49ers stick together, rally for improbable win over Rams

49ers stick together, rally for improbable win over Rams

LOS ANGELES – Between an interception that ended one drive and a fumble that set up the Los Angeles Rams to take a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, seven consecutive 49ers drives ended with punts.

So there was little reason to believe this would be the day the 49ers snapped their franchise-worst 13-game losing streak.

But on the 49ers’ sideline, there was some hope being shared by one of the most respected players remaining on a decimated roster.

Veteran Zane Beadles, making his first career start at center, gathered the team’s makeshift group of offensive line to offer some encouraging words. He told them to forget everything that had already occurred this day at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“Let’s get this win,” he told them.

Crazy talk? It would have seemed.

But something crazy definitely happened over the final five minutes, as the 49ers inexplicably rallied for a rousing 22-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Eve.

“It felt amazing,” said quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led the incredible late-fourth-quarter charge. “It’s a feeling this team has been looking for, for a long time now. To be able to come out and get this win, it was huge for us. It’s something this team can build on.”

The 49ers (2-13) had not experienced the sensation of winning since defeating the Rams, 28-0, at Levi’s Stadium in Week 1. It appeared as if the 49ers would enter the final week of the season with the No. 1 overall draft pick in their grasp with another loss in the finale to the Seattle Seahawks.

Instead, Kaepernick came up with some late-game heroics. He ran for a 13-yard touchdown. Then, he hit wide receiver Rod Streater on a 10-yard scoring pass with :31 remaining. The 49ers trailed 21-20 when coach Chip Kelly decided to go for two points and the win.

“I had a feeling we were going to go for two,” Kaepernick said. “And I was excited when he said we were going for it. I think the whole offense was (excited) and the whole team was. The play he called was a play I think everybody on our offense knew was going to get called. We had great confidence in. And it worked out great for us.”

Said 49ers cornerback Rashard Robinson, “I think the whole team wanted that. What else did we have to lose?”

Kaepernick was given a run-pass option. He faked a handoff to running back Shaun Draughn, then rolled right and took what the Rams defense was giving him.

Streater was the first option in the end zone. Kaepernick had two other pass targets in the progression if the Rams’ defense came up to jam his running lanes. But the Rams afforded Kaepernick enough of an opening to allow him to leap over defensive tackle Michael Brockers and get into the end zone for the go-ahead points.

Robinson preserved the victory with his interception of a Jared Goff pass at the San Francisco 42-yard line with :16 remaining.

“Kap made an exceptional play,” 49ers veteran safety Antoine Bethea said. “And when the defense got back on the field, Rashard, he made a great play. It was definitely a team effort.

“It just feels good. It’s a long time coming. It’s been a long time since we felt this way. The way we won it, it speaks volumes on our team, our character, the pride we play with. I’m just happy for the guys.”

Kelly said it was no surprise to him that the 49ers battled hard to break the losing streak. After Kaepernick’s two-point conversion and, again, after Robinson’s interception, the 49ers’ sideline erupted in spontaneous joy and jubilation it had not experienced in 3 ½ months.

“I’m around them every day,” Kelly said. “And I’ve said all along what I think about these guys, in terms of their approach. I think it’s been great. What you saw today is what we see every day. There’s an energy and a spirit to them.”

Bethea said the team has stuck together and not splintered during one of the worst times in franchise history.

“We talk about family,” Bethea said. “That’s what family is. Regardless of the good times, the bad times, the ugly times, you got to stick together. We started this journey together, we got to end it together. No finger pointing. Come to work every day and try to get better. It feels good.”

A week ago, Kaepernick talked about the 49ers lacking a winning culture after the club’s 41-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The string of three consecutive trips to the NFC Championship game seemed like such a long time ago.

The 49ers have arrived at this point after Jim Harbaugh’s final team went 8-8, followed by Jim Tomsula, who went 5-11 in his only season. Things have only gotten worse in Kelly’s first year.

Kaepernick expressed encouragement about what the future could hold.

“This is a step toward building that culture,” Kaepernick said. “And I think realizing the huge plays we had in this game that allowed us to win. Whether it’s (Tramaine) Brock’s interception, Rashard’s interception, those are huge plays that we can build on, (and) also, to have two scoring drives at the end of the fourth quarter to win a game. Those are things we have to understand we have to do on a weekly basis in order to win.”

Kaepernick’s future with the 49ers might be murky. He is expected to opt out of his contract before the start of the new league year in March. It is uncertain whether the 49ers will make a push to re-sign him as a free agent.

But many of the young players feel like the game Saturday provided an example that will follow them throughout their careers.

“How we played in that second half, that was something major,” Robinson said. “That’s going to stick with me. I’m never going to forget this game.”

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers look to fill two vacant spots on offensive staff


Kyle Shanahan, 49ers look to fill two vacant spots on offensive staff

MOBILE, Ala. – Coach Kyle Shanahan has filled out his defensive staff, but he is still contemplating the moves he must make to finalize the list of 49ers offensive assistants.

