49ers

How Seahawks' Russell Wilson beat 49ers' pass rush with play-action

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How Seahawks' Russell Wilson beat 49ers' pass rush with play-action

The 49ers got to Russell Wilson in Monday night's 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Wilson was sacked a season-high five times at Levi's Stadium, posting his second-worst passer rating of 2019 (86.9) and a season-low 43.6 QBR. He also threw his second interception of the season and fumbled for the first time since Week 4. 

Yet Wilson did just enough to remain effective in spite of that pressure, showing why he is an MVP frontrunner when he led the Seahawks to their game-winning field-goal drive in overtime. Wilson also employed plenty of misdirection to keep the 49ers' dominant pass rush at bay, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. 

On the season, the 49ers have pressured QBs on 29.7 percent of dropbacks. That 17 percent pressure rate on play-action plays would be 30th-best in the NFL if extended over a full season, just behind the Cincinnati Bengals (17.1 percent) and just ahead of the Oakland Raiders (15.9 percent). 

For reference, those two teams have combined for five fewer sacks (30) than the 49ers have all season. 

Wilson's play-action success could give opposing teams something of a blueprint, and that could trip up the 49ers in their own division down the stretch. In addition to playing the Seahawks once more, the 49ers also will play the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16 at Levi's. Rams coach Sean McVay loves using play-action, and the Rams were far more efficient last season on play-action passes than traditional ones. The Rams have taken a step back this season and the 49ers kept LA's offense in check in Week 6, but play-action remains a big part of the Rams' offense and the 49ers will have to be ready for it.

[RELATED: 49ers ready to focus on Cardinals after tough Seahawks loss]

It doesn't stop with the Seahawks and Rams. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is known for his play-action abilities, too, while Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers also have been better in play-action this season. The 49ers play Green Bay and Arizona in each of the next two weeks. 

San Francisco has a difficult slate of QBs remaining on its schedule, including ones who succeed where Wilson did Monday night. That's one additional area the 49ers will have to shore up down the stretch. 

49ers vs. Falcons live stream: How to watch NFL Week 15 game online

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USATSI

49ers vs. Falcons live stream: How to watch NFL Week 15 game online

The 49ers are back in control of the NFC's top seed, but they aren't in the clear just yet. 

San Francisco (11-2) hosts the Atlanta Falcons (4-9) on Sunday at Levi's Stadium, but the gap between these two teams might not be as pronounced as their records. The Falcons have won three of their last five games, beating the Carolina Panthers 40-20 in Atlanta last week. Ranking seventh in the NFL in total offense (4,894 yards), the Falcons have accumulated more yards than all but three of the 49ers' opponents this season (Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks).

Although the 49ers are (at least) a game ahead of the NFC's top contenders, they can't afford a loss with a Week 17 showdown against the Seahawks looming. Clinching their first 12-win season since 2013 with a victory Sunday will go a long way towards home-field advantage. 

[RELATED: Could Suggs stay in NFC West, join injury-riddled 49ers?]

Here's how to watch Sunday's 49ers-Falcons game online and on TV. 

Start time: Sunday, Dec. 15, at 1:25 p.m. PT
TV Channel: FOX
Live Stream: fuboTV -- Get a free trial

49ers Mailbag: Could Terrell Suggs join injury-riddled San Francisco?

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USATSI

49ers Mailbag: Could Terrell Suggs join injury-riddled San Francisco?

The 49ers have established good depth this season and managed to keep rolling despite 15 players going on injured reserve since training camp.

The defensive line has been an area of great depth since the additions of Dee Ford in a trade and Nick Bosa in the draft during the offseason, but that unit has taken some recent hits.

The possibility of the 49ers adding some depth leads off this edition of the 49ers Mailbag.

I do not see any possibility -- or reason -- for the 49ers to put in a roster claim for 31-year-old cornerback Janoris Jenkins. But Terrell Suggs is a different story.

The 49ers have seen their depth at edge rusher diminished with season-ending injuries to Ronald Blair and his replacement, Damontre Moore. Also, Dee Ford is not expected to play in the final three games of the regular season. Ford’s hamstring injury could carry over into the postseason, too.

Therefore, it would make sense for the 49ers to claim Suggs, whom the Arizona Cardinals waived on Friday. The problem is that the 49ers are No. 31 in the priority claim list. So, 30 teams would have to pass on the veteran.

