Nationals

Facing Pats, 49ers looking to step up offensively

201212091813655869511-p2.jpeg

Facing Pats, 49ers looking to step up offensively

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers are looking forward to matching up with Tom Brady and the prolific offense of the New England Patriots on Sunday night.

It may be more a matter of keeping up.

After breakout performances in Kaepernick's first two NFL starts, the San Francisco offense lacked rhythm and punch the past two weeks as the 49ers lost in overtime to the St. Louis Rams and struggled for three quarters before finishing off the Miami Dolphins.

The Niners realize they likely will need more this week with the NFL's top-ranked offense on the other sideline. And it's another prime time opportunity for San Francisco's 12th-ranked attack to show what it can do now that Kaepernick has settled in as the team's starting QB.

``This is a showdown we've been waiting for, and we've got to put points on the board,'' tight end Delanie Walker said Wednesday. ``We know New England's got an explosive offense, and we can be the same with Kap. One thing we've got to do as a team is keep our offense on the field and keep our defense on the bench. That's the main focus this week.''

The last time the 49ers played in a nationally televised evening game, Kaepernick lit up the Chicago Bears in his starting debut Nov. 19 to spark San Francisco in a 32-7 rout. The next week, Kaepernick passed for a touchdown and ran for another as the Niners put up 31 points in a win at New Orleans.

Those are San Francisco's highest scoring outputs since the first week of October, when Alex Smith was the team's starting quarterback. But things haven't gone as smoothly the past few weeks, when the 49ers had their least productive offensive performances since slipping past Seattle in another prime-time game Oct. 18.

The 49ers even experienced problems getting to the line of scrimmage on time last week, when they converted on just two of 10 third-down plays and didn't secure a 27-13 victory over the Dolphins until a late offensive charge produced two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Kaepernick led the charge and sealed the win with a 50-yard touchdown dash with 2:10 to play, his second consecutive game with a 50-yard run, the longest by a quarterback in franchise history. Against the Patriots, the 49ers may rely more on the big-play ability that gave Kaepernick the starting job over Smith, the NFL's third-ranked quarterback who hasn't played since suffering a concussion on Nov. 11.

``There are definitely things that we're doing that tailor the offense to his skill set,'' coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Kaepernick is 3-1 as a starter but this Sunday is the biggest stage yet for the second-year pro. As is his style, Kaepernick displayed little emotion and was brief with his answers when talking about the Patriots on Wednesday.

``It'll be a great challenge for us,'' Kaepernick said. ``It's a great opportunity to go out and show what we're capable of. They're going to give you a lot of different looks on defense. You just have to be ready for it, for their disguises and different coverages, different fronts they're going to give you.''

Kaepernick was ready for much of what he saw during his first month as a starter. He's completing 67.4 percent of his passes and is averaging 217 yards passing per game and 8.3 yards per pass attempt as a starter. He's thrown just one interception in 129 attempts this year and has a passer rating of 97.4.

And despite not playing in three games and having 13 combined carries in five others, Kaepernick is third among NFL quarterbacks with 351 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground.

The 49ers figure to need everything they can get from Kaepernick and the NFL's second-ranked rushing attack to match up with the Patriots.

``You have to rise to the occasion and play your `A' game,'' said left guard Mike Iupati. ``They have a great offense so they're going to score points. What we need is to match their points. Our offense has to go out there and execute our plays and do what we do best.''

San Francisco's second-ranked defense leads the NFL in fewest points allowed, surrendering just 14.2 per game. But the Patriots lead the league with an average of 36.3 points a game, and they've scored 42 or more points in four of their past six games.

That has even San Francisco's stoic defenders anticipating that they might need more help this week from the team's offense.

``That's what it's going to take,'' cornerback Carlos Rogers said. ``It's going to take our offense moving the ball on them, running the ball, keeping Brady off the field. However it turns out, as long as we keep Brady on that sideline and not on the field, it's going to help us out a lot.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

42-year-old reliever Fernando Rodney will get a chance to prove he still has it for the Nationals

rodney-nats-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

42-year-old reliever Fernando Rodney will get a chance to prove he still has it for the Nationals

The Nationals are filling their open 40- and 25-man roster spot with veteran reliever Fernando Rodney on Tuesday, a source confirmed. 

Rodney, 42, is joining the Nationals bullpen after nine appearances for Triple-A Fresno which produced a 4.50 ERA and 2.125 WHIP. He was released earlier this season by Oakland after a rough start led to a 9.42 ERA. He will become the oldest active pitcher in baseball once added to the roster Tuesday.

This is a desperate swing by Washington to find help for a bullpen which entered Monday 29th in bullpen ERA. When Rodney was at this best -- something Nationals manager Dave Martinez saw in Tampa Bay -- he threw an almost unhittable changeup. It remains an effective pitch, if he can control it or his fastball. Command of both often give him trouble. However, the unpredictable nature of his pitching -- for better or worse -- is something that provides an odd duality. It can make him both ultra-effective or a ticking bomb. It almost always assures laborious outings.

Washington will be the 11th major-league team to employ Rodney in his 17 years of professional baseball. Being a three-time All-Star and former closer defines his on-field reputation. Randomly barking in the bullpen, shooting an imaginary arrow following a save or operating with a tilted cap exemplify the rest of Rodney's makeup. He once carried a "lucky plantain" at the World Baseball Classic. When pitching for Seattle in 2014, Rodney explained his bow-and-arrow gimmick like this: 

“The arrow? I don’t know,” Rodney said. “Just do something after the last out. Out 27. You know the game is over. I shoot the moon. I shoot the arrow, just let them know game over.

“That’s my game. Every time I go pitch, I do my arrow. That’s what the fans are waiting for. Rodney shoot the moon.”

He won't be on the mound to end a game in 2019 unless it is in mop-up duty. 

Multiple relief choices existed in Fresno for the Nationals. Few were good. Dakota Bacus has been the most effective Grizzlies pitcher this season. Yet, he remains in the minors. Veteran relievers George Kontos and Michael Blazek are also on the Grizzlies' roster.

Washington releasing Trevor Rosenthal on Sunday morning opened a 40-man roster spot. The Nationals sent Erick Fedde to Triple-A Fresno after the game Sunday to open a 25-man roster spot. Rodney fills those slots. Austin Voth remains in the rotation.

The Washington Post first reported Rodney's movement.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Adley Rutschman finally signed his contract with the Orioles and it could be a record-setter

adley_rutschman_real.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Adley Rutschman finally signed his contract with the Orioles and it could be a record-setter

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Orioles have signed the top overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, catcher Adley Rutschman of Oregon State.

The 21-year-old Rutschman, a switch-hitter, batted .411 with 17 home runs as a junior for the Beavers this year. He won the Golden Spikes Award, which recognizes the top amateur baseball player in the United States.

His reported record-breaking $8.1 million signing bonus would top a previous high set by Gerrit Cole ($8 million) when the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him No. 1 in 2011. 

Baltimore had not had the first draft pick since 1989, when it selected pitcher Ben McDonald out of LSU.

The Orioles announced the signing on Monday. The deadline to sign draft picks is July 12.

The team plans to introduce him to the crowd at Camden Yards on Tuesday during a game against the San Diego Padres.

MORE ORIOLES NEWS: