Smith-Crabtree connection picks up where run game left off


Smith-Crabtree connection picks up where run game left off

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 49ers established their run game in the first quarter.And when the Arizona Cardinals established the fact they were going to load up in hopes of preventing running back Frank Gore from having continued success on the ground, the 49ers were able to do something that has not always come easily.They turned seamlessly to quarterback Alex Smith and the passing game for a 24-3 rout of the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.MAIOCCO'S INSTANT REPLAY: 49ers make Monday night statement
Smith enjoyed a record-setting night as he completed 18 of 19 passing attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Smith's passer rating was 157.1, just a shade below a perfect rating of 158.3.Smith's 94.7 completion percentage sets the NFL single-game record with a minimum of 15 passes attempted. Craig Morton (Denver, 1981) and Fran Tarkenton (Minnesota, 1977) previously shared the record at 94.4 percent by completing 17 of 18 attempts.
"I wasn't worried about any incompletions or anything like that," Smith said. "I was just kind of in a good rhythm. The whole offense was."Midway through the season, Smith tops the NFL with a 69.4 completion percentage. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is second with a 69.0 completion percentage. Smith's only incomplete throw Monday came in the second quarter when tight end Delanie Walker dropped a pass.Tight end Vernon Davis had his third consecutive quiet game. Davis caught two passes for 34 yards. But this time, some of the 49ers' other players were able to pick up the slack.Wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught five passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns, and Randy Moss got involved with a 47-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the third quarter."It was fun to see guys in space and getting the ball to them quick and letting them make plays," Smith said. "Guys were having fun. Randy had the great block on Crabtree's third-down conversion in the third quarter and then to seen him turn around and make the play on his touchdown run was fun."Perhaps the most encouraging play from the 49ers offense came on a play in which Crabtree was not wide open. Crabtree's first touchdown came on a 3-yard pass in which Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson had tight coverage at the goal line.Crabtree has yearned to get more passes thrown his way even on plays in which a defender is nearby. Smith has often been reluctant to attempt to throw the ball into tight windows. But Smith finally gave Crabtree that chance when he threw quickly to beat an all-out blitz. "I just tried to get it out before the DB could turn around," Smith said, "and Crab made a great catch."Said Crabtree, "Yeah, that's really my first time getting it in the red zone, and I've been working so hard with him at practice to be a threat in the red zone and he trusted me. Alex Smith threw it up and I just went to go get it."The 49ers' victory improves their record to 6-2 and extends their lead in the NFC West to two full games over the Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals fell to 4-4 after opening the season with four consecutive victories.After the 49ers' offense sputtered in back-to-back games against the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers showed good balance against a Cardinals defense that entered the game ranked No. 7 in the NFL.Coach Jim Harbaugh characterized the victory as a "good team win," but he pointed to Crabtree's effort with yards after the catch as well as his willingness to fight off Peterson to score the first touchdown of the game."It was a great play by Michael," Harbaugh said. "It was a great throw by Alex, really strong hands catch by Michael Crabtree, and Alex lasered it right in there. It was very good coverage, very contested coverage and great catch, strong catch."Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter helped set the tone for the 49ers' offense, as they combined for 66 yards rushing on 11 carries. Gore said the Cardinals then moved an eighth defender in the box in hopes of forcing the 49ers to turn to their passing game.Left tackle Joe Staley, who lost 10 pounds last week with a nasty case of pneumonia, said he saw a TV interview earlier Monday in which one of the Cardinals defensive backs said their goal was to make Alex Smith try to beat them."And he beat their (butts)," Staley said.After initial success on the ground, Gore finished with 55 yards rushing on 16 carries. Hunter had 43 yards on 10 rushing attempts.
Smith had a lot of help from Crabtree, who had the second two-touchdown game of his career. Crabtree scored his second touchdown when he caught a third-and-goal pass at the 7-yard line, made a move of Peterson and scored for a 9-yard touchdown.Crabtree also had a 22-yard reception in the second quarter on a third-and-23 play to set up David Akers for a 43-yard field goal.In the third quarter, Moss joined the fun with he schooled rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming on a 47-yard catch-and-run for his second touchdown with the 49ers."It was just great execution from the whole offense," Moss said. "Great protection from the O-line. It was a five-wide-receiver set, so we didn't really have the ends protected. The O-line protected, the quarterback delivered, I caught it, ran and had some blocks downfield and it was as simple as that."It was Moss' only catch of the game, but it made an impression on both sides of the ball."He's still got it," 49ers safety Dashon Goldson said. "People still ask me, 'Is Moss still fast?' He showed it out there. It was big time."Said Crabtree, "That guy's been doing it for so long, and I was just happy to see it. I was smiling from ear to ear."Moss said he was also pleased to see Crabtree come up big with a couple of touchdowns."Crab's having a good year," Moss said. "It's good to see guys that you come to work with every day out there making plays. Crab made some key plays in the first half. He's having a hell of a year. I hope it continues."

