CINCINNATI (AP) -- One game in, the San Francisco 49ers' trip is already worth writing home about.Kendall Hunter ran 7 yards for the game's only touchdown with 3:59 to go Sunday, rallying the 49ers to a 13-8 victory in front of the Cincinnati Bengals' smallest crowd for a home opener in 30 years.Hunter's run completed the only noteworthy drive by the 49ers (2-1), who didn't even cross midfield until midway through the third quarter.Cincinnati (1-2) was limited to a pair of field goals by Mike Nugent during rookie quarterback Andy Dalton's first dismal performance. He threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, the first of his career.There were only 43,363 fans at 65,500-seat Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals' smallest crowd for a home opener since they played at Riverfront Stadium in 1981.The 49ers sent them heading for the exits when Reggie Smith intercepted Dalton's forced throw with 1:45 left.David Akers kicked three field goals for San Francisco, including a 53-yarder after Dalton's first interception, pushing the lead to 13-6. After Smith intercepted Dalton again with 1:45 to go, punter Andy Lee ran out of the end zone for a safety to finish it off with 2 seconds left.It was a satisfying start to the 49ers' weeklong stay in the Buckeye State. They'll practice at Youngstown State the next few days, then head to Philadelphia for their next game.An ugly arrival ended with Alex Smith's only good moments. He led a 10-play, 72-yard drive, hitting tight end Vernon Davis with a 20-yard pass on a misdirection play to set up the winning touchdown.Until the closing minutes, it appeared the 49ers had forgotten to pack their West Coast offense. Ugliness abounded.Running back Frank Gore fumbled to set up Cincinnati's field goal for a 6-3 lead in the fourth quarter. He also had a pass hit him in the facemask. Referee Jerome Boger said one 49ers false-start penalty was on "the entire offensive line."The late drive saved them. Smith was under constant pressure and finished 20 of 30 overall for 201 yards and five sacks. The 49ers blunted drives with penalties, and Kevin Huber's punts pinned them at their own 10, 11, 12, 14 and 17, leaving too much ground for one of the NFL's least-productive offenses to cover.Also, the 49ers were missing receiver Braylon Edwards, who hurt his right knee during an overtime loss to Dallas last Sunday.The Bengals were at full-strength after deciding to let receiver Jerome Simpson play. He missed two days of practice because he's the focus of an investigation into a drug shipment to his home. He got into the game on the opening series and finished with only one catch for 6 yards.Dalton had passer ratings above 100 in his first two starts, but repeatedly forced throws against the 49ers' defense. He went 17 of 32 for 157 yards and a rating of 40.8.
I hadn’t considered the notion of Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles bombing quite so badly Thursday night, so I hadn’t considered the notion advanced by Pro Football Talk Friday morning that Jacksonville might be a great place for Colin Kaepernick.
That’s because I long ago stopped considering the idea that Kaepernick’s exile from football was, or is, about football. It isn’t. He is the example for future player/miscreants, and trotting his name out every time a quarterback in the new NFL vomits up a practice game on national television is simply perpetuating a lie.
Until someone gets so desperate that it isn’t any more.
That’s the problem with being so definitive about Kaepernick’s perpetual ban. It only takes one owner with a willingness to stick a middle finger up to the objections and say, “I own a football team, not some branch of the USO” to end this national spitfest once and for all. And yes, I say owner because this is an owner’s decision, solely and completely. In the hypothetical of Kaepernick the Jaguar, it will be made not by Doug Marrone, who is merely a coach, or by Tom Coughlin, who is only the general manager, but Shahid Khad, one of the brightest and quietly more powerful owners in the league.
But the odds still scream No Kaep For You, because it would mean that exhibition games matter for judgmental purposes (which they don’t), that Bortles is somehow worse than half the quarterbacks in the NFL (he is part of an amorphous blob of non-producers whose numbers are growing as the differences between college and pro football offenses expand), and that owners easily break away from the herd once the herd has decided on something (Khan is not a rebel in the Jerry Jones mold by any means).
In other words, I remain unconvinced that there is a place for Colin Kaepernick in a new and nastier NFL. And he’s probably better off.
One week after center Jeremy Zuttah played his way off the 49ers’ roster in short order, he ended up back with the team that got rid of him to open the offseason.
The Baltimore Ravens on Friday announced the signing of Zuttah, whom the 49ers released on Aug. 9 after acquiring him from the Ravens in a March trade.
The 49ers determined center Daniel Kilgore was clearly better than Zuttah. Moreover, Zuttah he did not demonstrate any promise of being an asset at either of the guard positions.
Zuttah, 31, played the past three seasons with the Ravens after six seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Zuttah was named to his first Pro Bowl after last season.
The 49ers originally acquired Zuttah in a swap of sixth-round draft picks. The Ravens received the 49ers’ pick at No. 186 and selected Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark. The 49ers took over Baltimore’s selection at No. 198 and chose Mississippi defensive tackle D.J. Jones.
The 49ers are confident in Kilgore and offensive tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown. However, there is concern at the guard positions.
Brandon Fusco appears to be earning the confidence of the coaching staff at right guard. But left guard remains a concern. Zane Beadles is currently the starter while Joshua Garnett rehabs from arthroscopic knee surgery to repair cartilage. The 49ers are hopeful Garnett will be available for the opening of the regular season.