49ers

Instant Replay: 49ers fall to Pats, drop franchise tying ninth in a row

Instant Replay: 49ers fall to Pats, drop franchise tying ninth in a row

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SANTA CLARA – On a day former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was honored, the team rolled back the clock to his second year in charge of the franchise.

And that is not a good thing.

The 49ers hung around for a while Sunday but went down in defeat to the New England Patriots on a rainy day at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers’ 30-17 loss extended their losing streak to a franchise-tying nine games.

Chip Kelly’s team matches the nine-game losing streak of 1978, which was DeBartolo’s second season running the 49ers. The 49ers fired Pete McCulley after the first four games of the streak, replacing him with Fred O’Connor.

The next season, DeBartolo hired Bill Walsh as head coach.

On Sunday, the 49ers received a lesson from the organization that most closely resembles what DeBartolo accomplished in the 1980s and ‘90s with Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana.

Bill Belichick’s AFC East-leading Patriots improved to 8-2 on the season, while the 49ers drop to 1-9 after opening the season with a 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Tom Brady was not his usual sharp self, perhaps due to the weather conditions, but he managed to throw four touchdown passes to lead New England to the victory.

Brady, a 17th-year professional, made his first start against the 49ers in the Bay Area. Brady grew up a fan of the 49ers and was at the NFC Championship game in January 1982 that produced Dwight Clark’s catch that propelled the 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance. Brady was 4 years old.

Brady completed 24 of 40 attempts for 280 yards with four TDs and no interceptions. His passer rating was 114.6.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick got off to a good start, but struggled in the second half with nine consecutive incomplete passes. He finished with 16 completions on 30 attempts for 206 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 97.4.

Brady threw touchdown passes to cap the Patriots’ first two offensive possessions of the game. He tossed a 4-yard pass to fellow San Mateo native Julian Edelman. Brady’s second TD came on a 9-yard pass to running back James White for a 13-3 lead.

Kaepernick matched Brady pass for pass in the first half, as the 49ers kept it close. Kaepernick connected with tight end Vance McDonald on an 18-yard touchdown pass to make the score 13-10 at halftime. McDonald beat Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty for the score. McDonald took the team lead with his fourth touchdown reception.

In the first half, Brady completed 12 of 17 for 108 yards and a passer rating of 126.6. Kaepernick completed eight of nine attempts for 116 yards and a passer rating of 155.8.

The 49ers held the opposition scoreless in the third quarter for the second week in a row. Through the first eight games, the 49ers were outscored 58-13 in the third quarter.

But while the 49ers shut out Brady and the Patriots in the third quarter, it did not take Brady long in the fourth quarter to get into the end zone. Brady found receiver Danny Amendola alone in the end zone for a 5-yard scoring pass for a 20-10 lead with 14:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.

DeBartolo honored: Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was awarded with the “ring of excellence” for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. David Baker, the Hall of Fame president, was on hand to make the presentation during a driving rain at halftime.

“I was told all these years I brought rain, thunder and lightning to this franchise, and today proves it,” DeBartolo said.

The 49ers won five Super Bowls during DeBartolo’s leadership, which ended in 1997. Many of DeBartolo’s former players, including Hall of Famers Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice and Charles Haley, were on hand for the ceremony.

Smith’s streak ends: Wide receiver Torrey Smith missed the first game of his six-year NFL career due to a shoulder injury. Smith was declared as one of the 49ers’ seven inactive players for Sunday’s game. Smith appeared in each of his first 89 games since entering the league in 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens. Smith entered Sunday with the second-longest streak among wide receivers for consecutive games played. Eric Weems of the Atlanta Falcons has played in 129 straight games.

This ‘n’ that
--Cornerback Jimmie Ward exited the game in the fourth quarter and was taken into the locker room for evaluation of a possible concussion. Ward was injured on a play in which he tackled Edelman for a 7-yard gain.

--The 49ers let a major opportunity slip away in the first quarter. After driving to the New England 3-yard line on first and goal, Carlos Hyde was dropped for a 4-yard loss. On third down, Kaepernick was sacked for an 8-yard loss. The 49ers settled for Phil Dawson’s 33-yard field. He became the 10th player in NFL history to make 400 field goals.

