Loaded with primetime games, SF 49ers face tough road in 2020

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo prepares to throw in Super Bowl LIV as Garoppolo will lead the 49ers in the 2020 season that is if the NFL gets the nod to open up the season. (si.com file photo)

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

While its still unknown if the sports landscape will return amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL continues to operate as normal, officially releasing its 2020 regular-season schedule for all 32 teams Thursday.

Time to mark your calendars 49ers fans. (Hopefully).

See full schedule here: https://www.49ers.com/schedule/

After losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in Miami back in February after holding a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, the San Francisco 49ers’ road back to the Super Bowl will be a daunting one.

San Francisco will tussle with both the NFC and AFC East squads on top of their NFC West opponents in 2020.

The reigning NFC Champions will have six games against 2019 playoff teams, including the Seattle Seahawks (twice), New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, and New England Patriots. San Francisco has the fourth-toughest schedule in 2020, with their upcoming opponents were a collective 134-120-2 (.527 winning percentage) in 2019.

Expectations are sky-high for San Francisco heading into the season after a 13-win campaign last year.

All eyes will be glued on 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in 2020 to see if he can follow up an impressive 2019 season. In his first full year as a starter, Garoppolo shined as the top signal-caller for San Francisco, throwing for 3,978 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

With rumors swirling that general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were contemplating signing Tom Brady, San Francisco decided that they’re all in with the 28-year-old Garoppolo for the long haul.

For the first time since 2017, the 49ers will open up the season at Levi’s®Stadium with the Arizona Cardinals rolling into town. In the opener, San Francisco will get an up close and personal look at the Cardinals’ biggest offseason acquisition in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona acquired the dynamic playmaker from the Houston Texans, in exchange for running back David Johnson with each team picking up multiple draft picks too.

This year marks the first time since 2016 that the 49ers will kickoff the season against a divisional opponent.

San Francisco will be prominently featured in primetime, playing four of the five games at Levi’s®Stadium:

  • Week 4 against Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday Night Football)
    • The 49ers last faced the Eagles in 2017, in which San Francisco were throttled 33-10 in Philadelphia.
  • Week 6 against Los Angeles Rams (Sunday Night Football)
    • San Francisco and Rams meet for the second-straight year on Sunday Night Football. The 49ers won both meetings last year, including their last-minute victory in Week 16 that saw San Francisco convert back-to-back 3rd-and-16 completions from Garoppolo to engineer the win.
  • Week 9 against Green Bay Packers (Thursday Night Football)
    • Green Bay will make their third-straight trip to Levi’s®Stadium within a calendar year. The Packers and 49ers met twice last year, in Week 12, and again in the NFC Championship game, with the 49ers winning 37-20 and locking up their first Super Bowl appearance since 2013.
  • Week 13 against Buffalo Bills (Monday Night Football)
    • The Buffalo Bills, who have high expectations of their own heading into the 2020 season, will make their first-ever trip to Levi’s®Stadium. The Bills made a splash in the offseason, trading a bevy of picks to the Minnesota Vikings for electric wide receiver Stefon Diggs to help third-year quarterback Josh Allen’s development as a passer.
  • Week 15 at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)
    • Talk about two organizations that aren’t strangers to one another. Both organizations have won five Super Bowls and feel that this is the year that they both can win their sixth. With this matchup late in the year, this could be a potential playoff preview or at the least, a playoff spot will be up for grabs.

San Francisco has three separate stands of back-to-back road matchups, starting with Weeks 2 and 3.

The 49ers are set to face the New York Jets then New York Giants at Met Life Stadium in consecutive weeks, marking just the second time in team history that San Francisco is taking on the Jets and Giants in consecutive weeks (Weeks 13-14 of 1986) and the first time doing so on the road in back-to-back weeks.

Last year, the 49ers stayed on the east coast in between road games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 1) and the Cincinnati Bengals (Week 2), and the Baltimore Ravens (Week 13), and the New Orleans Saints (Week 14).

In Week 7, San Francisco will head to the Northeast to take on the New England Patriots in Jimmy Garoppolo’s return to Foxborough. The following week, San Francisco will travel to the Pacific Northwest for their first matchup against NFC West rival, the Seattle Seahawks.

Unlike last season’s Week 4, this year the 49ers’ bye comes in Week 11, which could be vital for San Francisco who could be fighting for playoff positioning. This marks the third time in four seasons that San Francisco have had their Bye in Week 11.

