49ers 26, Eagles 21: Grades

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers beat the Eagles 26-21 Sunday afternoon. Here are the 49ers’ grades. KAEPERNICK: B-. Made both of the 49ers’ touchdowns happen. On the first one he scrambled left, drew the Eagles’ entire defense and threw back to the right, across the whole field to Frank Gore who was wide open. One of the most thrilling plays you’ll see. Next, Kaepernick scrambled to the left and threw…

September 28, 2014

Vic Fangio struggles with the hand he was dealt

This is my Saturday column previewing the 49ers’ Sunday home game against the Eagles. What is Vic Fangio supposed to do? Call plays while hopping on one leg? Vic, try patting your head and rubbing your stomach in the coaches’ box. Say rubber baby buggy bumpers. Strike a pose. The 49ers’ defensive coordinator is running out of options. He tried blitzing. He tried not blitzing. Neither has worked. The 49ers’…

September 27, 2014

Expanded change-of-pace-back stats

Here’s how Kendall Hunter’s rushing and receiving stats the past two seasons compare to the top change-of-pace-backs in the NFL. KENDALL HUNTER RUSHING 150 carries 729 rushing yards 4.86 yards per carry 2.69 yards after contact per carry 5 rushing TDs 1 rushing TD every 30 carries RECEIVING 11 catches 73 receiving yards 6.64 yards per catch 6.91 yards after catch per reception 0 TD catches DARREN SPROLES RUSHING 101…

June 23, 2014

Is Kendall Hunter the best change-of-pace back in football?

Pro Football Focus has been publishing depth charts which they grade position-by-position. They recently published a 49ers’ depth chart and graded Kendall Hunter as a below-average “HB2,” or change-of-pace back. Here’s how Hunter’s rushing statistics the past two seasons have stacked up against the change-of-pace backs whom PFF rank as “good” or “high level.” Kendall Hunter: 4.86 yards per carry/ 2.69 yards after contact per carry Darren Sproles: 4.59 yards…

June 22, 2014

Saints-49ers matchups: Part IV – Darren Sproles vs. NaVorro Bowman

The 49ers play the Saints Sunday at the Superdome. In the meantime, I’ll break down five key matchups. RB Darren Sproles vs. LB NaVorro Bowman When the 49ers front-seven has struggled against running backs this season, they’ve struggled against big, tough running backs. Sproles is a small, quick back who catches passes more often that he carries the football. He is Brees’ go-to possession receiver. When Brees needs six yards,…

November 24, 2012

Harbaugh says LaMichael James’ hands and route-running have improved dramatically

SANTA CLARA — Here’s what Jim Harbaugh said at his press conference Friday afternoon about LaMichael James, courtesy of the 49ers.   I understand that RB LaMichael James has been playing the role of RB Darren Sproles in practice this week? “Sproles, yeah.”   That’s a pretty good comparison, those two? “Yeah, it really has. LaMichael’s really benefitted a lot from … he’s been a wide receiver a lot of…

November 23, 2012

Fangio says the Saints offense is “pretty proficient and explosive.”

Vic Fangio held a press conference Thursday afternoon. Here’s what he said about the Saints offense, courtesy of the 49ers.   What are your initial thoughts on the Saints offense? “Pretty proficient and explosive. Any time you’ve got a quarterback of [QB Drew] Brees’ ability and stature playing in the same offense now for six or seven years with a lot of the same guys around him and with all…

November 22, 2012

Top five NFL running backs

While we’re waiting for next week’s Mini-Camp to arrive, let’s play a game. Who are the top-five running backs in the NFL? I’ll play the game first, and then you go. Arian Foster – Houston Texans: Led the NFL in yards from scrimmage the last two seasons with 4,072. Foster also seemed unstoppable in last season’s playoffs. He rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the Wild Card game…

June 9, 2012

Justin Smith breaks down the Saints offense

SANTA CLARA – Justin Smith spoke at the podium in the Niners media tent today, and this is what he said. Q: The Saints have two Pro Bowl guards (Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans). Are those the toughest two guards you’ve faced this year? JUSTIN SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. Those guys are really good at what they do. They’re big guys. They move their feet – all the things you want….

January 11, 2012

Drew Brees on Alex Smith: “He looks like he’s playing with a lot of confidence, and yet taking care of the football and being a great game manager.”

Drew Brees spoke to Bay Area writers on a conference call this afternoon. Here’s what he said. Q: What makes the 49ers so difficult to play against? BREES: “First of all it’s a 3-4 system, which we don’t see all that often. It’s been a little while since we’ve played a 3-4 team. They’re built differently. They’re typically a lot bigger, more physical – definitely what you see from San…

January 10, 2012

Five reasons the Niners have a good chance to beat the Saints

Here are five reasons the Niners have a good chance to beat the Saints on Saturday. 1. The Niners can get pressure on Drew Brees with their front by attacking the weak link on the Saints line – center Brian De La Puente – with Aldon Smith on stunts. Justin Smith can occupy Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod and Pro Bowl left guard Carl Nicks and free up Aldon…

January 8, 2012