--Former Patriots wide receiver Chris Harper made his first catch as a member of the 49ers. His 19-yard reception in the first quarter helped set up Dawson’s first field goal of the game. Harper finished with two catches for 35 yards.

--The 49ers were penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct in the third quarter for coaches on the sideline being too close to the field. Referee Jeff Triplette said the 49ers sideline had been warned earlier in the game.

--Rookie receiver Aaron Burbridge made his second start of the season. He was targeted once but did not catch a pass.

--Running back Carlos Hyde had his best game since Week 3 with 86 yards on 19 rushing attempts. Shaun Draughn added three catches for 43 yards, including a 13-yard score late in the fourth quarter.

On the other side, LeGarrette Blount rushed for 123 yards on 19 carries for the Patriots. Blount is the eighth opponent in the past nine games to rush for more than 100 yards against the 49ers.

--The 49ers were called for 10 penalties for 69 yards.

NFL analyst could see 49ers replacing Jimmy Garoppolo with Kirk Cousins

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USATSI

NFL analyst could see 49ers replacing Jimmy Garoppolo with Kirk Cousins

Last season didn't go as planned for the Minnesota Vikings or the San Francisco 49ers, albeit for different reasons.

After signing quarterback Kirk Cousins in the offseason, the Vikings stumbled to an 8-7-1 record, missing the playoffs one year after going to the NFC Championship Game. Cousins, despite tossing 30 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions, underperformed the massive contract he was given and was a clear scapegoat for the Vikings' disappointing year. 

As for the 49ers, after Jimmy Garoppolo went down in Week 3 with a torn ACL, the wind was taken out of their sails and they limped to a 4-12 finish. 

Both the 49ers and Vikings have high hopes for 2019, but if things go awry for both squads, one NFL analyst could see Kyle Shanahan swapping Jimmy Garoppolo for Kirk Cousins.

Yes, you read that correctly.

On Pro Football Talk Live, Mike Florio floated the idea of Shanahan -- who was Cousins' offensive coordinator for two seasons with the Redskins -- electing to move on from Jimmy G if his 2019 is subpar and grab Cousins should the Vikings cut bait with the veteran QB. Chris Simms, who knows Shanahan well, doesn't think it's as impossible as it sounds.

"I don't think it's crazy, Mike," Simms said. "You know, this thought or this theory, I don't think it's crazy. 

"I do think we are getting to the end of the territory or the end of the shelf life of this Minnesota football team. What you're saying if things didn't work out this year and they went 7-9, 6-10, 8-8 and miss the playoffs -- do they abandon ship, restart and retool their team? And yes, if the 49ers underperform, you know, could I see them going after a Kirk Cousins? Certainly. I really could see it happening."

Slow your roll, Chris.

After acquiring Garoppolo from the New England Patriots in 2017, Jimmy G went 5-0 as a starter and was rewarded with a massive five-year, $137 million contract. But should things go bad in 2019, the 49ers would only face a $4.2 million cap hit if they chose to move on from the star quarterback.

[RELATED: Breaking down Beathard vs. Mullens as 49ers' backup QB]

It would be a shock to see the 49ers part with Garoppolo in favor of an aging and overrated Cousins, but stranger things have happened. 

Examining 49ers' backup QB competition of C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens

Examining 49ers' backup QB competition of C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens

The most talked-about competition on the 49ers is also for a job coach Kyle Shanahan hopes is the most superfluous position on the team during the 2019 regular season.

Reserve quarterbacks C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens are competing for the job to suit up on game days and serve as Jimmy Garoppolo’s insurance policy.

“You really hope Jimmy stays healthy so it’s irrelevant who’s the No. 2 guy,” Shanahan said before the 49ers broke off last week at the conclusion of the offseason program.

“These guys have both proven that they can play in this league and we’re going to have to make a tough decision at the end of preseason to which one we want to give that No. 2 job to.”

At the beginning of the past two seasons, there was never a question that Beathard would serve as the team’s backup quarterback -- behind Brian Hoyer in 2017, then Garoppolo last season.

But things are different this summer after Mullens became one of the bright spots of a thoroughly disappointing 49ers season. He played well during his eight-start stint to close out the season.

Mullens compiled a respectable 90.9 passer rating while putting up big numbers after taking over for Beathard for the 49ers’ Week 9 game against the Raiders. Mullens averaged 285 yards passing per game, ranking him fourth all-time through eight games behind Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton.