Following the Bye, the 49ers will evenly split their final six contests between home and road trips and a final meeting against each of their division rivals.

For the second-straight year, the 49ers and Seahawks face each other in the season finale. Week 17 could prove to have playoff implications again, similar to 2019 where the 49ers clinched the NFC West in Seattle thanks to then-rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw’s goal line stop on Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister that perserved a 26-21 victory.

The 49ers will open and close the regular-season at home for the first time since 2016.

Reports: 49ers acquire Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams for two picks

Trent Williams joins the San Francisco 49ers after playing in Washington he joins the 49ers as of Saturday’s news (bleacherreport.com file photo) 

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

The saga between the Washington Redskins and perennial Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Williams appears to have finally ended, with Washington agreeing to send Williams to the San Francisco 49ers according to Williams’ agent, Vincent Taylor on Saturday.

“The time has come to part ways,” Taylor said in a statement. “Trent Williams is ready to get back to competing in the NFL and is glad to be a part of a great organization like the San Francisco 49ers.”

The Redskins will send Williams to San Francisco in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this year’s NFL draft, and a third-round pick in 2021, league sources confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

NFL Media and ESPN first reported the details of the completed trade.

Sources also confirmed to Schefter that Williams and the 49ers are expected to restructure the final year of his contract, in which he’s scheduled to make $12.5 million this season.

Williams. 31, has played every game at left tackle since entering the NFL in 2010 as Washington’s No. 4 overall pick. He played his first four NFL seasons with Mike Shanahan as coach and Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator.

Now that Williams is in the fold, it appears that left offensive tackle Joe Staley’s time with the 49ers is coming to an end after 13 seasons.

On Monday, 49ers general manager John Lynch said he was confident that Staley would return for his 14th season in 2020 when he spoke to local reporters. But those who watched the 49ers closely in 2019 saw that Staley was breaking down and maybe considering calling it a career.

But according to an additional report by Schefter on Saturday that Staley is expected to retire do to health concerns, which allowed the trade for Williams to take shape:

Who can forget following San Francisco’s close Week 17 win in Seattle, Staley left the field in tears?

“I was super emotional after that game,” Staley said in Seattle. “Been a long time, haven’t won here since 2011. I was overcome with emotion on the field. I sprinted into the tunnel because I was getting choked up.”

Staley, who hardly missed games during his career, missed a career-high nine games in 2019 due to injuries, including a broken leg and a broken and dislocated finger.

49ers draft two players Thursday that could help right away in Round One

Defensive tackle of the San Francisco 49ers Javon Kinlaw who was selected out of South Carolina seen here during his collegiate days (AP Photo)

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

Armed with two first-round picks (No. 13 and No. 31 overall) heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, the talk that the San Francisco 49ers would select a play-making wide receiver with their first pick was a forgone conclusion.

After swapping the 13th pick with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who was selecting 14th overall), the 49ers selected South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw on Thursday night. San Francisco also acquired the 117th pick (fourth-round) in the deal from the Vikings, although they also had to surrender a seventh-rounder to complete the deal.

The 49ers have now drafted a defensive lineman in the first round in five of the past six drafts.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has a new weapon to deploy on opposing offenses.

Kinlaw can help San Francisco right away, filling a void that was left after the team decided to trade defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts last month. In exchange for Buckner, the 49ers received the No. 13 overall pick from the Colts.

A native of Trinidad, Kinlaw is still a newbie to the game of football. Kinlaw spent most of his childhood homeless and moved around often. After playing in junior college right out of high school, Kinlaw’s road navigated to South Carolina where he would played in 37 of 38 games and was named a team captain.

The 6-foot-5, 324-pound Kinlaw finished his collegiate career with 82 tackles, 10 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and eight passes defensed in three seasons. He was named a first-team All-American after totaling six sacks and six tackles for a loss as a senior with the Gamecocks.

Later in the first-round, San Francisco made another deal, trading away the No. 31, No. 117 (acquired from the Buccaneers) and No. 176 to the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 25 pick. With that pick, the 49ers selected Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

In a draft that is rich with talent at wide receiver, the 49ers selected the 6-foot-tall, 205-pound Sun Devil product that has a gigantic 81-inch wingspan making his catch radius seemingly endless. Most draft experts has Aiyuk as an above-average route runner with the burst to separate from man-to-man coverage. Aiyuk could face some trouble early adjusting to the NFL, but should flourish as he gets comfortable in 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

With the loss of veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in free agency to the New Orleans Saints in the offseason, Aiyuk gives franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo another pass-catching threat.

