49ers’ defense will have its hands full with Seahawks’ Russell Wilson in key NFC West showdown

The Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) on the move to throw to a receiver during Oct 11, 2020 game against the Minnesota Vikings at Centurylink Field in Seattle in first half action (AP News photo)

By Joe Hawkes
Staff Writer

Its no big secret that the key for any team into stopping the Seattle Seahawks is to corral quarterback Russell Wilson.

Easier said than done.

Wilson’s uncanny ability to avoid would-be pass rushers and find an open DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett downfield for big gains has become routine this season. You almost take him for granted because we expect him to turn a broken play into a great play.

Both Lockett (45 catches/542 yards/7 TD) and Metcalf (24 catches/519 yards/5 TD) have made huge plays for Wilson this year that has put Wilson in prime position to win his first MVP award.

Simply put, Wilson is amazing at playing quarterback in the NFL.

San Francisco’s defense will have its hands full with Wilson as the 49ers (4-3) travel to the Pacific Northwest for a pivotal NFC West matchup against the Seahawks (5-1) on Sunday afternoon from CenturyLink Field.

The last time the 49ers were in Seattle, Week 17 of last season, San Francisco prevailed 26-21 in a heart-wrenching game that was decided by a goal-line stop by then-rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw on Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister. Greenlaw’s tackle wrapped up the NFC West title and the No. 1 seed for San Francisco in front a loud sellout crowd.

This time around, the division isn’t on the line and there won’t be any raucous fans at CenturyLink Field due to the pandemic. But a win for the 49ers would pull them within half-game of first-place Seattle, making for a tighter race with both the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams both at 5-2.

The same Arizona Cardinals that handed the Seahawks their first loss of the season last week, 37-34, in overtime in Phoenix on Sunday Night Football. In that game, Wilson completed 33 of 50 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns, but tossed three costly interceptions in losing for the first time in his nine-year career when leading by four or more points at halftime.

He had been 59-0 in such situations according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Oh yeah, that same Arizona Cardinals team that shocked the 49ers 24-20 in Week 1 at Levi’s Stadium.

You don’t think the 49ers, the reigning NFC champions, wasn’t paying attention like the rest of America when Wilson looked mortal in game for once this season?

The answer would be a resounding yes.

Despite season-ending injuries to defensive end Nick Bosa (knee) and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (knee), along with cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and defensive end Dee Ford (back) both missing significant time this season, San Francisco’s defense has remained steady this season.

The unit ranks fifth in total defense this season allowing just 19.4 points per game, which includes the 43-17 home drubbing at the hands of the Miami Dolphins that left the 49ers at 2-3 and many declaring their season over.

Seattle’s offense ranks tops in the NFL in scoring, averaging 33.8 points per game. Wilson leads all quarterbacks in touchdowns (22) and passer rating (119.4) to go along with just six interceptions.

Last week, the San Francisco’s defense played without both starting safeties in Jaquiski Tartt (groin) and Jimmie Ward (quad) and limited the New England Patriots to just 241 yards of total offense in a 33-6 demolishing in an empty Gillette Stadium. The defense recorded four interceptions.

San Francisco must find a way to generate a consistent pass rush against Wilson, who is an escape artist when the pocket collapses. Tackling Wilson is harder than tackling a tadpole in shallow water.

Through seven games, the 49ers have sacked opposing quarterbacks 19 times this season, which is good for ninth in the NFL. Defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. leads the 49ers with 3.5 sacks.

Fellow defensive end Arik Armstead has had some success at getting to Wilson in the past, registering 2.5 sacks in eight games.

Since the Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he’s 12-4 against the 49ers (the most wins against any team) with 3,347 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 97.9 passer rating.

With injuries to Chris Carson (mid-foot sprain), Carlos Hyde (hamstring) and Travis Homer (knee), rookie DeeJay Dallas is the only healthy running back on Seattle’s roster, so the game could be in Wilson’s hands even more come Sunday.

The last three matchups against these two rivals have come down to the final possession. So we could very well see a replay Sunday of Week 17 where Wilson has the football in his hands and San Francisco’s defense will need a stop to walk away with a victory.

