Few bright spots in 49ers' loss to Texans


Few bright spots in 49ers' loss to Texans

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Coach Jim Harbaugh gave 49ers running back Frank Gore the night off.Just consider the rest of the 49ers' offense -- and a good portion of the team -- as an unexcused absence Saturday night at Candlestick Park."It's a bitter pill to swallow when you're beaten that thoroughly in pretty much all phases," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said after his team's 30-7 loss to the Houston Texans."I think the defense wasn't quite as bad as special teams, and special teams weren't quite as bad as the offense. Specifically with the offense, we didn't get any kind of rhythm going. It's on everybody involved with the offense: protection, route-running, decision-making -- all those things."RECAP: 49ers look lost in 30-7 loss to the Texans
The third exhibition game is generally seen as the closest thing to the regular season. Well, the 49ers demonstrated they have a lot of work to accomplish before they open at home against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 11.Harbaugh said he is confident the team will be ready for the regular season. But why?"Because we have to," Harbaugh said. "It's not an option not to."
Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead just nine seconds into the game with a 13-yard interception return, as he stepped in front of an attempted Matt Schaub screen pass.From that point on, the Houston Texans thoroughly dominated the 49ers en route to 30 unanswered points before the smallest turnout to attend a 49ers home game in three decades. The announced crowd of 69,732 was for tickets sold, and does not reflect the abundance of no-shows.Do you want to know how bad it was?MAIOCCO: Blog -- 49ers vs. Texans In-game notes
--Rookie Colin Kaepernick completed 6 of 16 passes for 52 yards. He had an interception returned for a touchdown. His 20.8 passer rating far exceeded that of starter Alex Smith, who completed 2 of 6 attempts for 17 yards and an interception. Smith's rating was 2.8.
--Schaub completed 16 of 24 passes for 180 yards in his one half of work, as the Texans had four receivers with at least 35 yards receiving. The 49ers' leading receivers were Kyle Williams and Dominique Zeigler, who caught one pass apiece for 15 yards.--The 49ers managed six first downs, including just three through the air. The 49ers had the same number of first downs passing as sacks allowed, and there were also numerous quarterback pressures that resulted in incomplete passes, along with one of the interceptions. The Texans, meanwhile, rolled up 28 first downs.--Total yards: Texans 417, 49ers 105.There weren't very many bright spots, especially on offense, but rookie Kendall Hunter might have taken a large stride toward winning the job as Gore's primary backup.Gore suited up for the game and went through warmups, but he did not play as Harbaugh said he wanted to take an extended look at Hunter and Dixon against the Texans' starters.Both running backs got eight rushing attempts. Hunter gained 40 yards, while Dixon managed just 15.Afterward, Gore made it clear that the fact he is entering the final year of his contract is weighing heavily on his mind. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is scheduled to meet with 49ers' chief negotiator Paraag Marathe on Monday for the second time in three weeks to discuss an extension."I want something to get done before the season," Gore said. "Hopefully, something can get done here. If it doesn't happen, I still got to be here for my teammates and try to stick it out. . . . Hopefully, man, hopefully, hopefully, I hope it gets done. And I hope I can get something fair."Gore is unlikely to play in the exhibition finale Thursday night at San Diego, but he declared himself ready for real games to begin."I'm ready," Gore said. "I trained hard this offseason, and I practice hard every day. Once my number gets called, '21' is going to be ready. I hope everything gets done, so my mind is right and I can just play football."Is his mind right without the new contract?"I have my days, but once I touch the field, I don't think about it," Gore said. "I'm going to be here for my team and try to get some wins."There might be a lot weighing on the minds of those involved with the 49ers' offense as the third exhibition game. The same problems in pass protection that were obvious in the exhibition opener came back to haunt the 49ers."Obviously, there's room for improvement for all of us," Smith said.Left tackle Joe Staley was beaten for one sack. Left guard Mike Iupati had a breakdown that led to another. Center Jonathan Goodwin, who is competing with Adam Snyder for the starting job, had his problems, as well."It's not something I'm worried about, to be honest with you," Smith said. "We have a great group up front and they work as hard as anybody. They're talented. Protection doesn't always fall on them. It falls on everybody sometimes."Smith's one interception came as he fluttered a pass into the middle of the field while Texans defensive end Antonio Smith delivered a hard hit. Houston free safety Troy Nolan had both interceptions. Kaepernick's pick came when he tried to deliver a pass deep down the middle to Braylon Edwards. Nolan returned it 73 yards for a second-quarter touchdown."I saw the safety, but I thought Braylon would cross his face before he got there," Kaepernick said. "It was just a bad judgment on my part."One of the few bright spots was provided by fill-in punter Sam Paulescu, who was signed to take over for Andy Lee. Paulescu averaged 50 yards on eight punts. Lee is expected to return from a bruise right hip for the start of the regular season.Said Harbaugh, "We're not going to have any 'loser' talk or hang our heads. If you're waiting for that, you're not going to get it. We're going to keep our heads up and forge ahead."