Aiyuk, who is a native of Reno, NV, attended Sierra College in Rocklin, CA before moving on to Arizona State, where he caught 98 passes for 1,666 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons in the desert.

 

Super Bowl LIV prediction: 49ers edge Chiefs in thriller behind 49ers MVP Raheem Mostert

photo from mercurynews.com: San Francisco 49iers running back Raheem Mostert celebrates the NFC Championship victory at Levis Stadium on Sun Jan 19th 

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

Call me a homer if you want, but I truly believe that the San Francisco 49ers will win Super Bowl LIV over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Score? 35-28, 49ers.

Why?

Simple, behind the play of their stud defensive line powered by rookie defensive end Nick Bosa, and their solid running game centered around running back Raheem Mostert. In fact, Mostert is my pick to walk away with the MVP award of the game.

Mostert, who single-handily punched San Francisco’s ticket to Miami, FL after his four-touchdown, 220-yard rushing performance on 29 carries in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, has become an overnight sensation and a key piece in the 49ers’ run to Super Bowl LIV. After being cut by six teams before latching on with San Francisco in 2016, Mostert became the first player to rush for at least 200 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game.

For all the talk that the 49ers’ chances to win their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy rests on the right arm of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and possibly so, but Mostert will be the guy that the bulk of the offense will flow through when the ball is kicked off on Sunday at 6:38 p.m. ET (3:38 p.m. PT) from Hard Rock Stadium.

The game will be tightly contested for three quarters as both Garoppolo and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will trade touchdown scoring drives heading into the fourth quarter to tie the score at 28-28.

After San Francisco forces Kansas City into a 3-and-out, Mostert will punctuate a 12-play, 75-yard drive with his second touchdown run of the game at the four-minute mark giving the 49ers a 35-28 lead. In turn, San Francisco’s offense will anxiously watch its defense get them across the finish line which its done for most of the 2019 season.

The defense, who has exhibited such a herculean effort in trying to slow down Mahomes and Kansas City’s high-powered offense, the aforementioned Bosa will come up with a crucial sack on fourth down to secure the win.

Mostert, who will finish with a stat line of 22 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns, will be just the eighth running back named MVP of the Super Bowl joining Larry Csonka (Super Bowl VIII), Franco Harris (Super Bowl IX), John Riggins (Super Bowl XVII), Marcus Allen (Super Bowl XVIII), Ottis Anderson (Super Bowl XXV), Emmitt Smith (Super Bowl XXVIII), and Terrell Davis (XXXII).

Everyone but Anderson is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

49ers’ defense will have their hands full against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s offense in Super Bowl LIV

ap file photo: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes drops back to pass in the first half of their game against the Chicago Bears on Aug 25th in pre season play. Little did Mahomes know at the time he and the Chiefs would wind up in Super Bowl LIV 

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

SANTA CLARA–The San Francisco 49ers made winning the NFC Championship over the Green Bay Packers, 37-20, to advance to Super Bowl LIV on Sunday night look like a walk in the park. It will be San Francisco’s first trip to the Super Bowl since 2013, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31.

For the franchise to claim its sixth Vince Lombardi trophy in seven trips to the Super Bowl, the 49ers are going to have to take down Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, who are returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years after defeating the Tennessee Titans, 35-24, to capture the Lamar Hunt trophy, named after the Chiefs’ late owner as the winner of the AFC.

The Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, in Super Bowl IV.

The play of San Francisco’s defense will be critical when the football is kicked off at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Feb. 2. If San Francisco’s defense plays anywhere near it did against both the Vikings and Packers respectively, than the 49ers will be in primed position to win the game.

In two playoff games, the 49ers stood head and shoulders above the rest on defense, finishing first in points (15.0), total yards (252.2), rushing yards (41.5), takeaways (5), and third down percentage (23.8).

But neither Minnesota or Green Bay can match Kansas City’s offense, which can go nuclear within a blink of an eye with the aforementioned Mahomes as the trigger man. The third-year quarterback has a stacked offense, a track team of wide receivers in Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman, and an electrifying tight end in Travis Kelce at his disposal.

