NFC West: San Francisco 49ers


DENVER -- Peyton Manning put on an absolute clinic Sunday night in the Denver Broncos' 42-17 beatdown of the San Francisco 49ers.

Sure, he set a new NFL record for career touchdown passes with Nos. 507, 508, 509 and 510, and he also had as many TD passes against the 49ers as he did incompletions -- four -- in completing 22 of 26 passes for 318 yards and a passer rating of 157.2.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
AP Photo/Jack DempseyIf you're keeping score, Colin Kaepernick is just 468 touchdown passes behind Peyton Manning on the all-time list. But Kaepernick would do well to learn from Manning's record-breaking night.
But perhaps the most important thing he accomplished on his record-setting night, at least as far as the 49ers are concerned, was setting an example for Colin Kaepernick to follow in his nascent career.

No doubt, they are two different quarterbacks with polar-opposite skill sets. But Kaepernick had a front-row seat to, well, the greatness that is Manning when he is firing on all cylinders.

That greatness includes touch passes, reading defenses and calling audibles in and out of plays depending upon what the defense shows him at the line.

"He's a great player," Kaepernick said. "He's able to put up a lot of points. He's proven that. We knew we were going to have to score points regardless."

Kaepernick actually had more passing yards than Manning at halftime, though the 49ers trailed 21-10 at intermission. And Kaepernick, who is only 468 touchdown passes behind Manning, flashed by leading the 49ers 80 yards in seven plays with no timeouts to close out that first half.

His 4-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with 11 seconds remaining in the half gave him a touchdown pass in 14 straight games, the third-longest such streak in franchise history behind Steve Young (17 games, from Oct. 9, 1994, through Oct. 15, 1995) and Jeff Garcia (15, from Dec. 3, 2000, through Dec. 2, 2001).

But with the 49ers playing catch-up and Kaepernick needing to pass, the Broncos merely pinned their ears back and dominated the Niners' decimated offensive line. Kaepernick was sacked a season-high six times and he passed for only 74 yards in the second half to finish with 263 yards on 24-of-39 passing with a touchdown and an interception.

Still, having a front-row seat to history should allow Kaepernick to glean something from Manning going forward, no? Well, so long as Kaepernick wants it.

It sounds like he does.

"He's a very smart player," Kaepernick said. "He knows where he wants to go with the ball, how he wants to attack different defenses."

So, you could add that your arsenal, your QB bag o' tricks, so to speak?

"Very much," Kaepernick said.

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh is not one to compare players, but on this night, the former quarterback seemed in awe of Manning. (A bit of trivia: The last QB to start a game for the Indianapolis Colts before Manning was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft? Harbaugh.)

"I'm sure there are some things [he can glean from Manning]," Harbaugh said. "He's one of the greats, and that certainly was on display tonight."

And then some.

"You're playing against a coordinator when you're out there," 49ers free safety Eric Reid said.

Whatever lessons Kaepernick took home from Denver will have to wait for a while. The only way he will see Manning this up close and personal again would be if the 49ers and Broncos meet in the Super Bowl.

"I hope we do," Kaepernick said.

He's not the only one who feels that way in the 49ers' locker room.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers' 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos:
  • The 49ers’ top two centers entering the game both left with injuries. Starter Daniel Kilgore suffered what coach Jim Harbaugh said “might be a break” in his lower left leg while backup Dillon Farrell, who limped off the field after replacing Kilgore, was seen walking around without a noticeable limp.
  • It was a stunned locker room, one that was trying to process how efficiently Peyton Manning dissected the 49ers' defense. “You’re playing against a coordinator out there,” free safety Eric Reid said of Manning.
  • The 49ers are beat up, both emotionally and physically after being run over by the Broncos. So, can the bye week come at a better time? “This is perfect timing,” linebacker Ahmad Brooks said.
DENVER -- Three players who started for the San Francisco 49ers on Monday will not play tonight against the Denver Broncos due to injury as cornerback Chris Culliver, who missed practice on Friday due to an injured hamstring, joined linebacker Patrick Willis and left guard Mike Iupati on the inactive list.

Willis (toe) and Iupati (concussion) were ruled out on Friday.

The other 49ers inactives: WR Quinton Patton, DB Jimmie Ward, C Marcus Martin and DT Tank Carradine.

Rookie Chris Borland will start for Willis while Joe Looney will start at left guard.

