Maiocco's Instant Replay: 49ers 27, Dolphins 13

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Maiocco's Instant Replay: 49ers 27, Dolphins 13

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers' offense sputtered for most of three quarters in Colin Kaepernick's fourth start at quarterback.

But the 49ers maintained their 1 1/2-game lead in the NFC West on Sunday due to a strong performance from the defense and a key takeaway on special teams.

The 49ers don't get many style points for their 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Candlestick Park

The 49ers (9-3-1) can clinch a spot in the NFC playoffs next week with a victory over the New England Patriots. The 49ers finish the season at the Seattle Seahawks and at home against the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks remain 1 1/2-games behind the 49ers in the division standings with a blowout victory over the Cardinals on Sunday.

Kaepernick had a solid statistical day, completing 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards and adding a 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. But the 49ers had a difficult time converting on third downs and the game remained tight into the second half.

But the Dolphins had a lot more difficulty moving the ball against the 49ers.

The 49ers' big break came early in the third quarter when Dolphins return man Marcus Thigpen muffed an Andy Lee punt. C.J. Spillman recovered at the Miami 9-yard line.

Anthony Dixon gained 8 yards around the left side. Then, Frank Gore carried it into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 13-3 lead with 11:17 remaining in the third quarter.

Gore tied the franchise record of 50 rushing touchdowns, a mark he now shares with Hall of Fame running back Joe Perry and Roger Craig. Perry had 68 rushing touchdowns with the 49ers, but 18 came when the 49ers played in the All-America Football Conference. The team does not recognize statistics in the non-NFL games that 49ers played from 1946 to 1949.

Gore also eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time in his eight-year career.

Gore's 19-yard gain on the first play of the fourth quarter set up Anthony Dixon for a 1-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers a 20-6 lead with 14:27 remaining. The play capped a 13-play, 83 yard drive that took 7 minutes and 26 seconds.

FIRST-HALF FIELD GOALS: A lackluster first half ended with a bizarre sequence of plays and the 49ers settled for David Akers' 37-yard field goal to take a 6-3 lead on the final play before the intermission.

The 49ers had a first down at the 11-yard line, but a mix-up in protection left Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake with a clear path to Kaepernick for his third sack of the game.

LaMichael James was stopped for a 2-yard loss on second down, and with the clock winding down, Kaepernick's incomplete throw out of bounds barely left enough time for Akers' kick.

Earlier, Akers hit from 30-yards out. The Dolphins scored their only points of the first half on Dan Carpenter's 28-yard field goal. Later in the third quarter, Carpenter nailed a 53-yard field goal.

SMITH SETS MARK: Outside linebacker Aldon Smith took over sole possession of the 49ers' single-season sack record. Smith ran over Miami Dolphins rookie left tackle Jonathan Martin to pick up sack No. 18.5 of the season. Smith previously shared the 49ers franchise record of 17.5 sacks with Hall of Famer Fred Dean (1983).

Smith leads the NFL in sacks. He is four sacks behind Michael Strahan for the NFL single-season record, which Strahan set in 2001.

With 32.5 sacks in his first two seasons, Smith has more sacks in his first two seasons than any player since the NFL began keeping sack statistics in 1982.

ROOKIE DEBUTS: James and receiver A.J. Jenkins made their NFL debuts on Sunday. James got the call as an active player when the 49ers decided to deactivate veteran Brandon Jacobs, while Jenkins got onto the field for limited action with Mario Manningham out with a shoulder injury.

James carried the ball eight times for 30 yards and added a 15-yard reception, while Jenkins didn't record a catch.

Jacobs was not among the 49ers' active players. Jacobs has been outspoken in recent days via social media against 49ers coaches, his playing time and the team's fans.

Jacobs was seen prior to kickoff talking with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke on the field. The two men had a brief chat, and Baalke concluded it with what appeared to be an encouraging tap on Jacobs' chest.

