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.

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.”