49ers' defense gets better of Brady, Patriots

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49ers' defense gets better of Brady, Patriots

Despite allowing 443 yards passing on Sunday night, it was a very good night for the 49ers' defense.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady entered the game completing 64.4 percent of his passes. The 49ers held him to just 55.4 percent. In the first 13 games, Brady averaged 7.74 yards per pass attempt. On Sunday, his average was just 6.3 yards.

Brady came into the game with a 104.2 passer rating. Against the 49ers, he completed 36 of 65 passes for 443 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 68.9.

The Patriots led the NFL with a third-down conversion rate of 52.5. The 49ers held them to 2 of 15 -- 13.3-percent success rate -- on third downs. (The Patriots, however, did convert 5 of 6 tries on fourth down.

The 49ers forced four turnovers against an offense that had committed just 10 giveaways in 13 games.

Yet, in leading consecutive touchdown drives of 73, 86, 66 and 92 yards, Brady's Patriots scored 28 consecutive points in the third and fourth quarters to erase a 31-3 deficit.

"It was really good -- Tom Brady-like," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of the Patriots' offense during that 19-minute stretch. "Nobody else to really compare it to."

Did the 49ers get too passive during that time?

"I don't think so," Harbaugh said. "They did a great job of hitting the intermediate routes."

Cornerback Carlos Rogers intercepted a Brady pass in the first half when he had perfect coverage on Patriots leading receiver Wes Welker on a deep route. Brady was 10 of 19 for 76 yards in the first half before lighting it up for a while in the second half.

"They kept moving the ball and we knew they were going to make their plays," Rogers said. "That is the leading offense in the league and to shut them down in the first half like we did, we knew they were going to come out in the second half and make some plays."

The 49ers played most of the game with their nickel package with five defensive backs. Inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis played the entire game, and both were credited with 11 tackles.

"They just started doing something that they're good at, like throwing the ball out quick, slowing it down and recognizing what we were trying to do," Bowman said. "I mean, Tom is a good quarterback and we knew some adversity was going to come and they were gong to make plays sooner than later. We just had to answer the bell, and I think we did that."

The 49ers' defense started fast. Rogers got things started with his interception. Bowman forced a fumble on Shane Vereen that Chris Culliver recovered. Donte Whitner forced a fumble of Stevan Ridley that Dashon Goldson returned 66 yards to set up a third-quarter touchdown. And Aldon Smith intercepted a deflected pass to set up another 49ers touchdown, which gave the 49ers a 31-3 lead with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter.

While the 49ers' offense bogged down with a 28-point lead, the Patriots came storming back.

"That was unbelievable," 49ers tackle Joe Staley said, "but that's what you get when you play Tom Brady. That offense can score points in bunches. They can score points quick. Give them credit because they played hard the whole game and didn't give up."

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick responded after LaMichael James' 62-yard kickoff return with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree to exploit the Patriots' seven-man blitz.

"We knew we were going to have to put up points," Kaepernick said. "Tom Brady and that offense are very potent. They can put up a lot of points, so we knew we were going to have to match that."

And the 49ers exceeded it. The 49ers' 41 points were the most the franchise has scored on the road since a 45-17 victory at the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 3, 2000.

The 49ers' offense finished strong. And, more important, so did their defense.

After the Patriots tied the score, the 49ers forced a punt and the Patriots turned the ball over on downs on back-to-back possessions with Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean Francois providing back-to-back sacks. The 49ers held the Patriots to just 22 yards on those nine offensive plays.

Rogers said the 49ers' played a soft defense with a 10-point lead when New England took over with 1:56 remaining. The 49ers were determined to keep the ball in front of them and force New England to use up clock to move the ball.

It took the Patriots 10 plays to gain 57 yards to get into range for Stephen Gostowski's 41-yard field goal with :38 remaining in the game. That cut the 49ers' lead to seven points, and set up Delanie Walker's game-clinching onside kick recovery.

"That was a baby floater," Walker said of the easy hop he got to handle on Gostowski's kickoff.

As it turned out, that was the only easy thing about the 49ers' victory.

Said Rogers, "We wanted to make one more play than them, and that is what we did."

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

PHOENIX – Coach Kyle Shanahan walked into a position with the 49ers in which he had no quarterbacks on the roster.

On the first two days of free agency, the 49ers added Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. He determined they were better fits for the offense he would be installing over Colin Kaepernick, who started 64 regular-season and postseason games for the 49ers over the past 4 ½ seasons.

Shanahan appeared to be looking for quarterbacks who are more proficient at going through progressions and making plays from the pocket. Kaepernick was not deemed as a good fit for Shanahan's offense.

“Colin’s had a great career, and he’s done some really good things,” Shanahan said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think Colin has a certain skillset that you can put a specific offense to it that he can be very successful in.

“When we first looked at it, you got to look at each quarterback and what type of offense you want to put in. That wasn’t necessarily the direction I wanted to go. I wanted to put in a different type of offense.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. General manager John Lynch has confirmed the 49ers would have released Kaepernick if he had not opted out of his deal.

“The type of offense I wanted to run was somewhat different and that’s why we went that type of direction,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ top target in free agency was Hoyer, who enters his ninth NFL season with his sixth different team. Shanahan was offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 in Hoyer’s second and final season with the club.

Hoyer started five games with Chicago in 2016 before getting sidelined with broken left arm. Hoyer completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in 200 attempts.

“All these questions about what I like in a quarterback, Brian is like that,” Shanahan said. “He’s obsessed with the game. He will learn your offense. He’ll be able to execute and run it. That gives other guys a chance to perform in your offense. If your quarterback can’t execute it and go through it, it doesn’t always matter what the O-line or the receivers are doing.

“With Brian, you have a very smart guy who works at it, will hang in the pocket and is fearless, will keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball to the right spots. It gives people a chance to be successful.”

The 49ers also reached a contract agreement with Barkley, who started six games with the Bears due to injuries to Jay Cutler and Hoyer. Barkley saw the most extensive playing time of his career. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“Just watching Matt since college, Matt’s always been a solid player, even coming out and playing at an early age at (USC),” Shanahan said. “He’s battle-tested in that way. He’s gone through the pressure of college, the pressure of the draft, being in the NFL, being with some different teams. Even watching Matt in Chicago this year, I think he played better this year than he has throughout his career. That means the guy is continuing to work at it.”

The 49ers figure to go to training camp with four quarterbacks, so the team is not finished at the quarterback position.

“We’ll look to add anyone who can really help us,” Shanahan said. “I’m very happy with the two we got. You know we’re not only going to take two to camp. So we got to see how the draft works out and then you see what else is out there.”

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he does not believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “blackballed” in his attempt to continue his career.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said during his press conference to conclude the NFL owners meetings.

“My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Kaepernick remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract earlier this month. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman this week was asked on ESPN’s "First Take" whether he felt Kaepernick was being blackballed.

"I'm sure he is," Sherman answered. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand."

General manager John Lynch on Tuesday said the 49ers have not had any contact with Kaepernick since he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with Kaepernick on Feb. 22 in Santa Clara. The 49ers signed free-agent quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, 29, created a controversy last season when he opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick has decided to stand for the national anthem this season.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it was “stupid” and “intellectually lazy” to think teams have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Last week, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said Kaepernick is still an outstanding player and can win championships.

“I absolutely think he’s going to get signed,” John Harbaugh said. “I agree with Jim. He can win games for people.”