In the AFC Championship Game, Kansas City found itself down 10-0 and 17-7, but Mahomes and that high-powered Chiefs offense didn’t flinch, building a 35-17 lead over the Titans thanks in large part of controlling the clock with a strong ground game. Mahomes, who finished the game throwing for 294 yards and three touchdowns, his final touchdown came on a 60-yard strike to Watkins for the Chiefs’ 28th straight point midway through the fourth quarter.

That’s the type of offensive explosion that the 49ers must avoid if they have any shot at winning this football game. That means the 49ers, who may arguably have the NFL’s best defensive line, featuring Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead must make life difficult for Mahomes every time Kansas City has the football.

The 49ers have the league’s best pass defense and ranked fifth with 48 sacks during the regular season. They have nine more this postseason, largely by taking opponents off schedule and setting up favorable pass-rush situations.

That’s huge against a quarterback that has the penchant of eluding would-be tacklers like Mahomes. Especially in a game with so much on the line like the Super Bowl.

 

Packers and 49ers tangle for NFC title, trip to Super Bowl LIV

ninerswire.com file photo: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will match up against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers in the NFC Championship at Levis Stadium on Sun Jan 19

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

SANTA CLARA, Calif — For the second time this season, the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers will meet at Levi’s Stadium for a game. But this time, there’s much more at stake for both teams than just a win in the standings.

To the victor, the NFC Championship and a ticket to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, Florida for a chance to play for the Vince Lombardi trophy against the winner between the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs from the AFC will be punched.

First class.

To the loser, the harsh reality that your season is over smacks you in face immediately.

Instead of basking in the glow of winning the NFC Championship, you’ll return to your team’s headquarters to clean out your locker room, hug your teammates (possibly for the last time as teams change rapidly in the NFL each year), and go your separate ways for the offseason.

The end.

In the first matchup back in Week 12, the Packers took a beating at the hands of the 49ers, losing 37-8 at Levi’s Stadium. The Packers weren’t just outplayed by the 49ers, but were embarrassed in front of a nationally televised audience on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played almost flawlessly in that game, throwing for 253 yards on 14-of-20 passes and two long touchdown passes (a 42-yard strike to rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the second quarter, and a 61-yard deep ball to tight end George Kittle).

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had one of his worst showings of his career, finishing with 20-of-33 passes for just 104 yards — setting a record for fewest passing yards by a quarterback with at least 20 completions. His 3.15 yards per attempt is the lowest of his career.

San Francisco sacked Rodgers five times that night. Linebacker Fred Warner was all over the field, registering a team-high 11 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble against the Packers on the game’s opening moments. Warner’s performance led him to be named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Don’t expect a replay of Week 12 in this matchup as both teams are playing a elite levels at the most important time of the year.

Sunday’s NFC Championship Game in the South Bay, which kicks off at 3:40 p.m. PT, will feature two teams that finished 13-3 in the regular season, won the NFC West and North Division titles respectively, and earned first-round byes to open up the playoffs as the top-two seeds.

Last Saturday, top-seeded San Francisco (14-3) opened up the divisional round by dismantling the Minnesota Vikings (11-7), 27-10, in dominating fashion. It was the 49ers’ first playoff win in six years.

The returns of defensive starters, Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco’s defense looked re-energized and ready for a big day, made life difficult for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, sacking him six times and limiting Minnesota’s offense to 147 yards on the day, the fewest in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era (1967).

“People keep disrespecting us. At the end of the day, all you can do is go out and execute,” said Richard Sherman, who registered his third career interception in the playoffs. “It felt good. That’s what we look like when we’re totally healthy.”

The 49ers stonewalled Dalvin Cook and the Vikings’ rushing attack, holding Minnesota to just 21 yards on 10 carries (9 carries for Cook, 1 carry for Alexander Mattison). Cook finished the game with 18 rushing yards on nine carries.

Offensively, the 49ers leaned on a punishing running game that ran right through Minnesota like Ex-Lax led by running back Tevin Coleman’s 105 rushing yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. As a team, the 49ers ran 47 running plays and gained 186 yards on the ground.

Garoppolo, who made his first career start in the playoffs, threw a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, and mostly watched his defense wreak havoc on Minnesota for most of the game. He finished 11-of-19 passing for 131 yards.

