Julio Jones

DeAndre Hopkins, 49ers' new rival, vows he's NFL's best wide receiver

DeAndre Hopkins, 49ers' new rival, vows he's NFL's best wide receiver

One of the 49ers' newest rivals is coming to the NFC West with lots of confidence.

DeAndre Hopkins hasn't even suited up for the Arizona Cardinals yet, but he told ESPN's "Jalen & Jacoby Show" that he "definitely" is the best wide receiver in the NFL. 

"I know I'm the best," Hopkins said Thursday. "Mike's my boy. I love [New Orleans Saints wide receiver] Michael [Thomas] ... but he knows if I had Drew Brees my whole career what these numbers would be. [Falcons wide receiver] Julio Jones knows if I had Matt Ryan my whole career. That's my boy. I trained with Julio, too. He knows what these numbers would be."

Hopkins caught passes from Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson over the last two-and-half seasons before being traded to the Cardinals this offseason, and Watson is no slouch as a quarterback. The 27-year-old receiver made first-team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons since Watson was drafted, catching 257 passes for 3,288 yards and 24 touchdowns in the QB's 37 career starts.

But Hopkins was great despite playing with numerous forgettable quarterbacks in four years before Watson arrived in Houston, making the Pro Bowl in 2015 after finishing third in receiving yards (1,521) and tied for seventh in TDs (11) while Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden each started at least one game.

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Hopkins won't have to worry about that in 2020, barring injury, as he's set to team with up-and-coming star Kyler Murray in Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury's high-octane offense. That combination has the potential to be a thorn in the 49ers' side for years to come.

If you agree with where Hopkins stands among the game's best wide receivers, he'll pose a threat to the 49ers this season. Thomas and Jones each carved up the 49ers' dominant defense last season, with both catching 11 or more passes for 134 yards and at least one touchdown. Of the receivers who accrued at least 100 receiving yards in a game against the 49ers, Thomas (13) and Jones (11) had the most receptions.

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Hopkins will have two chances to replicate his peers' production, and he'll be aided by arguably a better supporting cast of receivers. Larry Fitzgerald caught 75 passes for 804 yards as a 36-year-old last season, while Christian Kirk had 709 receiving yards himself. Fitzgerald has gained more receiving yards (2,381) and scored more touchdowns (19) against the 49ers than any other team in his career, while Kirk has scored two of his six career TDs (in two seasons) against San Francisco.

The All-Pro receiver's swagger alone won't knock the 49ers off their divisional perch, but Hopkins' arrival should keep them -- and their secondary -- up at night preparing for (at least) two games against the Cardinals next season. 

Jerry Rice still holds three major NFL records, but will they ever be broken?


Jerry Rice still holds three major NFL records, but will they ever be broken?

When Jerry Rice retired before the 2005 season, he was the unquestioned greatest receiver in NFL history. Many even viewed him as the greatest player of all time. 

Rice certainly still holds that title for receivers and is in the debate among all players. The question now is, will anyone break Rice's three major receiving records?

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio and NBC Sports' Peter King recently asked that exact question, so it's time for us to do the same.

The former 49ers star -- yes, he also played for the Raiders -- finished his career with the most receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895) and receiving touchdowns (197) in NFL history. If you include his rushing touchdowns, Rice actually had 207 total TDs. 

Let's start with career receptions, which has a real chance of being broken. It all depends on how long Larry Fitzgerald continues to play. 

Fitzgerald is No. 2 on the all-time list with 1,378, putting him 171 receptions behind Rice. The 36-year-old signed a one-year contract in January to come back for his 17th season with the Arizona Cardinals. He had 75 receptions last season in quarterback Kyler Murray's rookie year last season. 

Fitzgerald actually might be in line for a bigger season this year -- if the NFL even has a season. Murray will be in his second season under coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins could free up Fitzgerald.

If Fitzgerald continues to sign one-year deals with Arizona, there's a real chance he could surpass Rice's record. But that's a big if. Rice should hold onto the record for years to come if Fitzgerald only has another year or two in his tank.

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To no surprise, Fitzgerald is second in career receiving yards but is 5,812 yards behind Rice. Yeah, that's not going to happen. 