With star TE Reed out again, Washington to lean on Vernon Davis


With star TE Reed out again, Washington to lean on Vernon Davis

ASHBURN, Va. -- First-round draft pick Josh Doctson was put on injured reserve by Washington on Friday with an injured left Achilles tendon.

Doctson has missed the past four games for Washington (4-2) after making just one catch in each of the team's first two games.

The wide receiver was the 22nd overall pick in this year's NFL draft but has been troubled by the Achilles tendon problem since rookie minicamp in May. Doctson did not play at all in the preseason.

"With all the work that we've put in, we thought it was best to immobilize him for a little bit of time and see if that can help," coach Jay Gruden said Friday.

Gruden raised the possibility of bringing Doctson back from IR later on - each team can do that with one player per season - saying, "Hopefully we'll get him back for the last, maybe, two games of the year."

Said teammate DeSean Jackson: "Hopefully he'll get right and get the treatment he needs and be back out there for us as soon as possible."

Doctson had one catch for 9 yards in Week 1, and one catch for 57 yards in Week 2. Washington was hoping he could contribute this season and be ready to step into a bigger role next season if Jackson or Pierre Garcon leaves via free agency.

Gruden also said tight end Jordan Reed will miss Sunday's game at the Detroit Lions (3-3) with a concussion. Reed, who leads the team with 33 catches in 2016, also sat out last week's win over Philadelphia after hitting his head during a victory over Baltimore a week earlier.

He participated somewhat in practice Wednesday - wearing a yellow, noncontact jersey - before being held out entirely Thursday and Friday.

"I don't think he had a setback," Gruden said. "I just think they didn't really clear him. ... That's all I can say. I don't even try to argue or ask why. I just (ask) if he's cleared or not - and the answer is `No.' So hopefully we'll get him back next week."

Jackson, the receiver whose left shoulder has been bothering him, practiced Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. He was listed as questionable against Detroit.

Gruden said the team would see how Jackson feels Saturday before determining whether he would play at Detroit.

"That's a decision they've got to make," Jackson said. "I think I'll be all right, though."

NFL places Giants' Brown on 'exempt' list amid domestic abuse case


NFL places Giants' Brown on 'exempt' list amid domestic abuse case

LONDON -- The NFL placed Josh Brown on paid leave Friday hours after coach Ben McAdoo struggled to answer questions about how the New York Giants might discipline the kicker for abusing his wife.

In a letter to the 14-year veteran, NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch said Brown was being placed on the league's "exempt list" while the league investigates whether he should be suspended as punishment for several alleged acts of spousal abuse. Birch said the move "does not represent a finding that you have violated the personal conduct policy," but does pave the way toward potential further sanctions.

Being placed on Commissioner Roger Goodell's "exempt" list means Brown cannot attend practices or Giants games but can go to Giants headquarters for meetings and workouts. It also means Brown continues to be paid and his presence won't be counted on the Giants' 53-man roster. Brown could appeal the decision.

