Kyle Shanahan confirms Ahkello Witherspoon will resume starting role

Kyle Shanahan confirms Ahkello Witherspoon will resume starting role

SANTA CLARA  -- On Nov. 11, 2012, then 49ers quarterback Alex Smith sustained a concussion and was pulled from the game. His back-up, Colin Kaepernick, took his place and played so well that Smith never got his starting job back. 

That scenario will not be the case between 49ers cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley according to coach Kyle Shanahan. Moseley, who appeared in only one game as a rookie in 2018, has flourished in place of Witherspoon in his six starts this season. 

Moseley has already racked up 17 solo tackles, five pass breakups and one interception. In three games Witherspoon had amassed seven solo tackles, five pass breakups and one interception. Both have been so effective in coverage that they are interchangeable opposite of veteran Richard Sherman.  

“Ahkello earned his spot with the way Ahkello was playing when he went out,” Shanahan said Tuesday in his conference call. "If Ahkello can come out to practice, gets three good days in, show exactly where he’s at, then we’d give him his job back. He’s going to have to have a good week of practice to do that."

Witherspoon spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area prior to the team’s Monday night loss to Seattle and revealed that he feels 100-percent and is ready to get back onto the field. With the health of the secondary at a premium in the NFL, Shanahan is pleased to have a solid option available. 

“Emmanuel’s played at a high level,” Shanahan said. “I agree with everybody else in that. It’s been great to see him step up with the injury and how well he’s played. I know we’ve got another guy who’s capable of being a starter out there. If Ahkello can get in a full week of practice then it would be his job.” 

[RELATED: Shanahan losing patience with WR Pettis]

With a short week ahead, Witherspoon has a little less time to show he is ready to return to the field to face the Cardinals. The team wants to make sure he is fully healthy, not risking his long-term availability. 

“It would be very similar to how it’s been with our tackles with [Mike] McGlinchey getting three good days in last week is why he went ahead of [Daniel] Brunskill. If he wouldn’t have, then we would have kept Brunskill out for another week. We’ll see how that goes with Ahkello this week, but it's nice with how good E-Man’s been playing. It makes us a lot more patient with Ahkello’s injury.”

Saints' Sean Payton snaps over failed two-point conversion vs. 49ers

Saints' Sean Payton snaps over failed two-point conversion vs. 49ers

Saints coach Sean Payton wasn't in a mood to be second-guessed following his team's last-minute Week 14 loss to the 49ers.

San Francisco ultimately won the thrilling back-and-forth matchup by two measly points -- a game in which New Orleans attempted two two-point conversions.

Both failed.

After Tre'Quan Smith scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass to give New Orleans a 46-45 lead with 53 seconds remaining, quarterback Drew Brees went back to the same well for the two-point conversion attempt, but the pass intended fell incomplete. On the ensuing possession, 49ers tight end George Kittle caught a 39-yard reception on fourth-and-2, eventually setting up a game-winning Robbie Gould 30-yard field goal as time expired.

But after the tough loss, it was the former two-point try, not the latter, that Payton was questioned about -- while shopping for groceries, no less.

"I certainly understand the fans asking questions," Payton said Thursday on his weekly WWL Radio show. "I got the guy at frickin' Whole Foods asking me about the two-point play. I looked at him, the guy in the meat section, and I said, 'Hey, your steaks don't look too good right now. Worry about your frickin' meat.' "

Oh man. What's the over/under on how many "Worry about your frickin' meat" shirts will be at the Superdome when the Saints host the Colts on Monday night?

The play in question occurred midway through the first quarter, after Saints tight end Jared Cook hauled in his second touchdown reception of the contest. The 49ers were assessed a personal foul on the play, and rather than take the yardage on the kickoff, Payton couldn't pass up being so close to the goal line.

On the two-point try, Brees handed the ball off to a motioning Taysom Hill, who promptly was stuffed by multiple San Francisco defenders well short of the end zone. 

"I didn't feel like kicking a touchback, thought about kicking an onside kick," Payton explained. "So on the 1-yard line, I think we're gonna get two points. And then we get the defense misaligned -- obviously it doesn't have any success. And then the game ends, and, 'Why were you going for two?' Because I wanted to. We were on the 1-yard line."

Misaligned, huh? Payton was correct in stating that the 49ers were in an atypical alignment with two safeties on the same side of the field, but according to San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, that was intentional.

"We knew it was coming," Saleh said Thursday in response to Payton's claim that one of the safeties accidentally lined up on the wrong side. "I’m not going to say he wasn’t on the right side because of the way we execute certain things and all our different goal-line packages that we have, but that play was a gimme one to me with Taysom Hill where he was aligned. That was a layup in my opinion."

[RELATED: 49ers severely battered, bruised with three regular-season games to go]

The tape sure seems to suggest the 49ers knew what was coming:

The Saints hung 46 points on the 49ers, so clearly, not many of Payton's play-calls were of the layup variety. But the first two-point attempt?

You might say he butchered that one.

George Kittle's strong run-blocking skills for 49ers proved by stat

George Kittle's strong run-blocking skills for 49ers proved by stat

"George Kittle, not really a blocker ... "

We didn't say this, but FS1's Doug Gottlieb sure did. And Gottlieb certainly heard the comments from everyone online essentially saying he didn't know what he was talking about.

But if you still need numbers to back up the 49ers tight end's elite blocking skills, Next Gen Stats has you covered: 

Kittle certainly has a presence -- both in the run and the pass game -- and the numbers show that. 

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has praised Kittle's run-blocking game before, which only adds to the evidence proving sometimes, it's best to watch Kittle continue in his greatness -- no comments necessary.

[RELATED: Kittle was key success in run game vs. Ravens]

To add to it, Gottlieb's comments came after the 49ers' Week 13 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, one where the tight end received an overall 72.9 grade from Pro Football Focus and a 78.1 run-blocking grade.

That was Kittle's best run-blocking grade of the season to that point.