of the best games of his five-year career.

“I think our guys did a good job against a really good back,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “If you can hold him to that (low yardage), you’d be in a good situation.

“We got to do a better job on the back end in terms of covering their receivers. We did take away the run game, but I think we got to do a better job in coverage stuff.”

Ajayi entered the game tied for sixth in the NFL in rushing with 802 yards, including a 5.6-yards-per-carry average. The 49ers put the clamps on him. He gained just 45 yards rushing on 18 attempts, as Miami was without three starting offensive linemen.

“We’ve been focusing on stopping the run, so we’re going to get in the box and stop the run,” 49ers safety Antoine Bethea said.

The 49ers entered the game with a league-worst average of surrendering 179.5 yards rushing per game. After holding the Dolphins to 95 yards on 26 carries, the average dropped to 171.8 yards per game.

“We don’t look at the rankings or anything like that,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “We just knew we had a tough matchup. We had some new bodies as guys were trying to play together as far as our chemistry goes.”

Said Ajayi, “They did a good job. They got good players over there. It’s tough, but at the end of the day, we got the win.”

The Dolphins, who won for the sixth consecutive times, rode the arm of Tannehill to the victory. He completed 20 of 30 pass attempts for 285 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 130.6 passer rating tied for the second-best mark of his career.

Tannehill said the Dolphins were prepared in case the yards were going to be difficult on the ground.

“We knew it was a possibility, and figured that out early in the game that they were going to load the box and make it tough on us,” Tannehill said. “We tried to stick with it there throughout the whole game, tried to keep pounding away.”

Tannehill had two pass plays of more than 40 yards, including a 43-yard throw to Kenny Stills for a 43-yard touchdown that gave Miami a 24-14 lead in the third quarter.


NFL rumors: Kyler Murray, Cardinals holding private meeting in Oklahoma

NFL rumors: Kyler Murray, Cardinals holding private meeting in Oklahoma

Start the speculation. Kyler Murray might not make as much money as Mike Trout, but he could very well be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is meeting privately with the Arizona Cardinals Tuesday on the University of Oklahoma, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Arizona holds the top pick in the draft. Coach Kliff Kingbury and general manager Steve Keim both reportedly will be at the meeting. 

While the Raiders came away impressed with Murray at his pro day, the Cardinals were nowhere to be found. Clearly, that didn't matter.

Kingsbury said two weeks ago that the Cardinals hadn't decided on who the team will pick at No. 1 overall. In NFL circles, however, nobody truly believed those words. Once Murray measured over 5-foot-10 at the combine, it became "almost universally" believed the quarterback was bound for the desert. 

[RELATED: How 49ers' starting lineups look after first wave of free-agent signings]

Murray coming off the board, opens the door for the 49ers to select edge rusher Nick Bosa. Though San Francisco traded for defensive end Dee Ford, Bosa is still likely to be the team's top target in the draft.

Kwon Alexander overcomes tragedy, adversity to sign with 49ers


Kwon Alexander overcomes tragedy, adversity to sign with 49ers

Within the first hours of the NFL’s open negotiating period, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander agreed to terms with the 49ers on a lucrative contract.

Alexander traveled a bumpy and painful road to get to this point in his life. After months of uncertainty, Alexander finally signed the kind of life-changing contract for which he had dreamt.

”I reflect on everything, all the hard work I put into it, the times I ran hills by myself,” Alexander said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“When it all happened, I just started thinking about everything I’ve done in the past that got me to this spot I’m in right now. And now I just got to keep going.”

The 49ers signed Alexander to a four-year, $53.5 million contract with $14.25 million in guaranteed money, not because of what he has done in the past. General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan singled him out among all free agents because of what they believe he can contribute in the middle of the team’s defense in the future.

Shanahan knew all about Alexander from facing him with the Atlanta Falcons, including a game that will forever show what the game of football means to him and his family.

As Alexander was preparing for just his seventh NFL game in 2015, he received word from back home in Alabama that his 17-year-old brother, Broderick Taylor II, was shot and killed. The Buccaneers organization told Alexander, a rookie, they would support him if he decided to go home to be with family.

Alexander decided to play in the game.

“It felt right, but it felt wrong. You know what I mean? Because I wanted to be there with my family,” Alexander said. “I know they were going through a tough time. But I just knew . . . he always told me, he just wanted me to ball. He wanted me to keep doing what I was doing.

“So I went out there and played for him, and he really took over the whole game for me. I feel like he was in my body the whole game. I was making plays that I wasn’t making. It was amazing.”

Alexander recorded 11 tackles, forced and recovered a fumble, and had an interception as Tampa Bay defeated the Falcons in overtime.

Alexander joined his family two days later for his brother’s funeral. In a piece for The Player’s Tribune, Alexander revealed he placed the game ball and the jersey he wore from that game in his brother’s casket.

Two years later, the man who shot and killed Alexander’s brother was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison. Alexander got a tattoo over his entire back as a tribute to his brother, Lil’ Brod, an energetic and good-natured kid he remembers fondly for his sense of humor, love of family and his plan to serve in the Army.

On the day he signed with the 49ers, Alexander was on the field at Levi’s Stadium for photos and interviews. Afterward, he e went over to meet a group of young children taking part in the STEAM program. He shook hands, bumped fists and posed for pictures.

He has a son of his own. He considers himself a role model for all the kids back home in Anniston, which also happens to be the hometown of new 49ers edge rusher Dee Ford.

“It’s a difficult place,” he said. “A lot of people don’t make it out. Everybody says that. But back at home, a lot of people don’t make it out. That’s why I’m so happy to play with Dee because we both made it out.

“We can show kids back at home that it’s possible. Whatever you put your mind to you can do. We’re the big picture now, so they can see that and have a great mindset.”

Alexander had three outstanding seasons, including a Pro Bowl appearance, upon entering the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick from LSU. But midway through his contract year, he sustained a torn ACL. Afterward, then-Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter referred to Alexander as the “heart and soul” of the team.

The timing of the injury appeared to be disastrous – potentially robbing him of the opportunity to secure a big contract. But Alexander said he never lost faith.

“I’ll never question God. Look where I’m at now,” Alexander said. “I’ve been hurt and I still got what I wanted. It’s amazing. That’s why I put all my faith in Him. And when you have faith in Him, you can do whatever you want to do.”

Alexander’s rehabilitation appears to be going well. He has been running on a treadmill for more than a month. Lynch said the 49ers’ medical staff was thorough with the physical examination, and the official signing turned into a family experience.

“Our doctors came out feeling good about it,” Lynch said. “And that excited us even more because we got to the point where we were signing a contract with his parents, Peaches and Brod, on Facetime. It was fun.”

Alexander said his mind is at ease, and he is not putting any kind of timetable on his return to the football field.

“I wake up every day happy, smiling,” he said. “I’m taking it day by day. Whenever it’s time, it’s time.”