As Saints continued momentum, 49ers sharpened themselves


As Saints continued momentum, 49ers sharpened themselves

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers did not put on full pads during their two days of practices late last week, but the tempo was close to game speed.That's because there was pride at stake with the first-team offense going up against the starting defense."It's like a game-type of environment on the practice field," 49ers safety Dashon Goldson said. "It's like a real battle out there."
Before the New Orleans Saints could earn the right to face the 49ers, they had to get past the Detroit Lions. Before the 49ers begin this week in preparation for the Saints, they faced off a couple of times in practices against each other.And that has not been out of the ordinary in recent weeks. When the 49ers' offense sputtered during a six-game stretch in which they scored touchdowns on just 3 of 18 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line, coach Jim Harbaugh enacted a change in the practice schedule.The struggling 49ers' offense went against the team's first-team defense in red-zone drills. The offense seemed to benefit from the work, finishing the regular season with six touchdowns in their final nine trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line."Our scout team has been amazing, but it helps to get full-speed reps in the red zone," 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. "It was full-speed coverage, full-speed rushes and full-speed blitzes. Any time you get that, it's beneficial."RELATED: It's 49ers vs. 49ers in bye week practices in Santa Clara
Said tight end Justin Peelle, "It's faster out there. It's a faster look, and we didn't know what we'd be getting, so it forced us to adjust and that's something you need to be able to do. The coaches point was made that we weren't doing very well in the red zone. Then, we were able to start putting the ball in the end zone instead of kicking field goals."Typically, once the regular season begins the starting offense and defense works against the scout team -- comprised of backups and practice-squad players who are running the anticipated plays of the opposition."Obviously, the scout team guys do so much for us," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "But just getting that game-speed tempo, especially on Fridays when we're getting the work versus the ones -- getting realistic looks, not knowing what you're going against -- just going out there and reacting, I think is great for us."The 49ers did not start game-planning for any one opponent last week during their two days of practices. On Saturday evening, the coaching staff began finalizing the game plan to face the Saints, a 45-28 winner over the Detroit Lions in the first round of the NFC playoffs.The Saints kept their momentum going with their ninth consecutive victory. The 49ers believe they kept making strides toward becoming a better team, too."Iron sharpens iron," Goldson said. "We know there are going to be some tough teams we're going to face." As the 49ers begin on-field preparations Monday to face the Saints, the only player not expected to play Saturday is tight end Delanie Walker. He is out for the game after sustaining a fractured jaw on the left side of his face in two places Dec. 24.Defensive end Ray McDonald did not practice last week due to a right hamstring strain. He strained his left hamstring in November and missed one game. This hamstring strain to his other leg is not as bad, he said. Expect him to play Saturday.The biggest Saints injury is wide receiver Lance Moore, who missed the game against the Lions with a hamstring injury of his own. During the regular season, Moore caught 52 passes for 627 yards and eight touchdowns.

49ers' Kaepernick shoulders blame: 'I have to be better'

49ers' Kaepernick shoulders blame: 'I have to be better'

SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s second start of the season played out in similar fashion to his first appearance of the season a week ago in Buffalo.

Again, Kaepernick had more success running, and the 49ers’ last-ranked pass offense came in under its season average.

“I have to be better,” Kaepernick said following the 49ers’ 34-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before a sparse and largely disinterested gathering at Levi's Stadium.

Kaepernick completed fewer than 50 percent of his attempts for a second week in a row. He hit on 16 of 34 attempts for 143 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“That’s not going to win in the NFL,” Kaepernick said. “We have to be able to do better on that and ultimately, we have to string this together as a team and play well as a team for 60 minutes to get wins.”

[MAIOCCO: Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss]

Kaepernick made his second start after replacing Blaine Gabbert, who started the 49ers’ first five games of the season. The club has now lost six consecutive games, the franchise’s longest losing streak since 2008.

Kaepernick rushed for a team-high 84 yards on nine attempts, but the 49ers’ offense sputtered after a strong start. The 49ers scored touchdowns on two of their first four possessions, before closing shop for the day.

“I think it was up and down,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said of Kaepernick’s performance. “I wish there was one thing that you could just put your finger on and say, ‘Hey, it’s this.’ He obviously kept some things alive and kept some drives alive with his legs.

“They were playing a little bit more man coverage than we thought. Coming into the game they hadn’t played that much man, but they started off playing a lot of man. So, obviously, he can beat them (scrambling) when they are playing man coverage and everybody is locked up and now there is nobody responsible for the quarterback.”

The 49ers opened the game with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Later in the first quarter, the 49ers cashed in quickly after Gerald Hodges’ interception. Kaepernick found running back Shaun Draughn in the front left corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown pass.

“It comes down to execution, not shooting ourselves in the foot and making plays,” Kaepernick said. “On our two touchdown drives, we had players making plays on the field and we have to be able to continually do that throughout the game because defenses are talented. Things are going to be close and we have to be able to make those plays and that’s ultimately what’s going to be the difference in these games.”

Now, the 49ers head into the bye week with a 1-6 record. The 49ers face the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 6.

“It’s not a position we want to be in,” Kaepernick said. “We work hard every week, we go through our preparation, we’re on top of everything but we have to go out and execute better. Where our record is right now, we have a bye week coming up. We can get some corrections, get some people healthy, come back and try to make a home stretch run.”

Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss

Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss

SANTA CLARA – The search for answers will continue during the 49ers’ bye week. But coach Chip Kelly said he has already concluded he will make no changes to the defensive staff.

The 49ers surrendered 513 yards of total offense to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Levi’s Stadiium. The Buccaneers, who entered the game with the league's 27th-ranked run game, rushed for 249 yards in their 34-17 victory over the 49ers.

Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil has come under fire, but Kelly told reporters he is not looking to make any changes to his staff. Kelly said he already spends ample time with O’Neil on a weekly basis.

"We spend time together during the week," Kelly said. "We carve out time in terms of how we watch film and what we do and understand the plan as we’re moving forward. There’s good communication going on form that standpoint. It’s not like I don’t know what’s going on on the defensive side of the ball.”

Defensive players in the 49ers’ locker room expressed confidence in O’Neil’s scheme.

“I love this scheme,” safety Eric Reid said. “If everybody does their job, we shouldn’t get beat. But whenever there’s an explosive play, somebody is out of position. We just got to tighten up.”

Said defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, “We have a great scheme and we have the guys to fit the scheme that he’s trying to run for us. Everybody individually, including myself, just needs to do better.”

Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who left the game in the third quarter with a high-ankle sprain, expressed a view of the team’s defensive players that was more than a bit optimistic.

“We have the team,” Lynch said. “We possibly have one of the best teams in the NFL, easily. Hands down. We need to know how to keep finishing games and work together throughout the whole game. Once we get that down, nobody’s going to be able to mess with us.”

The 49ers rank last in the NFL in rushing defense. The 49ers gave up 561 yards rushing in the past two games, the worst back-to-back weeks in franchise history.

Buccaneers running back Jacquizz Rodgers was the latest player to feast on the 49ers' defense. Rodgers rushed for a career-high 154 yards on 26 carries to become the sixth consecutive opponent to gain more than 100 yards on the 49ers.

“Of course, I am frustrated with it,” 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. “You play this game to win. When we give up points the way that we do, the way we give up yards, it is just unacceptable. It is frustrating.

“Anything is fixable. I just think that the guys that get double-teamed maybe have to do a better job at taking on the double-team. I know that is difficult, but that is what we signed up for. The guys that are getting doubled have to be able to get off those double-teams and just try to do a better job.”