The second-seeded Packers (14-3) was able to outlast the Seattle Seahawks, 28-23, at Lambeau Field Sunday night that advanced Green Bay to their third NFC Championship Game in six seasons.

In that game, it was a vintage performance by Rodgers with his array of throws and spectacular completions throughout the game. Rodgers and wide receiver Davante were so locked in against the Seahawks, connecting eight times for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s one of those feelings that starts to creep up in warmups, when you really feel like you’re locked in,” Rodgers said, “and I was glad it translated to the field.”

Rodgers finished 16-of-27 passing for 243 yards in his 17th postseason start, has thrown 38 touchdowns passes in the playoffs. That’s good for fifth all-time per Elias Sports Bureau.

Running back Aaron Jones found the end zone twice, while rushing for 62 yards on 21 carries.

Green Bay’s defense sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson five times on the night, two apiece by linebackers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith (no relation).

The 49ers and Packers have met in the playoffs seven times with the Packers holding a 4-3 advantage. The 49ers have won the last two playoff matchups.

 

49ers defense thump Vikings, roll into NFC title game with 27-10 victory

sfgate.com: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), is tackled by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, center, during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

Santa Clara, Calif — In the first ever NFL playoff game at Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers defended its home field in dominating fashion, outlasting the visiting Minnesota Vikings 27-10 on Saturday afternoon in the NFC Divisional round for their first playoff win in six years.

With the win, the top-seed 49ers (14-3) advance to the NFC championship game for the 16th time in franchise history where they await the winner between Seattle and Green Bay on Sunday in the other NFC Divisional matchup.

In his first playoff start, Jimmy Garoppolo threw a 3-yard touchdown to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne for an early 7-0 lead. Garoppolo marched San Francisco 61 yards in eight plays after its defense forced Minnesota (11-7) to punt on their opening drive.

Garoppolo wasn’t spectacular, finishing 11-of-19 for 131 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

“A lot of things to clean up, but we played well enough to get the win,” tight end George Kittle said. “That’s all you can ask for. Playoff football, anyone can win and we just made more plays today.”

Kittle had just three catches for 16 yards in the contest.

As a group including Kittle, San Francisco’s pass catchers (wideouts Deebo Samuel 3 catches for team-leading 42 yards, Bourne 3 catches for 40 yards, TD; and Emmanuel Sanders 2 catches for 33 yards) combined for just 11 catches for 131 yards and a score.

Minnesota quickly responded, tying the game up at 7-7 on a 41-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who had struggled in coverage down the stretch of the season, had great coverage on Diggs, but slipped at the 19-yard line and Diggs ran into the end zone.

But that would be Minnesota’s best highlight of the day as San Francisco would hold the Vikings to 147 yards of total offense. San Francisco’s offense racked up 308 yards total.

“The 49ers I felt were the better team today,” Cousins said after the game. “We didn’t do enough offensively to give ourselves a chance to win the game. It hurts now. Mike [Zimmer] said he was proud of the way the team fought this year, but right now, it’s just so raw. We’re kind of focused on this game and falling short. I thought the 49ers were a good team. They earned the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the way they played this season.”

San Francisco would retake the lead for good, behind the first of two rushing touchdowns by running back Tevin Coleman. Coleman capped off a 10-play, 53-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge to give the 49ers a 14-7 lead.

“Those guys did very well,” Coleman said of his offensive line. “They moved the guys back so I had clear holes to run through. So, yeah, they did a real good job.”

Coleman finished the game with 105 yards on 22 carries.

Following an interception by linebacker Eric Kendricks inside the 49ers’ own territory, Minnesota added a 39-yard field goal by kicker Dan Bailey to cut the lead to 14-10 at halftime.

On their first possession of the third quarter, San Francisco stretched its lead to 17-10 behind a 35-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould.

After Richard Sherman intercepted Cousins inside Minnesota’s territory on the Vikings’ next possession, Coleman gave the 49ers a two-score lead with his second score of the game, a 2-yard run that increased San Francisco’s lead to 24-10.

It was Sherman’s third career playoff interception. Sherman has intercepted Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and now, Cousins.

Defensively, San Francisco overpowered Minnesota’s offense all day limiting the ground game and their play-action attack. Running back Dalvin Cook couldn’t find any running lanes, rushing for just 18 yards on nine carries.

