Tag Archives: Colin Kaepernick

NFL Owners “Compromise” Is the Worst of All Possible Scenarios

Steve Balestrieri
May 25, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

Opinion: Just when you thought the NFL couldn’t fall any lower after last fall, they hit rock bottom and began to dig. The NFL has passed a new policy about the entire standing for the national anthem, and now players will have the choice to either stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room. If players on the field don’t stand for the national anthem, the teams not the players will be fined. This move is in direct response to the Colin Kaepernick protest.

Kaepernick began protesting the treatment of young men of color by the police and began kneeling during the national anthem. This began in the 2016 season and soon other players took up the cause as well. Regardless of how silly Kaepernick looked showing up to a press conference wearing a shirt of the biggest mass murderer and oppressor of people of color in the Western Hemisphere, there was a huge undercurrent of support, especially among the African-American players of the NFL.

Many have been told that they’ve abandoned their roots and have lost touch with their own people. Other players have experienced what Kaepernick was protesting first hand. The protesting reached a peak during Week 3 of the 2017 season. It remained a hot topic for about the next month and gradually faded away.

Why the NFL decided that this issue needed to be decided this spring was foolhardy at best. And let me say …again, I was against the protest, because of the manner in which they conducted it. It struck a nerve inside myself as a military person as it did many of the other veterans who’ve turned their backs on the NFL because of it. I hated it.

But the freedom of speech is one of the things we defend for the people of this country. I haven’t walked in any of those men’s shoes. If they truly feel that those issues are a problem, it isn’t up to us to dismiss them but to fix them. I thought there was a better way to protest, however, that opportunity is lost now. I wrote about it here: So, while I may have disagreed with the manner of the protest, I fully supported the idea that the players could protest.

As a veteran, the flag to me represents the beacon of freedom that most of the world, who rushed here to become part of our nation, had never known. It also gives you the right to peacefully protest perceived wrongs without the fear of retribution. That is what soldiers defend every day.

The prevailing attitude among many of the fans was that the players were unpatriotic, were disrespecting the military and the flag. Nothing was further from the truth.

And in coming to their “compromise”, the NFL and the league owners decided the outcome for everyone. And their method is completely un-American.

The compromise was made between the league and the owners where the players were not even consulted. If that isn’t a slap in the face to the NFL Players Association I don’t know what is.

They knew this entire thing stunk so badly that they didn’t even take an official vote on it. They took an informal consensus among the owners. This shows what a disconnected, fractured relationship the league has with its main employees. They’ve effectively decided that they can give or take away the players First Amendment rights.

In the end, the league voted with its wallets. Several sponsors have discussed their discomfort with the fan bases pushing back against the player protests and don’t forget the league’s “Salute to Service” that they pushed back in the 2015 season wasn’t done for free. The Department of Defense paid heavily for those ads.

That isn’t a brave act or even a smart one. It was a cowardly act that showed that the league and owners are hoping that if they ignore a problem it doesn’t exist. During my many years in the military, I served with men and women from all walks of life and every conceivable background one can imagine. America is a true melting pot. The NFL is different.

The NFL is predominantly made up of African-American young men. And many of them don’t feel they get treated the same way other citizens do. Unless you’ve walked in their shoes, then we can’t tell them their feelings are wrong. The First Amendment is more than just words on a piece of paper. It is one of the cornerstones of what our country is founded upon.

That’s what our veterans fought for and continue to fight for today. Of all weeks for the NFL to come up with this fiasco, on the week we celebrate the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service to this country, it is ludicrous. For a league that wraps itself around the flag and the military every week, they should have known better.

They could have easily let the issue alone and it would have been minor at worst this season. They could have opened a dialogue with the players to see what the two sides can work out while not stomping on the players First Amendment rights. But they chose Door #3, and arbitrarily decided what rights the players have or don’t have.

And that path is wrong, it is un-American and the league, not the players disrespects what the flag and the veterans represent.