Tramaine Brock, who has not played since injuring a toe on his right foot in the season opener at the Dallas Cowboys, will start at cornerback, alongside Perrish Cox.

With Culliver and Ward (quadriceps) out, Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson will provide depth as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning needs three touchdown passes to set a NFL record for career TD passes.

Also, Anthony Davis, who has been nursing knee and ankle injuries, will make his second start of the season for the 49ers, taking the place of his backup, Jonathan Martin.
The Denver Broncos' Julius Thomas represents the NFL’s new wave of athletic, but powerful tight ends. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, nine of his 24 receptions in five games have scored touchdowns.

“Big body, good receiver,” San Francisco 49ers strong safety Antoine Bethea mused this week in the locker room. “All the tight ends nowadays in this league, you know, big bodies. It’s tough to get around them.

“Week in and week out, we’re starting to see more of these type tight ends, big bodies, wide radius range of being able to catch the ball. Just got to go out there battle and have fun.”

And with inside linebacker Patrick Willis likely out with a toe injury, how will the San Francisco 49ers defend Thomas? With a safety like Bethea, or Willis’ likely replacement, undersized 5-11 rookie Chris Borland?

“Well, it will be a mix,” said Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “When you [face] a tight end like him, some people think you’re crazy if you don’t put a DB on him. Then the next guy will think you’re crazy because of the size mismatch if you don’t have a linebacker on him.

“That’s what these good tight ends do; they cause you problems. So it will be a mix of who’s on him for us.”

Fangio said Borland has practiced well against Niners backup tight end Vance McDonald, but could not recall him facing Vernon Davis all that much.

And if Borland is in the game, Fangio does not anticipate keeping Borland away from Thomas.

“You can a little bit, but ultimately, you’ve got to play your package, you know?” Fangio said. “If you start tinkering here and there to cover up somebody’s perceived deficiencies, that just leads to problems other places, too. You've got to be able to play.”
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has a unique history with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, one that goes beyond their time together with the Indianapolis Colts.

And yet, it might not matter as far as an advanced scouting report goes.

“Well, I’ve known him since he was a teenager, a young guy back in New Orleans,” Fangio said Thursday. “His dad was involved with the Saints and Peyton used to come around to our practices. Back in those days, there were no OTAs. If you had guys around, you maybe have a little skelly. And some of the times, he was a freshman and sophomore in high school, he came over and quarterbacked in those [scrimmages]. So, I’ve known him a long time.”

Wait, a teenaged Manning used to follow his father Archie to Saints unofficial offseason workouts and throw the ball around with the pros who happened to be in the facility?

“I said, now, there were no formal practices back then,” said Fangio, who was the Saints’ linebackers coach from 1986 through 1994. “OTAs did not exist. It might be 10, 15 guys hanging around. We’d have a little playground-type skelly. Not an OTA that you’re thinking that we have [now].

“I’d say [he was] 14, 15 [years old]. You just knew that he loved football. He was thrilled to be there with some other NFL players, but yet he was focused on the task at hand and he wanted to throw the ball good.”

Their paths crossed again in Indianapolis when Fangio served as the Colts’ defensive coordinator from 1999-2001.

“Vic is an outstanding coach,” Manning said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Wednesday. “I enjoyed the [three] years that he and I were together in Indianapolis.

“I used to enjoy talking ball with him and competing against his defenses in practice. It was always very competitive and the different places he’s been, his teams have always been very well coached.”

Fangio recalled a young Manning -- the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft -- being a sponge.

“He would spend a lot of time at the facility,” Fangio said. “I’m talking day and night. Many times, I’d walk by the film room where he was watching tape, he’d pull me in and ask me what the defense was doing here, why they’re doing this or he’d come in my office and ask me. We would always have football conversations.

“He loves football. He really does. He’s 38 years old ... and he still loves the game, loves playing, loves preparing. I’m sure he’s studying just as he always has. He’s a true football junkie.”
San Francisco 49ers All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis missed his second consecutive day of practice on Thursday with a toe injury, further putting his availability for Sunday night’s game at the Denver Broncos in doubt.

Also, left guard Mike Iupati has yet to pass the NFL-mandated concussion protocol as he missed his second practice this week, and rookie defensive back Jimmie Ward sat out again with a quadriceps injury.

Ward is one of five Niners DBs on the injury report.

“Well, Ward’s (injury) is the most serious of all those guys,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday.