THIS 'N' THAT: Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs sustained what appeared to be a serious right knee injury in the second quarter. He was carted into the locker room and was immediately ruled out for the game. Dobbs is the only 49ers player who has a role on each of the 49ers' special-teams units. He returned to action after missing a game for being arrested on suspicion of DUI and alleged marijuana possession. . . The 49ers entered the game with six consecutive victories at home against AFC opponents. The 49ers outscored the opposition 146-44 in those games and did not surrender a touchdown in four of those games. . . . In the five previous games in which the 49ers lost the previous game in the Jim Harbaugh era, the 49ers did not allow a touchdown. The 49ers lost to the St. Louis Rams last week. The Dolphins got into the end zone on tight end Anthony Fasano's 3-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Ryan Tannehill with 7:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players

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AP

Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players

CHICAGO -- Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

It's the largest update on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain disease that can cause a range of symptoms including memory loss.

The report doesn't confirm that the condition is common in all football players; it reflects high occurrence in samples at a Boston brain bank that studies CTE. Many donors or their families contributed because of the players' repeated concussions and troubling symptoms before they died.

"There are many questions that remain unanswered," said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist. "How common is this" in the general population and all football players?

"How many years of football is too many?" and "What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years," she noted.

It's also uncertain if some players' lifestyle habits - alcohol, drugs, steroids, diet - might somehow contribute, McKee said.

Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, emphasized that the report is based on a selective sample of men who were not necessarily representative of all football players. He said problems other than CTE might explain some of their most common symptoms before death - depression, impulsivity and behavior changes. He was not involved in the report.

McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, "while there's still a chance to do something about it." Currently, there's no known treatment.

The strongest scientific evidence says CTE can only be diagnosed by examining brains after death, although some researchers are experimenting with tests performed on the living. Many scientists believe that repeated blows to the head increase risks for developing CTE, leading to progressive loss of normal brain matter and an abnormal buildup of a protein called tau. Combat veterans and athletes in rough contact sports like football and boxing are among those thought to be most at risk.

The new report was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CTE was diagnosed in 177 former players or nearly 90 percent of brains studied. That includes 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players; 48 of 53 college players; nine of 14 semi-professional players, seven of eight Canadian Football league players and three of 14 high school players. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players.

A panel of neuropathologists made the diagnosis by examining brain tissue, using recent criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, McKee said.

The NFL issued a statement saying these reports are important for advancing science related to head trauma and said the league "will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes."

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.

The journal update includes many previously reported cases, including former NFL players Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler, Dave Duerson and Ralph Wenzel.

New ones include retired tight end Frank Wainright, whose 10-year NFL career included stints with the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Wainright died in April 2016 at age 48 from a heart attack triggered by bleeding in the brain, said his wife, Stacie. She said he had struggled almost eight years with frightening symptoms including confusion, memory loss and behavior changes.

Wainright played before the league adopted stricter safety rules and had many concussions, she said. He feared CTE and was adamant about donating his brain, she said.

"A lot of families are really tragically affected by it - not even mentioning what these men are going through and they're really not sure what is happening to them. It's like a storm that you can't quite get out of," his wife said.

Frank Wycheck, another former NFL tight end, said he worries that concussions during his nine-year career - the last seven with the Tennessee Titans - have left him with CTE and he plans to donate his brain to research.

"Some people have heads made of concrete, and it doesn't really affect some of those guys," he said. "But CTE is real."

"I know I'm suffering through it, and it's been a struggle and I feel for all the guys out there that are going through this," said Wycheck, 45.

In the new report, McKee and colleagues found the most severe disease in former professional players; mild disease was found in all three former high school players diagnosed with the disease. Brain bank researchers previously reported that the earliest known evidence of CTE was found in a high school athlete who played football and other sports who died at age 18. He was not included in the current report.

The average age of death among all players studied was 66. There were 18 suicides among the 177 diagnosed.

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

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AP

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

Aquan Boldin is looking for a new football home.

And the former 49ers wide receiver is visiting with the Bills on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Boldin started all 16 games with the Lions last season, recording 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.

From 2013 to 2015 with the 49ers, he racked up 237 receptions, 3030 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 37 years old in October.

Boldin entered the NFL as the 54th overall pick in the 2003 draft.