“That was the No. 1 emphasis all week,” Bosa said of the Minnesota running game. “We knew we were facing probably the best back we’ve faced all year with Dalvin, and we knew we had to earn the right to pass rush. So, that’s what we did. We took the run as serious as we could, shut it down and then we ate.”

Bosa had a great start to his playoff career, registering two of San Francisco’s six sacks on the day. The returns of defensive Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jaquiski Tartt proved to be vital for San Francisco’s defense, that looked like its dominating self from earlier in the season.

“It was huge to have those guys back,” defensive lineman Arik Armstead said. “They’re leaders on our team, talented players, they make big plays for us. We were missing some pieces out there, but to get those guys back, we hit back on all cylinders.”

At one point, the 49ers held the Vikings’ offense without a first down for 27 minutes of game time. Minnesota had mustered just seven first downs, compared to 21 by San Francisco. The 49ers held the Vikings to 2-of-13 on third downs and dominated time of possession (38:27 to 21:33).

“We were playing good the whole game,” Armstead continued. “They got us early with the touchdown. We just locked in. We knew what they wanted to do which was run the ball. It starts with that, stopping the run. I think we did a good job with that. I saw they only had twenty something yards. Once we did that, we were able to get after the passer. When you do that, you can have a complete game and shut people out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

49ers set to square off against the Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round

photo from mercurynews.com: Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and quarterback Adam Cousins (8) both are jubilant following Cousins winning touchdown pass to Thielen in New Orleans last Sunday at the Superdome 

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

In the first game of Sunday’s NFC Wild Card matchup, the Minnesota Vikings stunned the New Orleans Saints, winning 26-20 in overtime to earn their first postseason road victory since Jan. 9, 2005. With the win, the Vikings will travel to Levi’s Stadium to face the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Round.

The Vikings have now eliminated the Saints in two of the last three postseasons. For the Saints, it makes the third-straight postseason that they were bounced out of the playoffs on the game’s final play.

Minnesota won the toss in overtime and took the ball and never looked back. The key play for the Vikings was the 43-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen to move Minnesota to the Saints’ 2-yard line. On 3rd-and-4, Cousins would find Kyle Rudolph in the left corner of the end zone for the game winning score and punching the Vikings’ (11-6) ticket to Santa Clara, Calif.

The sixth-seeded Vikings’ shocking upset over the heavily favored three-seeded Saints (13-4) was largely due to the play of Cousins, who completed 19-of-31 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown.

Thielen, who fumbled on the game’s opening drive, shook off the turnover to lead all Vikings pass catchers with seven catches for 129 yards. After missing the final two games of the season, running back Dalvin Cook returned to the lineup and rushed for 94 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. Cook also registered 36 receiving yards on three catches.

Minnesota’s offense racked up 22 first downs while racking up 362 net yards on the Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

For the top-seeded 49ers (13-3), it is the first time that Levi’s Stadium gets to host a playoff game in the six years that the stadium has been opened. San Francisco, who earned a much needed first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs after taking down their bitter rival, the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17 at CenturyLink Field, won the NFC West for the first time since 2012.

That season, the 49ers would advance to Super Bowl XLVII.

San Francisco is getting healthy at the right time, as they expect linebacker Kwon Alexander (torn pectoral) and edge rusher Dee Ford back in the fold for the game. Alexander, who was cleared to practice this week, had been on Injured Reserve since Week 9.

Ford missed three weeks with lingering hamstring issues.

Safety Jaquiski Tartt, who missed the final four games of the year with a fractured rib, will be ready to go Saturday.

The 49ers are 4-0 all-time in the divisional round as a top seed. Kickoff for the 49ers’ first playoff game since 2013 is at 1:35 p.m. PT and will be on NBC with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on the call. Michelle Tafoya will be reporting from the sidelines.

Oakland Raiders preview: With viable chance at the playoffs, the Raiders must win regular season-finale in Denver

UPI file photo: Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs (28) carries against the Denver Broncos in the Oakland Coliseum Sep 9th during the Raiders home opener. It was the time the two teams met. 

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND — After opening up the 2019 regular season series against each other on Monday Night Football in Week 1 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Raiders and Broncos close out their regular season season in Week 17 at Empower Field at Mile High. In the first matchup, the Raiders defeated the Broncos, 24-16, giving Oakland its second-straight win over Denver. Oakland is looking for its first victory in Denver since 2015, and leads the all-time series 64-52-2.