And the others?

“They’re dinged,” Fangio said, “but everybody’s dinged to some point at this stage.”

Following is the 49ers’ injury report for Thursday:

Did not participate: LG Mike Iupati (concussion), S Jimmie Ward (quadricep), ILB Patrick Willis (toe)

Limited participation: CB Tramaine Brock (toe), CB Chris Cook (quadricep), CB Perrish Cox (quadricep), CB Chris Culliver (shoulder), RT Anthony Davis (knee, ankle), DE Tony Jerod-Eddie (shoulder), WR Stevie Johnson (hip), DT Ian Williams (ankle, shoulder)

Full participation: TE Vernon Davis (back), DE Justin Smith (not injury-related)
Many critics and observers thought Colin Kaepernick, in his third season as the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback, would have been further along in his development as a pure dropback passer by now.

And yet, there were signs of an improvement in his decision-making in Monday night’s victory at the St. Louis Rams, a game in which he threw for 343 yards, the second most of his career, with three touchdown passes.

Perhaps most impressive was the fact that the three TDs went to three different wide receivers. It was, according to ESPN Stats & Info, the first time Kaepernick had at last three touchdown passes without an interception when targeting wideouts.

“I always think Colin plays well,” Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said after the Monday night win in St. Louis. “He just keeps doing it and doing it. No turnovers from the quarterback position. He is really good at running the team and getting us in the right play and throwing the ball really well.

“He had some pinpoint throws where he laid it in there perfectly. He got the step-up and the check-down and kept the chains moving.”

When throwing to his wide receivers against the Rams, Kaepernick completed 16 of 24 passes, with an 11.0 yards-per-attempt average, compared to going 6 of 12 with a 5.6 yards-per-attempt average when throwing to anyone else.

Also, per ESPN Stats & Info, it was Kaepernick’s second career game with at least 300 yards passing, three TD passes and no interceptions. He became the first 49ers quarterback with multiple such games since Jeff Garcia in 2000 and 2001.

The Film Don’t Lie: 49ers

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
A weekly look at what the San Francisco 49ers must fix:

In riding a three-game winning streak, you'd think the 49ers were firing on all cylinders. But they've had to come from behind in all three victories to get their record to 4-2, and heading into Sunday night's nationally televised game at the Denver Broncos, the Niners need to continue to work on getting pressure on the quarterback.

Especially one who is as immobile as he is quick with his release in Peyton Manning, who is just two touchdown passes away from tying Brett Favre's record of 508 career TDs.

Heading into Monday night's game at the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers had only five total sacks in five games. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio dialed up the pressure, and the Niners sacked Rams quarterback Austin Davis five times, twice each by outside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Dan Skuta and once by strong safety Antoine Bethea.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 49ers entered last week last in the NFL in pressure percentage (16.5) but raised that figure to 44.4 percent against the Rams. In fact, excluding two spikes, Davis was sacked or under duress on 20 of 45 dropbacks.

And in the past two seasons, quarterbacks have a record of just 3-12 when throwing 15 or more passes under duress. Yes, the 49ers have to bring the heat on Manning without leaving themselves too vulnerable to Manning's clinical approach.

It's easier said than done, obviously, but it's something the Niners have to figure out.

49ers banged up going into Broncos game

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15

ESPN 49ers reporter Paul Gutierrez talks about the four players injured against the Rams and how it will impact the team against the Broncos.
ST. LOUIS -- You could say that Michael Crabtree is Colin Kaepernick's favorite receiver. You could make a strong case that Vernon Davis is Kaepernick's security blanket and Brandon Lloyd has become his most explosive playmaker down the sideline.

But Kaepernick's Mr. Dependable? The guy who has a knack for getting open whenever the San Francisco 49ers absolutely, positively need a clutch catch in traffic or simply to move the chains?

That would be Anquan Boldin.

Or did you miss Boldin again coming through in the clutch during the 49ers' 31-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams after the Rams built a 14-0 lead?

The play that epitomized the relationship was the highlight-reel, 11-yard TD pass Kaepernick lofted to the left back of the end zone and into Boldin's waiting arms.

[+] EnlargeBoldin
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsAnquan Boldin's 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter put the 49ers ahead 17-14.
"It was a broken play," Boldin said, matter-of-factly, of his first TD of the season. "Kap made a play with his legs."

