Smith's streak in serious jeopardy

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Smith's streak in serious jeopardy

SANTA CLARA -- All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith's amazing streak of durability is in jeopardy.

After originally listing Smith as "doubtful" to play Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers upgraded Smith to "questionable" on Friday afternoon despite the fact he did not take part in practice at any point this week. Still, it appears as if Smith will not be available for the key NFC West matchup.

Backup defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, is fully expecting to get his fourth career start with Smith's availability in question. And he spoke as if it's a foregone conclusion that Smith will not play.

"It's just another start," Jean Francois said Friday. "I ain't going to be sitting on the bench, not being able to get in the game. So this week the preparation was a little bit different -- more film, more details on their offense."

Smith sustained a left elbow injury early in the third quarter of the 49ers' 41-34 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday night. Smith was unable to return to action, even as his presence was needed with the Patriots rallying to tie the game from a 28-point deficit.

Smith missed the first game of his rookie season after a protracted contract dispute with the Cincinnati Bengals. After entering the starting lineup for the final 11 games of 2011, Smith has not miss another start in his 12-year career.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said Smith's week of work consisted only of rehab, strengthening and conditioning. Smith, who has been selected to three consecutive Pro Bowl, has played in 189 consecutive games, plus three playoff games. His streak of consecutive regular-season starts has reached 185.

"Amazing man, amazing football player, amazing accomplishment," Harbaugh said.

The 49ers filled the final spot on their 53-man roster with the promotion of rookie outside linebacker Cam Johnson from the practice squad. Johnson could be active for Sunday's game with outside linebacker Clark Haggans not expected to play due to a shoulder injury.

49ERS
Questionable: LB Tavares Gooden (ribs), LB Clark Haggans (shoulder), WR Mario Manningham (shoulder), DT Justin Smith (elbow), DT Will Tukuafu (concussion)
Probable: K David Akers (pelvis), G Alex Boone (knee), LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder), LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), CB Tarell Brown (shoulder), S Dashon Goldson (foot), RB Frank Gore (wrist), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), RB Bruce Miller (shoulder), CB Carlos Rogers (knee), LB Aldon Smith (shoulder), S C.J. Spillman (illness), LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

SEAHAWKS
Questionable: S Jeron Johnson (groin), WR Sidney Rice (knee), CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring), CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)
Probable: DT Alan Branch (ankle), RB Marshawn Lynch (back), CB Richard Sherman (not injury related), RB Robert Turbin (illness), RB Leon Washington (illness)

Kelly benched Kaepernick to see if Gabbert could provide spark

Kelly benched Kaepernick to see if Gabbert could provide spark

CHICAGO – The 49ers on Sunday had the second-worst passing day in the 71-season history of the organization.

Coach Chip Kelly made the move at the beginning of the fourth quarter to bench quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert as the 49ers sunk to new depths with a 26-6 loss to the Chicago Bears on a cold, snowy day at Soldier Field.

Kelly said he made the move because it was clear to him that Kaepernick was not coping well with the inclement conditions. Kaepernick completed just one of five passing attempts for 4 yards through three quarters. He was sacked five times for minus-25 yards.

Kelly was asked afterward if Kaepernick would regain his starting job for next week’s game against the New York Jets.

“We haven’t had any discussions about anything,” Kelly said. “It was just my decision to make a move to see if we could get a spark and see where we were.

“At that point in the game, we’re down a couple of scores (18 points) and, obviously, we have to throw it a ton. So we just wanted to see if we could get a spark for our team. There were no permanent decisions or anything like that.”

Gabbert did not have much more success in his one quarter of action. He completed four of 10 attempts for 35 yards. He was sacked in the end zone late in the fourth quarter for a safety.

“Yeah, I was surprised,” Kaepernick said of his benching. “It wasn’t something I expected. I’m always prepared and ready to do everything I can to help this team win.

“It’s not about my feelings. It’s about being able to help this team win. This coaching staff didn’t feel like I was, you know, out there being able to help this team win, so they made a change -- whether I agreed with that or not.”

The 49ers stuck with the running game for most of the game. Running back Carlos Hyde gained 92 yards on 20 rushing attempts, while Kaepernick rushed six times for 20 yards.

Kelly took the conservative approach in conditions that were snowy, wet and near freezing. There was no wind. Kelly was asked afterward if he might have been too cautious with Kaepernick.

“No, I was just watching how the ball was coming off his hands and what our chances were of completing it,” he said. “Maybe I was too cautious, but it didn’t look like we were doing much in the passing game.”

Kelly pointed out that the weather did not appear to have much of a negative impact on Bears quarterback Matt Barkley, who completed 11 of 18 passes for 192 yards.

“Both teams played in the same weather, so I don’t look at that as an excuse, in terms of we had the same weather that they had,” Kelly said. “Both teams had to deal with it, and they dealt with it better, especially in the pass game.”

Said Kaepernick, “I think the weather was something that definitely played a factor. We have to be able to do a better job managing that, handing it and being able to throw the ball, still.

“More than anything, it was tougher throwing a wet football. Once again, we have to be better at, being able to handle it.”

The 49ers had just 6 yards of net passing in the game. Kaepernick and Gabbert combined for 39 yards passing. Negative yardage on sacks counts against net passing yardage in the NFL, and the 49ers had 33 yards in sacks.

The 49ers franchise-worst game in passing is minus-10 yards. Quarterbacks Bob Waters and Lamar McHan combined for 63 yards passing against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 6, 1963. The 49ers gave up 73 yards in sacks to account for the negative yardage.

“It was just one of those days,” Gabbert said. “It’s not on any single guy’s shoulders why we didn’t win this football game and why we didn’t execute as an offense.”

Kaepernick had been playing some of the best football of his career entering Sunday’s game. In the 49ers’ 31-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins a week earlier, Kaepernick threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns and gained 113 yards rushing.

“We have to continue to keep building, keep progressing,” Kaepernick said. “This is a setback, most definitely, but we have to be able to keep pushing forward.”

On Sunday, the NFL Network reported Kaepernick planned to opt out the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Kaepernick said he is not looking ahead to the offseason.

“Once again, like I’ve said all along, my focus is on the next game,” Kaepernick said. “So my focus has been on the Bears this past week.”

When asked whether he expects to remain the 49ers’ starter, Kaepernick answered, “That’s not my decision. My feelings on it really don’t matter at this point. I’m just going to do everything I can to make sure I’m prepared.”

 

Chip Kelly coached 49ers in Chicago despite father's death

Chip Kelly coached 49ers in Chicago despite father's death

CHICAGO – Paul Kelly, the father of Chip Kelly, passed away on Friday night, the 49ers coach confirmed Sunday afternoon.

Kelly flew from Chicago to New Hampshire late Friday after learning of his father’s death. He returned for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. The 49ers lost their 11th consecutive game, a 26-6 defeat to the Bears.

When asked if he considered not coaching in the game, Kelly told CSNBayArea.com, “My mom wanted me to coach.”

Kelly said the team was making travel plans to send him back to New Hampshire after the game to be with his family, including his mother, Jean.

General manager Trent Baalke informed the 49ers’ players during a meeting Saturday morning in Chicago.

Paul Kelly was a retired trial lawyer and a member of the New Hampshire Bar from 1960 to 2000.

In a 2009 profile on the Kelly family in the Oregonian, Paul Kelly was described as “cerebral, successful and competitive.” The article states that throughout Chip Kelly's childhood, his father preached, “Deeds, not words.”