Julio Jones, 31, already has 12,125 receiving yards and has averaged 1,347 through his first nine years. Hopkins, 27, has 8,602 yards through seven seasons and has averaged 1,229 receiving yards per year.

For comparison, Rice averaged 1,090 receiving yards but that was over 20 years. If anyone has a chance, however small it might be, it's Julio. Good luck on maintaining that pace for another 10 years.

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And finally, there are the touchdowns. That record isn't going anywhere. Jones has 57 career receiving TDs and Hopkins has 54. Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans have 48. From 1986 to '96, Rice averaged 13.7 receiving touchdowns. He scored nine at 39 years old with the Raiders. 

Rice simply was a machine. A 17-game schedule could help players like Fitzgerald, Jones and Hopkins get within range of Rice, but don't expect the greatest receiver of all time see his records fall.

49ers have no argument with referee's call on final play in wild loss

49ers have no argument with referee's call on final play in wild loss

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers’ 29-22 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday included a bizarre finish in which two officiating rulings in the final eight seconds were overturned after replay reviews.

After time had clicked off the scoreboard, and the 49ers had thought they won the game, a call of Falcons receiver Julio Jones being stopped short of the goal line was reviewed by referee Craig Wrolstad and NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron in New York.

Ultimately, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was credited with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jones. If the call had stood as called on the field, the 49ers would have survived with a 22-17 victory.

Instead, the 49ers were left with an agonizing loss that drops them out of the top spot in the NFC West.

It was determined the football in Jones’ hands broke the plane of the goal line, Riveron told a pool reporter from NBC Sports Bay Area. All reviews with less than two minutes remaining are initiated by a replay official.

“We see the player gain control of the football,” Riveron said. “We see two feet on the ground. And we see what we say is ‘brown breaking white,’ which is the football breaking the plane of the goal line in control. He completes the process, therefore, it’s a touchdown.”

Riveron said the camera was directly down the goal line, which provided a conclusive angle for the replay of the game-deciding play.

“We’re looking right down the goal line,” Riveron said. “As a matter of fact, if you look at the replay, you can see the official at the other end, on the other sideline, the official that doesn’t signal anything and we’re looking at him right down the line.

“It’s clear and obvious to us that he gains control with two feet on the ground, completes the process and brown breaks white.”

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said he had no issue with the reversal of the original call after seeing the replay shown on the video boards inside Levi’s Stadium.

“That’s what I saw on the scoreboard, too,” Shanahan said.

A split-second after Jones made the catch near the goal line, 49ers safety Jimmie Ward hit Jones low, while nickel back D.J. Reed converged in an attempt to keep Jones out of the end zone. When Jones landed he was still on the field of play, which gave the illusion to almost all in attendance that he did not score.

“I was confident, but at the same time, I didn’t know how close he was to the goal line,” Ward said. “It was bang-bang play.”

After two seconds were placed back on the clock because the timing stops after a touchdown. The Falcons waived their right to go for the extra point with their 23-22 lead.

Then, Atlanta scored another touchdown on the final play of the game when Olamide Zaccheaus scored on a recovery of Raheem Mostert’s errant lateral on the ensuing kickoff.

It looked as if the 49ers had lost the game one play earlier when Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper was originally ruled to have caught a touchdown pass with :05 remaining. Hooper appeared to catch the ball against right coverage from 49ers safety Marcell Harris.

But Hooper had the ball in his right hand and the ball touched the ground. He lost control of the ball, which prevented him from completing the act of completing the catch, Riveron said.

“We see that the player gets control of the football, he gets two feet down, but he doesn’t make a football move,” Riveron said. “The ball actually takes him to the ground. This is the one remaining situation where you have two steps, but if you don’t have a football move, you’re going to the ground, you must survive the ground.

“In this situation, he takes the ball, it hits the ground and then he loses control of the football when he comes back up. Therefore, it’s an incomplete pass.”

The 49ers’ excitement of seeing that play overturned did not last long, though.

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“I just felt my heart drop,” said 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who was directly behind the play on which Jones was ruled to have scored the winning touchdown.

“I saw the replay, and when he caught it, maybe it could’ve been across it (the goal line). I mean, the refs know what they’re doing. I thought it could go either way.”