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.

49ers defense: Top training camp competitions

49ers defense: Top training camp competitions

Before starting six games as a rookie, Rashard Robinson had not played football since the 2014 season at LSU.

Yet, Robinson is the closest thing to a sure bet to win a starting job among 49ers cornerbacks.

Tramaine Brock was projected as the starting cornerback on the other side until his arrest on suspicion of a troubling domestic incident prompted the 49ers to release him more than three months ago.

The 49ers open training camp next week, and here are the top competitions for starting jobs on defense:

Keith Reaser has yet to make an NFL start while appearing in 28 games the past two seasons. The 49ers rotated cornerbacks with the first-team defense during the offseason program, and Reaser put himself in position to enter camp as the slight favorite to replace Brock.

Veterans Dontae Johnson and Will Davis will try to work their way into the picture. And the 49ers are hopeful talented rookie Ahkello Witherspoon will develop a willingness to play with more physicality. The 49ers selected Witherspoon in the third round. He has the size and all the tools to win the starting job, but there were times in college he showed an alarming lack of aggression as a tackler.

K'Waun Williams is healthy after missing last season due to an ankle injury and falling out of favor with the Cleveland Browns. Defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley, one of the few holdovers from Chip Kelly’s staff, thinks highly of Williams after coaching him with the Browns. Hafley said he believes Williams can become one of the top covermen in the slot in the entire league.

Williams lined up with the first-team defense throughout the offseason program. His biggest competition could come from Will Redmond, whom the 49ers selected in the third round of the 2016 draft but did not play as a rookie due to a knee injury. Redmond has some rust to knock off, but he did not appear to show signs of the injury during the offseason program.

Arik Armstead is not the prototypical player at the “Leo” position. At 6 foot 7, Armstead does not have the low center of gravity that is typically associated with that position. But Armstead is certainly not lacking for athleticism.

The 49ers need a more consistent pass rush to assist their unproven cornerbacks, and this spot will be counted upon to provide more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Veteran Elvis Dumervil, who believes he has regained his explosion off the edge after being hampered with Achilles injury, was added last month to do what he does best. Dumervil, 33, enters the season with 99 career sacks.

Aaron Lynch is on notice as he enters his fourth NFL season. He moves from outside linebacker to defensive end in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme. Multiple competitions will be ongoing at this position, as the 49ers will look to determine the best fits for base downs, as well as passing situations.

The signing of free-agent Malcolm Smith raised a few eyebrows. It was just the offseason program, but Smith was as impressive as any player on the team during the non-padded practices. He is clearly comfortable in Robert Saleh’s scheme, which is based on the Seattle Seahawks’ defense.

The 49ers had Reuben Foster rated as their No. 3 prospect in the entire draft. They traded with the Seahawks to move up to select him at No. 31 overall. The 49ers seem thoroughly unconcerned with Foster’s shoulder. The club believes he will be medically cleared for the opening of training camp.

The 49ers might want to bring Foster along slowly, but it is clear they do not expect him to be a backup for very long.