“Even though it was unfortunate to lose two good coaches on offense, I do look at it as an opportunity to see if we can improve in any other areas,” Shanahan said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl.

“(But) it’s going to be tough to get guys specifically who are better than those two.”

Former quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello is the new offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos under coach Vic Fangio. And former assistant offensive line coach Adam Stenavich is the new Green Bay Packers offensive line coach under first-year coach Matt LaFleur.

Initially, the 49ers denied the Broncos permission to speak with Scangarello. The 49ers denied passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur and run game coordinator Mike McDaniel opportunities to be non-playing calling offensive coordinators of other teams.

“I needed more time to talk about it,” Shanahan said of immediately filing the paperwork to deny the Broncos permission to interview Scangarello.

“The initial reaction (was) I don’t want to lose good coaches, at all, and you don’t have to. But it’s very tough to keep a coach back when he’s getting a huge promotion. It’s a tough position that we’re in because I want to do right by people, always. But my No. 1 job is to do what’s best for the 49ers. That’s what you got to always think about, and losing good coaches is not what’s best for the 49ers.”

Shanahan said he spoke with Fangio and Broncos general manager John Elway to be assured that Scangarello had a strong chance to get the job and his role would constitute a promotion. The 49ers informed the Broncos they could interview Scangarello, and he was hired last week.

Teams are allowed to deny assistant coaches under contract for any job that is not an opportunity to be a head coach.

The 49ers dened LaFleur opportunities with Green Bay and Minnesota. Although Mike LaFleur would have worked for his brother with the Packers, Shanahan said it was more difficult to deny Minnesota because it was a better job. Matt LaFleur will call the plays in Green Bay.

The club denied Arizona from speaking with McDaniel. New Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury will call the plays.

“It wasn’t a promotion,” Shanahan said of those jobs. “Mike and Mike, I gave them the coordinator title before the year started. That’s what they do for us. They are under contract, so that one was a very easy one for me.

“I listen to every one. I would not feel guilty or bad. I know the situation they’re in here and what we’ve done together for a long time. I know how important they are here and what they do here. Why would I let them go do that for someone else?”

Mike LaFleur and McDaniel will be presented with contracts for one-year extensions in the offseason. If the coaches sign the extensions, the 49ers again would have the opportunity to deny them the possibility of assistant coaching positions with other teams next offseason.

In the meantime, LaFleur and McDaniel will run the offense this week and share in the play-calling for the South squad at the Senior Bowl. Both assistants are also candidate to replace Scangarello as the team’s quarterbacks coach. Shanahan noted the 49ers have two strong in-house candidates.

He also has the option of considering other coaches from outside the curent staff.

The 49ers have made two changes to their defensive staff. Former Denver defensive coordiantor Joe Woods replaces Jeff Hafley, who takes over as Ohio State's co-defensive coordinator. Kris Kocurek takes over as defensive line coach. The 49ers fired Jeff Zgonina when Kocurek became available after the Miami Dolphins fired their coaching staff.

Neither Woods nor Kocurek are in Mobile this week. That was a perk Shanahan said he gave them to help convince them to sign with the 49ers.

“That was part of my recruiting for them,” Shanahan said. "I threw that out there before they said yes. If they’d said yes (immediately), I wouldn’t have thrown that out there."

How 49ers will restructure athletic training and conditioning programs

Matt Maiocco

How 49ers will restructure athletic training and conditioning programs

MOBILE, Ala. – Coach Kyle Shanahan said the 49ers were forced to make difficult to decisions to fire the team’s head athletic trainer and their strength and conditioning coach.

But, he said, the moves were part of an overall reshaping of the organization's medical and conditioning staffs.

Shanahan, speaking Tuesday to Bay Area reporters at the Senior Bowl, said there is a bigger picture than the number of injuries the 49ers have experienced the past two seasons. Head trainer Jeff Ferguson and strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright were fired as part of an overall restructuring.

“It’s about where we want to go, how we can make the overall process of it better,” Shanahan said. “Injuries happen, and we’ve looked into that, and we’re going to do everything we can to improve that. We have to, because that has hurt us a lot in the last two years.

“The format we’re looking into will improve that. That’s nothing against Ferg. That’s nothing against Ray. It’s trying to make the overall medical and strength and conditioning staff of the San Francisco 49ers stronger. We think we can do that by getting a new position to head that area to help make it better.”

The 49ers had 37 players finish on injured reserve the past two seasons, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon, both of whom sustained torn ACLs. McKinnon sustained his injury before the first regular-season game. Garoppolo was lost for the season in Week 3.

“(The new position will) mold those two places so you’re not dealing with separate parts of the building and we can make it a little more collaborative,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan said general manager John Lynch and CEO Jed York are primarily responsible for the hirings of a position that will be akin to a head coach of training. There will also be a head athletic trainer and a head strength and conditioning coach.

Shanahan has never been with an organization that has combined the athletic training along with the strength and conditioning programs. The 49ers have done a lot of research on the approach, he said.

It is a philosophy that is gaining momentum in other sports, such as basketball and soccer.