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

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


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.

Jeff Garcia: Jimmy Garoppolo's ill-advised decision robs him of valuable experiences

Jeff Garcia: Jimmy Garoppolo's ill-advised decision robs him of valuable experiences

Jeff Garcia faced the same situation many times over the course of his 11-year NFL career -- and, before that, five seasons in the CFL.

Through experience and knowing his own physical abilities, Garcia could determine after breaking the pocket when to slide or when to try to pick up additional yards. There certainly were times when Garcia was accused of putting his body at unnecessary risk.

But what seems clear to everyone also is obvious to Garcia: Jimmy Garoppolo should have simply stepped out of bounds Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

“It’s one of those things where we talk about the intelligence of the quarterback and growth and maturity at that position, and I think it’s just one of those things, where with time and experience, he’s going to learn to make better decisions in those types of situations,” Garcia said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

Garcia, a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee, is an analyst on NBC Sports Bay Area.

On a third-and-goal from the Kansas City 20-yard line and the 49ers trailing by two touchdowns with more than five minutes to play, Garoppolo scrambled to his left, got around the corner and ran along the left sideline. Garoppolo advanced the ball inside the 10-yard line. Then, with four defensive players surrounding him, he made the regrettable decision to attempt to cut back inside for additional yardage.

Garoppolo’s left knee gave out as he tried to change direction. A split-second later, Chiefs defensive back Steven Nelson leveled Garoppolo with a high hit. Initially, some 49ers players and coaches feared Garoppolo sustained a concussion.

Instead, Garoppolo grabbed at his left knee. He will undergo surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which will require a six- to nine-month recovery period.

“As much as I want to be supportive of him as a competitor, because I know that feeling of wanting to do whatever you can for your team,” Garcia said. “You want to show your physical and mental toughness, but you also have to know your limitations. And I think in that situation, as much as trying to get 1 or 2 extra yards was probably on his mind, he has to understand that he’s not a typical running quarterback. That’s not his strength.”

The season-ending injury will have a major impact on the remainder of the 49ers’ season. But it also could have a carry-over effect for Garoppolo, who turns 27 in November and will enter his sixth NFL season in 2019.

“He’s still raw. It was only his 10th start in the National Football League,” Garcia said. “He hasn’t even completed an entire season at this point, and you just wish he would’ve had a different mindset at that point.”

Garcia said Garoppolo’s mindset should have been to get some yardage back in order to make a fourth-down play manageable. He accomplished that goal. Then, he should have gotten out of bounds to save time and avoid a hit to his head or his throwing shoulder.

Garcia said the remainder of the team will continue to develop and improve over the course of the season, but Garoppolo will miss out on the valuable experiences of going through 16 regular-season weeks of meetings and practices.

Then, there’s the valuable experiences that comes with the decision-making that is required for a quarterback through running approximately 1,000 offensive plays during the course of a season.

“The team is young and they’re going to continue to grow and evolve and mature in all the other aspects of the team,” Garcia said. “That’s what you were counting on with Jimmy, to be able to take this year, get a full season under his belt playing the position.”

Instead, it will be backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, a third-round draft pick last year, who will have the opportunity to get the bulk of the experiences this season. Beathard takes over in Week 4, beginning with the game Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“And now it’s back to square one, back to a young quarterback who was drafted last year and got some games, some starts, which is a positive thing,” Garcia said. “But he’s not the franchise guy, and that’s where so much was put into Jimmy being the guy for many years to come, and now there’s a major setback once again.”

Kyle Shanahan would've liked Jimmy Garoppolo to step out of bounds

Kyle Shanahan would've liked Jimmy Garoppolo to step out of bounds

Immediately after Jimmy Garoppolo suffered his season-ending knee injury Sunday, 49ers fans asked one question: Why didn’t the quarterback just step out of bounds on that fateful play in Kansas City?

Well, NBC Sports Bay Area 49ers insider Matt Maiocco asked Kyle Shanahan that very question during his press conference Monday. The 49ers coach’s answer was as lengthy as it was revealing.

“I think everyone’s [response] is the same after it happened. ‘Why didn’t you just get out of bounds?’ “ Shanahan said. “I think it’s a reminder to all quarterbacks and coaches. Just turn on the tape any Sunday, and you’re going to watch 15 plays by quarterbacks jumping over people, not getting out of bounds, doing a little extra to move the chains where it’s a hell of a play and everyone’s glad they did it. Then, you see some guys get out of bounds, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s what you’re supposed to do.’ 

"Then, you have something like this that you’re reminded of why you do coach that and why quarterbacks should do it. But, those guys are competitive guys who want to do whatever they can to win the game. You’re not assuming just by going and staying in bounds you’re going to tear your knee up. Sometimes, you get hit a lot harder because of that, which is what I thought happened until I heard later.

“But, I think that’s something that Jimmy will probably look at differently going forward because I know he’ll remember this the rest of his life. Nothing against him. I think this happens with everyone. Like I said, you see it every Sunday.

“I think it’s just a reminder for everyone why that is the obvious coaching point and why you need to stick with that.”

Shanahan is right that Garoppolo won’t soon forget his decision. It cost him the remainder of this season, and now he’ll have to look forward to rehab and 2019.

“He’s down, just as everyone would expect,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy was real excited about this year, and we were real excited to go through it with him. Got to go through a few games, but I know he was very disappointed. I know it was hard for him last night, it was hard today, and it’ll be hard over these next few weeks.

“But, Jimmy is a tough person. He’ll bounce back from this, and he’ll be ready to go next year.”

NFL coaches likely will show their quarterbacks video of the play, hoping to avoid the same fate the 49ers now face. Shanahan, though, is confident in what Garoppolo will be when he returns next season and what C.J. Beathard can be in the interim.

“Quarterbacks can come back from knee injuries. They do it all the time,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think this will affect him going forward. Yeah, he’ll have a long recovery. He’ll have to heal. But, right when the offseason starts, I think he’ll be there. ...

“So, I’m still very excited about Jimmy and the future of him here, and I feel fortunate that we have a backup quarterback that we have a lot of confidence in.”