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.

San Francisco 49ers podcast with Joe Lami: Look for more Kittle heroics; Scouts and coaching at odds: plus more

Photo credit: @brgridiron

On the 49ers podcast with Joe:

#1 88 receptions, 1377 yards, and five touchdowns in 2018, Joe tells us about tight end George Kittle and his fantastic season last year.

#2 Looking at Kittle and what he’s done and what he’s able to do, what will be expected of him for 2019?

#3 Joe talks about the current rift that going on between head coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch, the coaching staff vs. the scouts. The 49ers scouts feel like they been marginalized and they have said their work has not been appreciated lending to the Shanahan-Lynch combination for the last season to compile a 10-22 record.

#4 One of the contrasts that the scouts have with the 49ers coaching staff is just using one of the draft choices when they selected Solomon Thomas a defensive lineman. The scouts felt Thomas who was a number five pick and that the scouts felt there was never any serious consideration about taking a quarterback.

#5 Preseason just is around the corner as the 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium on Saturday, August 10th. What are some of the things that Shanahan looks forward to in this preseason opener?

Catch Joe Fridays for all the 49ers podcasts at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Letter from Solomon Thomas to the Stanford Family

gocardinal.com photo: Stanford Cardinal defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (90) who turns pro next season is congratulated during a recent game

by Jerry Feitelberg

Stanford and Solomon Thomas released the following statement about Thomas’ decision to turn pro.

01/04/2017

To my Stanford family,

Since pulling out a symbolic Stanford tree and donning nerd glasses on National Signing Day in 2014, I have had the most amazing time of my life. I have grown and matured more than I ever could have imagined. I arrived at Stanford somewhat shy and uncertain; now I stand a curious, intelligent, dedicated, and motivated man who is ready to take on any challenge, including the NFL. With the support of my family, I have decided to forgo my last years of eligibility at Stanford and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

To my Stanford brothers, you all mean the world to me and I love you all. You each helped mold me into a better man. From laughing in the locker room, to sweating in the weight room, to grinding on the field — you are the reason I have loved every second of my time here. Our collective goal to not only be the best team, but also the best individuals, connects us on another level. You are all men I look up to as role models and aspire to be like. We have a special bond at Stanford, one that I am so proud to be a part of. I’m so lucky to have you as brothers: this is the most amazing blessing in my life.


 


Coach Shaw, you are the ultimate role model. Your influence and your values, have been permanently ingrained in me. Your loyalty to this program and your players is something that I will never forget.

I am so thankful to you for recruiting, coaching, and mentoring me.

I love you, Coach Shaw.

Coach Reynolds, you have taught me things that go far beyond football. Because of you and the lessons you have instilled in us, I have not only grown as a football player, but have grown tremendously as a man.

I love you, Coach Reynolds.

Coach Turley, you are one of the most respected men in this program. You push me past my limits and comfort –mentally and physically — to a new level as a man, athlete, and player.

I love you, Coach Turley.

I want to thank God, as without Him, nothing is possible. I want to thank my family for their unconditional love. I want to thank my brothers and coaches for all that we have shared in making these years the best of my life. I want to thank the entire Stanford family. Your kindness, generosity, and love have transformed me into the man I am today. You have changed my life in ways you will never know.

I am so honored, thankful, and grateful for my time at Stanford. I love this game so much and playing in the NFL has been my dream since I was six years old. The lessons I have learned at Stanford have more than prepared me for this next step. I am so blessed by all of the people who have touched my life here. These qualities will stay with me my entire life.

I am ready.

Forever a tree.

Forever a nerd.

Forever Cardinal.

With much love,

Solomon Thomas

Statement from head coach David Shaw on Thomas declaring for the draft:
“Solomon is explosive, strong, athletic, relentless and he’s worked extremely hard to put himself in the position to be an early draft pick. He’s ready for the next challenge.

I’m looking forward to hearing his name called early in the 2017 Draft.”

On both Thomas and Christian McCaffrey declaring for the draft:
“Two great players and great leaders are moving on to play at the next level. I thank them both for the daily example they set for our football team. I know we have multiple Stanford men who will step up to lead our 2017 team.”

Stanford thumps Rice, finishes regular season with five-game win streak as McCaffrey and Thomas face NFL decisions

thomas-pounces

(Photos courtesy of Eric Taylor/1st String Sports)

By Morris Phillips

After thumping Rice, 41-17, in their season finale, the Stanford Cardinal had a story to tell, it just wasn’t the story the assembled press was prying and probing after.

The Cardinal capped a nine-win season with a dominant performance against the Conference USA Owls, finishing their regular season with a five-game win streak, after the talent-laden team found itself embarrassed by three mid-season losses to the Pac-12’s upper tier.