 

 

 

49ers hold off Rams, 24-16, behind Jimmy Garoppolo’s 3 TDs; strong defense

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) gets the football away as he’s being rushed by the Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) and nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (69) in the first half of Sun Oct 18, 2020 at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara (AP News photo)

By Joe Hawkes
Staff Writer

SANTA CLARA, Calif — In a game that many viewed was a must-win to salvage their season, the San Francisco 49ers was able to outlast the visiting Los Angeles Rams, 24-16, on NBC’s Sunday Night Football behind three TDs from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the first half and a strong effort from the defense.

It’s the first win for the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium this season, after dropping their first three home games to the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins.

The 49ers (3-3) jumped on the Rams early, scoring touchdowns on three of their first four possessions. On San Francisco’s first possession, Garoppolo engineered a 6-play, 76-yard drive that was capped off by a 6-yard pass to wide receiver Deebo Samuel for the TD to put the 49ers up 7-0 in the first quarter.

Garoppolo was 4-for-4 for 69 yards on the opening drive.

After the 49ers’ defense forced the Rams to punt on their opening possession of the game, San Francisco took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on Garopplo’s second TD of the game. Garoppolo would find tight end George Kittle for a a 44-yard score after the 49ers faced a 4th and 2 from the Rams 44-yard line.

Kittle’s score punctuated a 10-play, 87-yard drive in 6:08 for the 49ers, who emphasized getting the football out of Garoppolo’s hands quickly and relied heavily on the running game which took a hit when running back Raheem Mostert left the game early in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

Mostert was off to a good start, carrying the ball 17 times for 65 yards before his exit.

Kittle led all receivers with seven catches for 109 yards and the TD, while Samuel finished six catches for 66 yards and a score.

After quarterback Jared Goff found wide receiver Robert Woods in the middle of the end zone on a 10-yard TD to get the Rams on the scoreboard and cut San Francisco’s lead to 14-6, following a missed extra point, the 49ers would put together another scoring drive shortly before halftime.

Garoppolo engineered a 13-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 7:16 and found rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk for a 2-yard score that gave the 49ers a commanding 21-6 lead.

Garoppolo was 17 of 21 for 215 yards and 3 TDs in the first half. Offensively, the 49ers had their way with the Rams, racking up 18 first downs and 291 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes of the game.

Garoppolo, who was benched after the first half in last week’s 43-17 embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins at home in which he completed just 7 of 17 passing for 77 yards, two interceptions and a career-low 15.7 passer rating; bounced back this week with a better showing by completing 23 of 33 passes for 268 yards, 3 TDs and a 124.3 passer rating.

Oh yeah, he improves to 4-0 against the Rams all-time.

Coming into the game, the talk leading up to the showdown against the Rams was if Garoppolo could show that he’s still the right quarterback for the 49ers long term and could San Francisco’s much maligned offensive line withstand the dominating force that is perennial Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

San Francisco’s offensive line, which has been a target of criticism the last two weeks as they surrendered 23 quarterback hits and 10 sacks in the last two games, kept Donald off Garoppolo the entire night.

For the game, Donald registered just one solo tackle and one quarterback pressure after recording four of the Rams’ eight sacks against the Washington Football Team last week in Los Angeles’ 30-10 win on the road.

In the second half, the Rams (4-2) converted their first possession into a 42-yard field goal by kicker Samuel Sloman to cut the 49ers’ lead to 21-9.

Following back-to-back 3-and-outs by the 49ers, Goff drove the Rams down to the 49ers’ 2-yard line and looked like Los Angeles would finish off the drive with a TD but Goff’s pass intended for wide receiver Josh Reynolds was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Jason Verrett.

Verrett thwarted a golden scoring opportunity for Goff and the Rams that could’ve changed the tenor of the game.

Goff finished 19 of 38 for 198 yards, 2 TDs and one interception as 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh mixed up coverages that didn’t allow Goff and the Rams’ offense to get comfortable on Sunday night.

