Top five storylines surrounding 49ers in Week 14
Five things that happened this week...
The 49ers extended their franchise-worst losing streak to 11 games with a dismal showing against the shorthanded Chicago Bears a week ago. Now, the 49ers return to Levi’s Stadium on Sunday for a game against the New York Jets—a team that has collapsed after holding high expectations for the season.
The 49ers are favored by 2.5 points. So, at least on paper, they have a legitimate chance for their second victory of the season. Although not much is happening on the field, it’s been another busy week off the field for the 49ers.
Here are the top five happenings of the past week:
5. Sad and sackless
The 49ers’ problems in their pass defense start with their lack of a pass rush. Last year, the 49ers recorded just 28 sacks on the season. That matches the 49ers’ lowest output since the sack became an official NFL statistic in 1982. This year, the 49ers have recorded just 20 sacks in 12 games.
The 49ers expected Aaron Lynch to have a breakout season. But he was suspended four games to open the season for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. Now, he has missed the past five games with a high-ankle sprain. Coach Chip Kelly said he expects Lynch to be back in action on Sunday.
Ahmad Brooks leads the 49ers with five sacks. On the other side, Lynch has one sack in three games; Eli Harold has one sack in nine starts; and Tank Carradine has been shut out completely. Meanwhile, after leading the team with six sacks in the preseason, Marcus Rush remains on the practice squad.
4. Staley streak in doubt
Through the bad times, the good times and the bad again, the one constant has been left tackle Joe Staley. The last time he missed a game was at the end of the 2010 season when he sat out with a broken fibula. The man who played in his place was Barry Sims.
The 49ers list Staley as “doubtful” for Sunday’s game. His streak of 92 consecutive regular-season starts is expected to come to an end. If that is indeed the case, veteran guard Zane Beadles is expected to bump outside to tackle with Andrew Tiller taking over at left guard. Center Daniel Kilgore, right guard Joshua Garnett and right tackle Trent Brown would remain in place.
Another streak that could be in jeopardy is Staley’s run of five consecutive Pro Bowl honors. But if anyone on the team deserves to represent the 49ers in the all-star game, it would be Staley or Phil Dawson.
3. New deal for Vance
Tight end Vance McDonald did not show much during his first 2 ½ seasons after the 49ers made him a second-round pick in the 2013 draft. But since the 49ers traded away Vernon Davis last season, McDonald’s opportunities have grown.
Nobody in the 49ers’ offense has put up impressive numbers, but McDonald’s production has increased this season. He has shown unique speed at his size and position with TD catches of 75 and 65 yards. The official numbers of McDonald’s deal are expected to come in much lower than the initial national report with a signing bonus near $6 million, according to sources.
“We look forward to his continued contributions to this organization, both on and off the field,” said 49ers GM Trent Baalke, whose own future with the organization is likely to be determined shortly after the season concludes on Jan. 1.
2. Kelly returns, remains
Coach Chip Kelly traveled to Maine after the 49ers’ game in Chicago for the funeral service for his father, E. Paul Kelly. High-ranking Oregon officials attended the service, sparking more speculation Kelly would return to Eugene, Ore.
Upon Kelly’s return to the Bay Area, Oregon announced Willie Taggart as coach. Kelly was adamant he will never leave one job for another as long as there are games to be played that season. It was a lesson about commitment he said his father taught him. Kelly, known as a very private person, opened up about losing a loved one.
Kelly’s father, a retired trial lawyer, was buried in a 49ers sweatsuit. Kelly also praised the York family for their support during a difficult time. With four games remaining, there are no indications Kelly will be fired after just one season.
1. Another chance for Kap
Things had been looking up for Colin Kaepernick, who was coming off a performance against the Miami Dolphins in which he threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 113 yards.
But Kaepernick could barely function in the snow of Soldier Field. He became the first quarterback in NFL history with fewer than 5 yards passing and five sacks in the same game. Blaine Gabbert took over for Kaepernick at the beginning of the fourth quarter, as Kelly noticed the ball was not coming out of Kaepernick’s hand the way it should.
Kaepernick remains in the starting lineup. After Kaepernick and the 49ers experienced so much success in his first couple seasons as the team’s starter, things have fallen dramatically. The 49ers have lost nine consecutive starts with Kaepernick at quarterback. The team’s overall regular-season record in his 54 starts stands at 27-27.