"The NFL has the ability to place a player on the exempt list and the player has the right to appeal that decision, if he chooses," the NFL Players Association said in a statement. "The League office wanted unilateral control of this process and accordingly, their system lacks transparency."

The action on Brown came hours after McAdoo had trouble explaining the Giants' intentions toward Brown, their kicker since 2013. The questions about how much the Giants knew about Brown's off-field troubles have overshadowed preparations for Sunday's game in London against the Los Angeles Rams.

Brown did not travel to London following Wednesday's release of police records which contained the player's written admissions that he physically abused his wife, Molly, over a protracted period. She told police in the documents released by the King County Sheriff's Office in Washington state that the abuse and other threatening behavior stretched from 2009, when she was pregnant with their daughter, to the Pro Bowl in January 2016.

In May 2015, Molly Brown sought and was granted a temporary protection order against her husband. A King County Superior Court commissioner issued the temporary restraining order on May 27, 2015. The order was reissued several times until July 24, 2015 when the order was terminated by the court at Molly Brown's request.

At the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Brown's wife said she called NFL security to move her and her three children to another hotel to avoid harassment from her estranged husband. She said he had pounded on their hotel door seeking to get in. The allegation is included in the final report filed last month by the local investigating detective, Robin Ostrum.

Brown's former wife did not respond to messages seeking comment from The Associated Press. A law firm representing the kicker declined to comment.

When asked whether the Giants knew about Brown's behavior at the Pro Bowl, McAdoo repeatedly said the Giants were still gathering information on the 9-month-old event. Finally, he said: "I'm not going to answer that."

When a reporter asked McAdoo about his comments in August suggesting he would show no tolerance for players abusive of their family members, McAdoo said his comments then were more nuanced.

"When did I say zero tolerance?" he said, adding: "I do not support domestic violence, if that's what you're asking. I do not condone it."

McAdoo described Brown as a "man of faith" who was trying to improve his behavior and the Giants organization was supporting him in this. But when asked to explain how the Giants provided this or monitored his off-field behavior, McAdoo said he couldn't detail any specific acts of support.

The NFL's official policy is to suspend players guilty of domestic abuse for six games on their first offense. Brown was suspended for one game, the Giants' season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys, in punishment for his May 2015 arrest at his family home in Woodinville, Washington, on suspicion of assaulting his wife by grabbing one of her wrists as she tried to reach for a phone, leaving an abrasion and bruising. No charges were filed but the detective, Ostrum, gathered detailed statements from Molly Brown who also provided her husband's written admissions of abuse in diary and email entries.

The NFL said its investigators asked to see these records but were denied.

Earlier Friday, Goodell suggested in a BBC interview that Brown could face further punishment now that league officials can see the full King County evidence file detailing Molly Brown's allegations of more than 20 episodes of abuse and other threatening behavior to herself, her two sons from a previous relationship and the couple's daughter.

"We have asked repeatedly for those facts and the information that's been gathered by law enforcement both orally and in writing. And we weren't able to get access to it. So you have to make decisions on whatever information you have," Goodell said in a transcript of the London interview provided by the BBC.

"We take this issue incredibly seriously. ... When it happens we're not going to tolerate it. So we have some new information here, we'll evaluate that in the context of our policy and we'll take it from there," Goodell said.

The Giants in April re-signed Brown to a two-year contract valued at $4 million. When facing his one-game suspension, Brown in August said he was divorced from his wife, although police documents released Wednesday suggested that civil proceedings remain incomplete.

The Giants have signed kicker Robbie Gould, an 11-year veteran of the Chicago Bears who was cut in September for salary cap reasons. The 34-year-old is expected to practice with the team Saturday.

"I've seen him (Gould) make a lot of kicks against me in the past. He's been successful, and we're hoping that continues," McAdoo said.