The 49ers added a 49-yard field goal by Robbie Gould to push their lead up to 24-9 in the fourth quarter, but the Rams wouldn’t go down quietly.

On the Rams’ next drive, Goff hooked up with Reynolds for a 40-yard TD over cornerback Emmaunel Moseley. Moseley was called for a defensive pass interference call, but the Rams declined the penalty making the score 24-16.

San Francisco’s defense held the Rams to 4 of 12 on third downs and 311 yards of total offense. Much of those yards came on the Rams’ final drive of the game. Moseley, along with linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw paced the defense with seven tackles each.

The schedule gets more daunting for San Francisco with games against the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Rams again in the next five weeks.

For at least one night, the 49ers have quieted the skeptics with an impressive win over their divisional rivals from Southern California.

 

Rookies Shine While Injuries and Penalties Concern 49ers in 17-9 Win

file photo by sfgate.com: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, right, throws a pass at the team’s NFL football training camp in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, July 29, 2019

By: Joe Lami

SANTA CLARA — Despite sitting nearly 30 players in their pre-season opener, the 49ers couldn’t stay away from the injury bug on Saturday night’s 17-9 win over the Cowboys.

Expected swing lineman, Shon Coleman, went down during San Francisco’s third offensive play of the game. Ruled with an ankle injury, he was put in an air cast and carted off the field.

The injury to the back-up tackle could be a huge storyline this season since he’s listed as the number two to both LT Joe Staley and RT Mike McGlinchey.

Reports also surfaced during the game that wide receiver Trent Taylor had surgery on a broken pinkie toe on Friday. He’s expected to miss the entirety of the pre-season but hopes to come back early in the regular season via a message from Instagram.

Both running back Raheem Mostert and defensive lineman DJ Jones went down for the conclusion of the contest. Mostert suffered a concussion, while Jones went out with a knee.

The battle for the back-up quarterback spot has been highlighted through camp so far. Despite their records, both Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard are neck and neck heading into the first game.

Mullens played the entire first half on Saturday night, throwing 11 of 17 for 105 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Mullens found third-round rookie Jalen Hurd for the half’s only touchdown. Chalk the interception up to Mullens getting hit during a throw.

CJ Beathard saw the field in the second half. On his first drop back, he was sacked for five yards but fared better as his night went on. Finishing 13 of 17 for 145 yards, Beathard threw a pick and a TD to Hurd.

The Niners defense held up for the most part. Bending at most times but not breaking, they forced the Cowboys to kick three field goals. Dak Prescott started the first drive for Dallas, going four-of-four for 23 yards before stalling and forced to kick a field goal.

Penalties once again remain a concern for the Niners and could be a significant sign of things to come, as they committed 18 penalties for 216 yards. In both seasons under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers have finished in the bottom third of the NFL in penalties committed and Saturday night was glaring.

Rookie Spotlight

Three rookies made an impression on Saturday night. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw made the immediate impression; tallying five tackles in the first half, including four on Cowboys’ opening drive. His pursuit is noticeable and it’s obvious the fifth-round pick from Arkansas has a nose for the football.

At times, he over pursuits; picking up a roughing the passer penalty after getting to the QB too late. However, on the next play, he continued to show aggressiveness getting a tackle for loss.

Jalen Hurd’s first catch in a 49er uniform found paydirt. After a play-action rollout from Mullens, Hurd broke one tackle and battled through another defender past the goal line. Hurd added his second of the night when Beathard found him in the left corner of the end zone to start the fourth quarter.

After spending three seasons at Tennessee as a running back, Hurd converted to wide receiver while transferring to Baylor. The 6-foot-5-inch receiver has the size and means streak to become San Francisco’s answer to poor red-zone performance.

We saw second-round pick Debo Samuel get the ball once, but the kid can fly. He was able to turn the corner on a jet sweep and pick up 14 yards like it was nothing. In the third quarter, he climbed the ladder on a 45-yard reception hopping over a Cowboys’ DB to make the snag.

He finished for a combined 75 yards on five touches. He will be fun to watch as the pre-season continues.