Sunday’s AFC West divisional matchup will kickoff at 1:25 p.m. PT on CBS with Andrew Catalon and James Lofton with the call.

In Week 16, the Raiders kept their playoff chances alive after defeating the Los Angeles Chargers, 24-17 to improve to 7-8 on the year and 3-2 in the AFC West. Quarterback Derek Carr played tremendous, completing 26-of-30 attempts for 291 yards while throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another. Carr’s touchdown throw, which went for 56 yards on the Raiders’ opening possession, was hauled in by rookie wide receiver Hunter Renfrow who returned to the field after missing the last three games with a rib injury.

Renfrow recorded his first career 100-yard game, reeled in a career- and team-high seven catches (five of which were on third down) against the Chargers.

Defensively, linebacker Will Compton register 12 tackles (10 solo) and rookie defensive end Clelin Ferrell recorded a sack giving him 4.5 for the season. Oakland has a league-best 13 sacks by rookies in 2019.

The Broncos are coming off a 27-17 victory at home against the visiting Detroit Lions to improve to 6-9 on the year. Denver has won three of their last four games since inserting rookie quarterback Drew Lock under center.

Lock completed 25-of-33 for 192 yards and one touchdown, while running back Phillip Lindsay rushed for 109 yards on 19 attempts. Lindsay’s 27-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter sealed the game for Denver, who were leading 20-17 at the time.

For Oakland to make the postseason, not only would they need to defeat the Broncos but they would need wins by Cleveland (over Cincinnati), Baltimore (over Pittsburgh), Houston (over Tennessee), and Indianapolis (over Jacksonville).

With homefield and the AFC’s No. 1 seed locked up, Baltimore has already said it’s going to sit a bunch of starters which includes MVP front-runner in quarterback Lamar Jackson against the Steelers, while Houston has won the AFC South and could improve its playoff positioning. Houston is currently the fourth seed.

The Raiders need to take care of their own business against the Broncos instead of scoreboard watching in Week 17.

 

Raiders head down south for final matchup with the Chargers this year

Photo credit: @Raiders

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND — With their final regular-season home game of 2019 in their rear view mirror, the Raiders will travel south to Los Angeles to face the Chargers in an AFC West battle at ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park in Week 16. Sunday’s game marks the final game between the two clubs this season, with the Raiders winning the first meeting, 26-24, back in Week 10 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The win for the Raiders gave the Silver and Black a 63-54-2 advantage over the Chargers in the all-time series.

Kickoff for Sunday’s game is set for 1:05 p.m. PT with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green on the call, and Melanie Collins reporting from the sidelines.

In Week 15, the Raiders snatched defeat from the clutches of victory, losing to the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars 20-16 in the final home game for the Silver and Black in Oakland to fall to 6-8 on the year. The Raiders held a 16-6 lead in the fourth quarter, before the Jaguars scored 14 unanswered points thanks to two touchdowns from rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew to wide receiver Chris Conley to steal the victory from Oakland.

For Oakland, tight end Darren Waller became just the second tight end in franchise history with 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, joining TE Todd Christensen (1983-84, 1986). In the contest, Waller recorded eight catches for 122 yards, tying a club record among tight ends for most 100-yard receiving games (four).

Rookie running back Josh Jacobs rushed for 89 yards on 24 carries, giving him 1,150 rushing yards on the season. Jacobs has the sixth-best rushing season in franchise history, and is the only rookie in team history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.

Defensively, rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby continues be an anchor on the defensive line for Oakland, recording a sack giving him 8.5 for the season. Crosby, who ranks third among rookies in sacks behind 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (9.0) and Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen (10.0), needs just three more sacks in the final two games to move past defensive end Greg Townsend’s club record 10.5 sacks established in 1983.

The Chargers are coming off a game that they would like to forget, a 39-10 beating at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings at home in Week 15 to fall to 5-9 on the year.

Los Angeles shot themselves in the foot, committing seven turnovers in the game, four coming from quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers, who threw for 307 yards on 28-of-39 passing and one touchdown, also threw three interceptions and one lost fumble.

Not to be outdone by Rivers, running back Melvin Gordon had a turnover filled day against the Vikings, lost two fumbles after rushing for just 28 yards on seven carries.

Following Sunday’s game, the Raiders will finish their 2019 season in the Mile High City where they will take on the Denver Broncos.

The Chargers will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs to conclude their season.