As if a reminder is needed, the list of teams in front of the 49ers in the order of waiver claims includes the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams. It would not shock me if either (or both) put in claims for Suggs to prevent the 49ers from getting him. If that were the case, and no other teams submitted a claim him, Suggs would end up with the Rams.

As for Jenkins, whom the New York Giants waived Friday, whose spot is he going to take? Not Ahkello Witherspoon. Not Emmanuel Moseley. And Richard Sherman is due back soon. The 49ers have a good thing going, and I don’t see them going after Jenkins.

Both Suggs and Jenkins -- and the rest of the football world -- will find out Monday. That’s when the waiver-claiming period ends for both players.

While in his 30s, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan always stayed with the hot player. He turned 40 Saturday, but my guess is Shanahan will be the same person in his early 40s.

In recent weeks the hot running back was Raheem Mostert. He leads the team in rushing yards (608) and rushing average (6.0 yards per carry). He has never started a game in his NFL career, but when the 49ers were in a do-or-die situation against the New Orleans Saints, Mostert was on the field.

That tells you all you need to know.

The 49ers believe Mostert is one of the best special-teams players in the NFL. I tend to agree with that assessment. He is now producing like one of the top running backs in the league, too.

So, yes, with the more he’s asked to do on offense, the more it seems he is pulled away from special-teams coordinator Richard Hightower. But, he still has a role on special teams.

Last week against the Saints, Mostert played 38 snaps on offense and was on the field for 16 plays of special teams. He is playing a little bit less on special teams than typical, but the 49ers still use him in that phase of the game because he is so darn good.

That’s a difficult one, but I think the price might be too high to retain Arik Armstead on a one-year franchise deal.

Remember, this is a team that hopes to be able to sign DeForest Buckner and George Kittle to long-term extensions.

It’ll cost the 49ers approximately $18 million to place the franchise tag on Armstead. Unused cap money rolls over, so that would be $18 million fewer dollars to pay out elsewhere.

As for cap casualties, I don’t see any way the 49ers can retain running back Jerick McKinnon at his scheduled salary, and there is no way they will keep wide receiver Marquise Goodwin -- whatever the price.

The reason the 49ers have kept both Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard behind Jimmy Garoppolo is because they honestly believe they are among the team’s 53-best players. They view Mullens and Beathard as valuable assets to the organization.

Also, remember, only 46 players suit up for games. So it really does not matter if they keep a player at another position on the 53-man roster because that player would not be suiting up for games, anyway.

Certainly, Robert Saleh will get some attention for head-coaching openings. His work as 49ers defensive coordinator should get him in the door as a candidate, and he will undoubtedly be impressive in the interview process.

Two individuals who could be candidates to become offensive coordinators with play-calling responsibilities are passing-game coordinator Mike LaFleur and run-game coordinator Mike McDaniel.

Shanahan declined to grant permission to Green Bay for LaFleur and Arizona for McDaniel to hire those two assistants because he considered those coaching positions to be lateral moves. The head coaches in both of those places call the offensive plays, just as Shanahan does with the 49ers.

I do not believe the 49ers are going to breeze through this game because of the injuries, as well as the difficulty of bouncing back from such an emotional victory. Also, the Atlanta Falcons are playing better football. It is not going to be easy.

It will be difficult, no doubt.

But I think you also have to look at the players who have been lost for the season due to injuries. Here’s how I rank the importance of the players lost to season-ending injuries:

1, Nose tackle D.J. Jones
2, Center Weston Richburg
3, Linebacker Kwon Alexander
4, Edge rusher Ronald Blair

The remainder of the guys on injured reserve were not going to be big factors down the stretch of the season.

Those four listed above are all very good players, but I believe as long as the rest of the injured guys who are going to miss the game Sunday -- Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams, Jullian Taylor and Ford -- can return in time for the playoffs, the 49ers should be fine.

[RELATED: Saints DB who grabbed Kittle's facemask on late play fined]

Dante Pettis, I would assume, will be in uniform. He has been cleared to play after sitting out two games with a knee injury.

Jordan Matthews was signed this week to be the 49ers’ sixth receiver, so I would not envision him suiting up for the game.