During that stretch in which Stanford came up short against both Pac-12 Championship Game entrants—Pac-12 South champion Colorado and North winner, Washington–as well as a sobering home loss to Washington State, a whole lot of soul searching went on, and the Cardinal had to rebuild themselves quietly and outside the spotlight of the BCS championship race.

But the young team stocked with inexperienced talent in its freshman and sophomore classes did it, and for that, Coach David Shaw couldn’t be more proud.

“Even when the season wasn’t going the right way, even when we were booted out of the top-25, whatever that means, we still practiced hard,” Shaw recounted.  “We practiced well, we practiced with energy and passion.  That’s what I’m most proud of.  Because it can’t just come from me.”

“It has to come from the team.  You have to have the right group of guys.”

Stanford’s unquestioned best players—Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas—stand right at the top of the list of that “right” group.  The Heisman runner-up last season suffered through an injury-plagued season, missing most of the WSU game and the entirety of the Notre Dame game amid the losing streak.  But once he regained his health, Stanford soared.  McCaffrey outclassed Rice with more than 200 yards all-purpose yardage—his fifth, consecutive such outing and the 19th of his illustrious career.

Thomas was a nightmare for Rice, repeatedly blowing up plays Rice ran to their right and into Thomas’ wheelhouse.  Thomas was in on five tackles on Saturday night, and added a sack of Rice quarterback, Jackson Tyner.  Rice’s freshman quarterback, replacing normal starter Tyler Stehling, had a miserable outing, missing on 27 of his 37 pass attempts, once again illustrating Thomas’ imprint on Stanford’s easy win.

But for both McCaffrey and Thomas it started at practice, as Shaw described, repetition after repetition without a bunch of verbal stuff, and filled with selfless acts.

“Solomon Thomas is a leader, pure and simple,” safety Justin Reid said.  “The way he plays, his enthusiasm, his effort, his leadership, everything about him just screams a leader to this team.  And he makes huge plays for us, comes up big in the red zone, and in third downs and with the sacks that he’s made.”

Both Thomas and McCaffrey face decisions to turn pro, or return to Stanford for their senior seasons.  Both project as first or second round picks so big money factors into their decisions.  The fortunes of the team—stacked with younger talent, an emerging quarterback in Keller Chryst, and the stability provided by Shaw, who continues to reject offers from other programs and the NFL—hinge on their decisions.

So what will the pair do, especially McCaffrey who prompted all the initial questions, asked in varied and creative ways, during the postgame presser?

“Hope springs eternal,” Shaw said, when asked about McCaffrey and the possibility he would return when there’s very little new for him to accomplish as a collegian.  “Hasn’t crossed my plate yet.”

McCaffrey spoke as well, saying he has not yet decided.  In fact, his roommate, Chryst, swore that the pair haven’t even casually discussed the tailback’s pro prospects.  But that all adds up, given McCaffrey’s team first attitude.

“I’ve just been focusing on the season now,” McCaffrey said.  “I have people and mentors in my life that I trust that I’ll go to.  But at the end of the day it is my decision and I’ll make whatever’s best for me.”

Among those mentors, McCaffrey’s father Ed, has a place on the wall at Stanford Stadium where the program’s previous All-American’s are pictured and honored.  Christian will soon join his father there, as well as his mom, Lisa, in the pantheon of great athletes to come through Stanford.  Undoubtedly, it will be tough for McCaffrey to leave, but again, he’s done it all, and other challenges await.

GAME NOTES: McCaffrey has 30 rush attempts for 205 yards against Rice, one week after he crushed Cal with 30 carries, 284 yards.  Fully healthy, the junior won’t face many questions about durability after carrying the ball 60 times in what could be his final two regular season games at Stanford.

“We knew coming in here, you had to tackle Christian, and not let him have a big game,” Rice coach David Bailiff said.  “We didn’t do that.  Not a lot of people have done that.”

“Every time he touched the ball there was a collective gasp to see what he’s going to do next,” Shaw said.

Bryce Love, the emerging back behind McCaffrey, had 114 yards rushing on seven carries, including a blazing reverse that went 50 yards for a touchdown in third quarter.

Chryst finished 11 for 16 for 154 yards and joins a short list of Stanford quarterbacks that have won their first four, career starts.  In those four starts, Chryst has thrown nine touchdown passes and only one interception.

Kicker Conrad Ukropina capped his Stanford career with a pair of made field goals, from 28 and 23 yards, despite the persistent rain and muddy field.

The Cardinal are expected to accept a bowl invitation to the December 28 Foster Farms Bowl at Santa Clara or the December 30 Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas.  The Las Vegas Bowl on December 17 also remains a possibility.