Yet, Mullens earned nothing other than the right to compete with Beathard for the backup job. And Shanahan seems to be pleased with both players, based on what he witnessed during the nine-week offseason program.

“C.J.’s had a real good camp,” Shanahan said. “He’s been playing real well. So has Nick. So I’ve been excited about both of them.”

Beathard was a third-round draft pick in 2017. The 49ers signed Mullens immediately following that same draft as an undrafted rookie. Mullens was among the final cuts before the starts of the ’17 and ’18 seasons. After he cleared waivers, Mullens immediately signed back to the 49ers’ practice squad.

Mullens was promoted to the 49ers’ 53-man roster last season after Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.

First-year quarterbacks coach Shane Day has outlined some areas of improvement for both players. Shanahan said the true competition for the backup job will begin in training camp, but there’s little he does not already know about both men.

“I know both of them so well, because we’ve been here two years with them and we’ve gotten a chance now to see both of them in practice and both of them in games,” Shanahan said.

“They’ve both been doing a real good job, both playing at a high level, so that’s been exciting. But to sit there and really stress over, from a coaching standpoint, trying to make the decision, we’re not there yet because a lot could change.”

Here is a closer look at the decision that Shanahan could face – assuming one of the players is not dealt in a trade -- when the final cuts must be made by Aug. 31 at 1 p.m.

C.J. Beathard

PROS: The 49ers selected Beathard in the third round, which provides a strong indication that he had the physical tools necessary to make all the throws in Shanahan’s offense. But that investment was also two years ago. So, now, the decision is less on potential and more on what the player has done.

Still, Shanahan’s offense is predicated on taking advantage of the weaknesses in the defense. If the play call and defense sets up a deep shot, Shanahan wants to see it thrown deep. Beathard can make the deep throws and has the arm strength to carry the ball outside the numbers.

[RELATED: C.J. Beathard enjoys backup QB competition]

Beathard has shown his toughness through his 10 NFL starts. (That’s also not necessarily a positive, as we’ll explain later.) He has played well at times. He has also struggled. With a better supporting cast, Beathard’s production would also be expected to elevate. Beathard also says the competition has made both players better.

CONS: While Beathard’s toughness can be seen as one of his better qualities, you never want your quarterback taking hits that can be avoided. Beathard must make quicker decisions to get the ball out of his hands and not absorb nearly as many hits he has taken through the course of his first two seasons.

Beathard got pounded way too many times (one sack for every 10.4 dropbacks). Those hits started to have an obvious impact on him, too. He got banged up while making his five starts last season and he began to look shell-shocked.

Physically, he needed a break at the time Mullens took over. But he also appeared to need a mental break, too. In 10 starts over his first two seasons, Beathard threw 13 interceptions with 12 TD passes.

Beathard must improve his pocket awareness. It’s easy to stand in the pocket during offseason drills and training camp in order to make the throws. The big test for Beathard will be to process information and get rid of the ball when he’s going up against an enemy pass rush.

Nick Mullens

PROS: Mullens is a gamer. He has been underestimated his entire career, and he continues to prove himself at every level he’s played.

Mullens took his preparation to peculiar levels even when he was on the practice squad. He practiced called plays in the huddle while cranking up crowd noise in his headphones. Mullens knows the offense very well. He also never showed any signs of getting rattled – other than his annoyance with Shanahan, who continued to talk in his ear after delivering the play call.

Mullens’ arm strength (more on that later) is questionable, but he can make up for some of his limitations with his timing -- his knowledge of the offense, reading the defense and anticipating his throws.

CONS: Despite some very good statistics, including an 8.3-yard average per attempt, Mullens did not grade well with some Pro Football Focus metrics.

His 64.2 completion percentage topped Beathard (60.4) and Garoppolo (59.6), but Mullens ranked near the bottom of the league in completion percentage in small windows as well as passes of 20-or-more yards down the field. The takeaway from PFF is that Mullens thrived because Shanahan was able to scheme receivers to be open.

Where his arm tends to be a problem is that defenders tend to get their hands on Mullens’ passes. In college, he threw 46 interceptions in 44 games. Last season, he was intercepted 10 times in eight starts with 13 TD passes.