To the guy who has been his Mr. Dependable.

The third-and-1, third-quarter pass play was actually drawn up to go to left tackle Joe Staley, who had reported as an eligible receiver. But defensive end Robert Quinn sniffed it out and essentially tackled Staley, which drew a defensive holding flag.

So, with a free play, Kaepernick rolled to his left and seemed to float for an eternity before uncorking a rainbow just over the outstretched arms of Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh was stunned.

"What is he doing with the ball?" Harbaugh admitted thinking as it was in flight.

Kaepernick was simply finding his most trusted target, who was simply doing his thing against a familiar opponent. In 16 career games against the Rams, Boldin has 104 catches for 1,420 yards and eight touchdowns after catching seven balls for 94 yards Monday night. His teams have gone 12-4 in those matchups, and he has six 100-yard receiving games against the Rams.

Ownage, anyone?

Kaepernick's TD pass to Boldin was his league-leading sixth thrown from outside the pocket, per ESPN Stats & Information, one more than the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck.

Boldin said working on "scramble drills" helped his scoring play, which gave the 49ers their first lead of the game at 17-14.

"Because with a mobile quarterback," Boldin said, "things like that are going to happen. … I've seen him do it over and over."

Kaepernick gave the credit to Boldin.

"He came back and made a great play," Kaepernick said. "He was supposed to be running the other way, saw me scramble. … I'll give Anquan a shot any day of the week."

Boldin praised his quarterback's development.

"His decision-making has improved a lot," Boldin said. "He's always been a good leader. He's always been able to make plays with his legs. But his decision-making has really grown in the last two years, the two years I've been here.

"You see him going through his reads -- if it's not there, checking it down. Things like that."

Things like developing a certain faith and chemistry with his personal Mr. Dependable.
ST. LOUIS. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers' 31-17 defeat of the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome:
  • Jones
    A week after being fined $10K by the NFL for wearing Beats by Dre headphones in his postgame presser -- the league has an exclusive deal with Bose -- QB Colin Kaepernick again wore his pink headphones to the podium around his neck. This time, though, he was seen putting white tape over the logos on the ears. Will it matter to the NFL? Stay tuned.
  • All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis left the locker room wearing a walking boot on his left foot after injuring a toe in the first half and not returning. Willis said X-rays were taken but he was not sure of the severity of the injury, which occurred, he believed, when he jammed his foot into the artificial turf pursuing a Rams running back. “We'll find out more tomorrow,” he said as he limped to the team bus.
  • Left tackle Joe Staley had an unusually large crowd around his locker. The reason? He was an eligible receiver on Kaepernick's highlight-reel TD pass to Anquan Boldin. In fact, Staley was the primary receiver on the play, which broke down when defenseive end Robert Quinn sniffed it out and tackled Staley. “It would have been a Monday night celebration,” Staley said. “I was going to have a helluva celebration.”

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 31-17 defeat of the St. Louis Rams:

What it means: After falling behind 14-0 early against their NFC West rivals, the 49ers recovered for their third straight win. The Niners' defense looked gassed and flummoxed early by Austin Davis, who threw for 137 yards on 11-of-14 passing in the first half, but had just 13 yards in the first 24:20 after halftime. The Niners brought the heat all night, blitzing early and often, and the pressure finally rattled Davis. The 49ers had five sacks, doubling the total they had entering the game, as Ahmad Brooks and Dan Skuta each had two, with Antoine Bethea adding another. The Rams, meanwhile, did not sack Colin Kaepernick. St. Louis, which had 53 sacks a year ago, still has one in 2014. Rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson's 20-yard pick-6 with 53 seconds to play ended things as the 49ers moved into second place in the NFC West behind the 4-1 Arizona Cardinals and ahead of the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who are 3-2.

Stock watch: Rising -- Colin Kaepernick. Yes, he looked all out of sorts for most of the first half, nearly getting picked off on his first play of the game. But he rebounded beautifully under the bright lights. Kaepernick’s 80-yard TD pass to Brandon Lloyd near the end of the first half was the longest pass of his career and he finished with 343 yards on 22-of-36 passing with three TD passes and no interceptions.

Injuries pile up: Not only did the Niners lose All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis before halftime to a toe injury (he was on the sidelines wearing a walking boot on his left foot late in the game), rookie defensive back/gunner Jimmie Ward was lost to a quadriceps injury in the third quarter. Left guard Mike Iupati exited in the second half with a concussion. Keep in mind, it’s a short work week for the Niners.

