49ers hold off Jets with 31-13 victory, but are decimated by injuries

By Joe Hawkes
Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Running back Raheem Mostert got the 49ers off to a promising start on the day, running for a 80-yard touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage and Jimmy Garoppolo tossed a pair of TDs — before the two of them sat out the second half with injuries — as San Francisco picked up their first win of the season holding off the New York Jets, 31-13, at MetLife Stadium as the team was gutted by a rash of injuries on Sunday afternoon.

Facing injury issues entering the game with tight end George Kittle (knee) not making the trip, defensive end Dee Ford (neck) ruled out and cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (foot) both on short-term injured reserve, San Francisco (1-1) lost Garopplo to an ankle injury and Mostert to an injured knee in the first half. Both players left the field shortly before halftime.

Mostert suffered a mild sprain to his medial collateral ligament (MCL), and Garoppolo suffered a high ankle sprain that will likely keep him out of action for a few weeks. According to NBC Sports 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco, Garoppolo isn’t expected to be available for Week 3’s game against the New York Giants at the same venue.

Garoppolo sustained the injury in the first quarter after a sack by defensive tackle Quinnen Williams after his leg got caught in the turf. On the sideline, you could see that Garoppolo was in obvious pain.

Mostert had eight carries for 92 yards and a touchdown before he was injured. His 80-yard TD run on the game’s first play hit a max speed of 23.09 MPH, which is the fastest max speed for a ball carrier on a play from scrimmage over the last five seasons according to Next Gen Stats.

The more serious injuries came along the defensive line, where defensive end Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas were carted off the field after apparent knee injuries that the team “fears” are torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL).

With a little more than five minutes left in the first quarter, Bosa was engaged with Jets tight end Trevon Vesco on a running play and his left leg buckled as he attempted to get off the block and tackle running back Frank Gore.

Bosa tried to sit up as a busy 49ers medical personnel came out to check on him. A cart came on to the field and carried Bosa to the locker room. The team would rule out last season’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year early in the second quarter.

A few plays later, the 49ers suffered another huge blow to its defense when defensive tackle Solomon Thomas injured his knee. He too was carted off the field and rushed to the locker room. San Francisco ruled him out for the second half.

Even with the team’s injury situation reaching at a critical state, the team didn’t panic against the woeful Jets (0-2).

After the Jets trimmed San Francisco’s lead to 7-3 behind a Sam Ficken 41-yard field goal, a noticeably limping Garoppolo drove the 49ers to another TD, hitting the aforementioned Reed on an 18-yard hookup that put San Francisco up 14-3. Reed’s first score with the 49ers capped off a 14-play, 67-yard drive in 8:44, where Reed leaped over a diving Marcus Maye to get into the end zone.

San Francisco’s defense thwarted a promising Jets’ possession, stopping the Jets on fourth-and-1 from the 49ers’ 20-yard line with linebacker Fred Warner and company stuffed running back Josh Adams for no gain.

Garoppolo would take San Francisco down the field again, capping off a 13-play, 80-yard drive in 3:30 with a 4-yard toss to Reed to put the 49ers up comfortable, 21-3, with 11 seconds in the second quarter. The drive continued after Jets defensive end Henry Anderson was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty where it appeared that the Jets stopped San Francisco on third-and-8.

Garoppolo completed 14-of-16 passes for 131 yards and the two TDs in the first half before backup Nick Mullens took over in the second half.

Mullens, who doesn’t take any first-team reps in practice during the week, looked shell-shocked on his first drive. But running back Jerick McKinnon had a 55-yard run on third-and-31 at the San Francisco 11-yard line. The run would setup a 46-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould that gave the 49ers a 24-3 lead in the third quarter.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team converted a third down on that long of a run was Minnesota in 1999 when running back Leroy Hoard rushed for 53 yards on third-and-37 against the Denver Broncos.

Mullens finished 8-for-11 for 71 yards and an interception where the pass bounced off the hands of running back Tevin Coleman that the Jets took back to the San Francisco 22-yard line, but the Jets settled for a 25-yard field goal by Ficken to make the score 24-6.

McKinnon scored his second TD of the season on a 16-yard rush in the fourth quarter that gave San Francisco a 31-6 lead. McKinnon finished with 77 yards on three carries and a TD.

After a horrendous showing on third- and fourth-down last week against the Arizona Cardinals where they only converted 2-of-13 attempts in a 24-20 loss in Week 1, the 49ers went 7-of-13 on third down against the Jets in Week 2. It was a better showing by the 49ers offense that racked up 359 yards of total offense and led in time of possession (32:13 to 27:47) this week against a poor Jets defense.

Even with all of the injuries suffered to its defense in the game, San Francisco limited the Jets to 277 yards of total offense and held them to 5-of-14 on third down.

The Jets added a late TD, when quarterback San Darnold connected with wide receiver Braxton Berrios on a 30-yard completion with 1:23 remaining in the game making the score, 31-13. Darnold finished 21-of-32 for 179 yards and no turnovers.

Instead of flying back to the west coast, the 49ers will be staying at a resort in West Virginia as they prepare to take on the New York Giants.

The Giants (0-2) lost to the Chicago Bears 17-13 at Soldier Field on Sunday, but that’s not the big story. Star running back Saquon Barkley was carted off the field early in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury. Barkley’s status for next week’s game is unclear.

Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones completed 25-of-40 passes for 241 yards and an interception for the Giants. Jones was sacked four times by a stingy Bears defense on the day.

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.

 

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.”