49ers

Instant Replay: 49ers comeback falls short, lose to Seahawks in season finale

Instant Replay: 49ers comeback falls short, lose to Seahawks in season finale

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SANTA CLARA – On a day in which the 49ers made plenty of news off the field, they had one final game to get through before heading into what promises to be a busy offseason.

The 49ers dropped their seventh consecutive game to the Seattle Seahawks, as the NFC West-champions rallied and then held on for a 25-23 victory on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. The loss snapped the 49ers’ string of nine consecutive wins in home finales.

The 49ers on Friday fired general manager Trent Baalke, who said during his weekly appearance on the 49ers pregame show on radio station KNBR that attending the season finale was the “right thing to do.”

CEO Jed York is scheduled to meet with coach Chip Kelly after the game. York is expected to fire Kelly and begin the search for a coach-general manager pairing to set the organization in a different direction.

Kelly, who was known for an innovative passing game, was unable to get any production from the team’s offense. The 49ers’ passing attack ranked last in the NFL. And the defense was the worst in franchise history, setting franchise-worst marks in yards allowed in a season, point allowed and rushing yards allowed.

Colin Kaepernick, playing in what could be the final 49ers game of his career, started out hot. He completed his first 10 pass attempts for 144 yards through the first 25 minutes of the game.

Kaepernick completed 17 of 22 pass attempts for 215 yards with a passer rating of 122.3. His 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Garrett Celek pulled the 49ers to within 25-23 with 5:42 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Kaepernick can opt out of his contract before the start of the new league year on March 9 to become an unrestricted free agent. If Kaepernick does not opt out, the 49res would be expected to release him to avoid paying his scheduled $14.9 million in salary and bonuses.

The 49ers took a 14-3 lead on Shaun Draughn’s two 1-yard touchdown runs – the later of which came on a fourth-and-goal play on the first play of the second quarter. Draughn got the start in place of Carlos Hyde, who sustained an MCL sprain last week in his left knee and was placed on injured reserve.

The 49ers’ backup running back, DuJuan Harris, helped the Seahawks get back into the game in the second quarter with a fumble near midfield that defensive end Frank Clark recovered and returned 27 yards.

Two plays later, Russell Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson for an 11-yard touchdown pass to cut the 49ers’ lead to 14-13.

Staley returns to action: Left tackle Joe Staley, who missed the previous three games due a hamstring injury, returned to the starting lineup on Sunday. Staley was named the winner of the Bill Walsh Award as the team’s MVP on Friday.

The 49ers’ starting offensive line consisted of Staley, left guard Andrew Gardner, center Zane Beadles, right guard Joshua Garnett and right tackle Trent Brown. Gardner saw his first action with the 49ers after signing as a free agent on Dec. 21.

This ‘n’ that
--Rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson sustained a left ankle injury and left the game in the second quarter and did not return. After being helped to the team bench, a cart transported Robinson to the locker room for further observation.

Robinson, a fourth-round draft pick, started seven games for the 49ers this season. He clinched the 49ers’ victory in Week 16 with an last-minute interception of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff.

--The 49ers suited up only 45 players for the game – one fewer than allowed – due to tight end Je’Ron Hamm sustaining a serious left leg injury during pregame warmups. Hamm was fitted with an air cast and taken off the field on a cart.

--The 49ers scored their first safety since the 2013 season when Seattle long-snapper Nolan Frese airmailed a snap over punter Jon Ryan’s head and out of the back of the end zone in the third quarter.

--Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka made field goals of 31, 32, 33 and 28 yards.

--Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, a fourth-round draft pick in 2015, had a 23-yard reception for his first NFL catch.

Lack of 49ers' pass rush this season was predictable

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USATSI

Lack of 49ers' pass rush this season was predictable

Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, we examine what has gone wrong.

We could look at the minus-15 turnover margin.

We could look at the 49ers’ inability to close out four games in the fourth quarter.

We could look at the rash of injuries to some of the team’s top players, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon.

We could look at a number of areas that have combined to make the 49ers among the worst teams in the NFL and in strong contention for the No. 1 overall pick.

But there was one shortcoming of the 49ers that was predictable, and that led to a trickle-down of problems with the team.

Every team is looking for pass-rushers. The 49ers looked for players to get heat on the quarterback in the offseason. They ended up re-signing Cassius Marsh and adding free-agent Jeremiah Attaochu.

Marsh has been the 49ers’ best edge rusher, though he has just 3.5 sacks with 2.5 coming against the Raiders in Week 9. Attaochu proved difficult to motivate, and the 49ers cut him before the start of the regular season.

The 2018 draft was not exactly teeming with edge rushers – it rarely is – so the 49ers did not even try to reach for a player out of desperation. There was one pass-rusher who was far-and-away better than the others, and the 49ers had no shot at him.

The Denver Broncos, who already had Von Miller, invested the fifth overall pick in Bradley Chubb. He leads all rookies with nine sacks.

Marcus Davenport was considered a possibility for the 49ers at No. 9, but general manager John Lynch and the rest of the organization have no buyer’s remorse with their pick of right tackle Mike McGlinchey.

Where the 49ers might want a re-do would be in the second round. The 49ers selected wide receiver Dante Pettis. Eight spots later, the Indianapolis Colts chose edge rusher Kemoko Turay of Rutgers. Turay is tied for third in the NFL among rookies with four sacks. Davenport also has four sacks with the New Orleans Saints.

DeForest Buckner has been the team’s only consistent pass-rusher. He leads the 49ers with six sacks. Ronald Blair is tied with Marsh for second with 3.5 sacks apiece. The 49ers have 25 sacks in 10 games, but eight of them came against the Raiders.

Because the 49ers have not generated steady pressure, it has forced defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to get more creative with his calls. And that has not been successful, either.

The 49ers’ defense is based on the Seattle Seahawks scheme the Seattle Seahawks have deployed with great success for years. It is designed to be a simple three-deep scheme. But with the lack of pressure from the four-man pass rush, Saleh has tried to get inventive to generate a pass rush.

The result has been more blown coverages and exploitation of mismatches. Offenses have detected the vulnerabilities in the 49ers’ defense what would not be so easily exposed if the 49ers had a better pass rush.

NFL rumors: Washington to sign Mark Sanchez; Colin Kaepernick still unsigned

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NFL rumors: Washington to sign Mark Sanchez; Colin Kaepernick still unsigned

Quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Colin Kaepernick have something in common. Neither has played in the NFL since 2016.

But now, one has an NFL job, and it's not Kaepernick.

Sanchez, who last appeared in three games for the Cowboys in 2016, is expected to sign with Washington, according to multiple national reports.

Washington is in need of a backup quarterback after starter Alex Smith broke his right fibula and tibia in Sunday's loss to Houston. The team reportedly brought in several quarterbacks for a workout, but Kaepernick was not a part of the group.

Former 11-year NFL cornerback Antonio Cromartie is not a fan of Washington working out quarterbacks not named Colin Kaepernick, and expressed belief that teams continue to black ball the former 49ers signal caller.