And the game ball goes to …: Let’s give it to the guy who made the momentum-changing play -- receiver Brandon Lloyd. It was Lloyd’s simple-but-devastating double move on cornerback Janoris Jenkins, which resulted in an 80-yard touchdown catch and run down the left sideline with 14 seconds to play in the first half, getting the 49ers within 14-10. Lloyd simply blew by Jenkins on third-and-7 and used his “veteran” speed to out-run Jenkins, eight years his junior.

What's next: The 49ers (4-2) take their three-game winning streak to Denver for their second consecutive national television appearance, taking on the Broncos (4-1) on Sunday night. The Niners lead the overall series 7-6, including the 55-10 blowout victory in Super Bowl XXIV, and have won the past two encounters, in London in 2010 and in Denver in 2006.

Rams-Niners inactives

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
ST. LOUIS -- As expected, the St. Louis Rams will have the services of running back Zac Stacy and receiver Kenny Britt against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

Stacy (calf) and Britt (knee) each missed a practice during the week but participated in two and were listed as probable for Monday night. They are indeed active and set to play against the Niners.

For San Francisco, tight end Vernon Davis is active.

Here's the complete inactive list for both sides Monday night:

49ers: WR Quinton Patton, CB Tramaine Brock, S L.J. McCray, C Marcus Martin, RT Anthony Davis, DT Quinton Dial, DT Tank Carradine

Rams: WR Chris Givens, QB Case Keenum, CB Trumaine Johnson, CB Brandon McGee, RB Chase Reynolds, OL Barrett Jones, DT Alex Carrington.
St. Louis Rams quarterback Austin Davis has an unlikely fan -- San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

Especially after Davis’ performance last week -- he threw for 375 yards and three TDs on 29-of-49 passing against the Philadelphia Eagles -- and despite the fact that Davis will be facing Harbaugh’s Niners on "Monday Night Football."

“He’d be coming into this game with a lot of confidence I’m sure,” said Harbaugh, himself a 14-year veteran NFL quarterback. “The ball game he played against the Eagles and the fact that he’s gotten better and better every single week, you can see it. It was one of the rare times where I’ve watched coaches’ tape and been excited about the game.”

Davis brought the Rams back from a 34-7 deficit and had St. Louis within 34-28 with more than four minutes to go before eventually falling by that score.

“To watch them come back, sparks were flying,” Harbaugh said. “This was a quarterback that was making throws, an offense that was making plays. And then the last drive, they had a chance to win the game and I’m like, ‘Maybe they got the score wrong. Maybe the Rams really won this game,’ because he made a couple of throws in that drive there that were right on the money and gave his team the chance to win.

“That was a very interesting game to watch on tape … he’s got a knack of throwing the ball in traffic. He can have guys hanging on him, around him, and he’s able to get the ball out at the last second.”

He also did not throw an interception.

“[Davis was] playing with no conscience about throwing the ball down the field and deep, so we’re going to have to do a good job defending the deep ball,” Harbaugh said.

Davis was undrafted coming out of Southern Mississippi in 2012 and had not appeared in an NFL game until this season. Injuries to starter Sam Bradford and backup Shaun Hill opened the door for third-stringer Davis.

And no, Harbaugh was not intrigued by Davis heading into the 2012 draft.

“I wish I would’ve been more aware of him,” Harbaugh said. “He looks like a real nice prospect.”

Then was Harbaugh aware of Davis at all?

“Not that much, no,” Harbaugh said. “I am now, though.”
Officially, the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday ruled only one player out for Monday night’s game in St. Louis -- cornerback Tramaine Brock, who has not played since injuring a toe in the season opener against Dallas.

And Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis was officially ruled questionable after being limited in practice all week as he works his way back from a back injury that kept him out of last week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Following is the 49ers’ status report for Monday night’s game against the Rams:

OUT: CB Tramaine Brock (toe)

QUESTIONABLE: RT Anthony Davis (knee, ankle), TE Vernon Davis (back), C Marcus Martin (knee), LB Nick Moody (hamstring)

PROBABLE: CB Chris Cook (quadricep), DE Tony Jerod-Eddie (shoulder), P Andy Lee (right ankle), DE Ray McDonald (knee), DE Justin Smith (not injury related), DT Ian Williams (ankle).