Five Monday NFL Thoughts After Week 6

Ian Logue
October 16, 2017 at 8:40 am ET

Sunday was an interesting afternoon with a variety of stories from around the league that stood out.  We’ll attempt to cover a few of them here each week, including several from yesterday.

1)  Undefeated no more – The Kansas City Chiefs suffered their first loss of 2017 after the Pittsburgh Steelers came into Arrowhead Stadium and dropped them to 5-1 on the season after a 19-13 loss.  They held the Chiefs to just three points through three quarters and the 12-3 lead Pittsburgh managed to put together over that span ended up being enough to hold them off.  Kansas City closed to within 12-10 with just over six minutes to go in the game, but Ben Roethlisberger came right back and hit Antonio Brown for a 51-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to put the game away.

Roethlisberger was coming off of a loss to the Jaguars the previous week where he questioned whether or not he still “had it”, but that seemingly was just him whining after he came out earlier in the week calling himself “one of the best in the world”.

“You wake up Monday morning, and you realize, ‘Man, I’m still one of the best in the world [to] do what I do,’ ” Roethlisberger said via the Post-Gazette. “I’m gonna have that confidence. I’m gonna have that when I go out there Wednesday to practice and Sunday when we go to Kansas City.”

Fortunately for Roethlisberger, his team did enough to improve to 4-2 on the season and lift his ego for at least another week, while also helping New England’s chances at getting the top seed now that the Chiefs finally have one in the loss column.


Rodgers won’t get an opportunity to potentially battle with Brady in February.

2) Tough break for Rodgers – Aaron Rodgers season may have come to an abrupt end after the veteran took a big shot out in Minnesota that saw him get carted off the field during a 23-10 loss out in Minneapolis.

Unlike New England, where there the news might have taken a few days to come out, the Packers announced the injury over their Twitter channel saying that “he could miss the rest of the season.”  It’s disappointing because his loss likely will put the Packers’ postseason chances in jeopardy, eliminating a potential match-up between Brady and Rodgers in February.

Brady found out about the injury during his press conference.

“I didn’t know that. That sucks,” said Brady.

Rodgers’ injury turns the reins over to back-up Brett Hundley, who head coach Mike McCarthy said is “my quarterback”, with Joe Callahan as his back-up as the team now tries to move forward with Rodgers sidelined.

3) Colin Kaepernick trying to land a death blow to the CBA – For some odd reason, Kaepernick seems to believe that his ongoing unemployment is related to NFL owners conspiring against him, which will now reportedly see the quarterback file a collusion grievance, which holds some significance due to its potential effect on the CBA if he’s successful.

According to ProFootballTalk.com, Kaepernick is hoping to trigger the termination of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement if he’s able to prove collusion by the owners.

It seems to be a long shot, because one of the things that’s seemingly gotten lost surrounding the beleaguered quarterback is the fact that he’s not unemployed because of the fact he started the kneeling movement during the national anthem.  People seem to forget he was wearing police portrayed as pigs on his socks during training camp, as well as featuring a police officer badge as a “runaway slave patrol badge.”


Kaepernick’s bad decisions, not his anthem protests, are likely the reason he’s still unemployed.

Those statements were pretty telling and while his actions sparked the current league movement, what Kaepernick has already done has been ugly enough where given that teams are escorted by police and security on a weekly basis, bringing a player who openly wears socks portraying them with a word that most officers dislike being called is something that is probably the bigger reason keeping owners from seeking his services.  Not to mention the fact that adding that drama and attention to their locker room is another thing they likely don’t want either.

Given that some of Kaepernick’s concerns involve racially charged accusations that most people dislike making blanket statements about, it’s ironic that Kaepernick made such strong blanket statements about police.  While it’s hard to deny that there may certainly be legitimate things that need to be discussed with this issue, he didn’t handle it as well as he could have and he really went too far, which has also hurt his cause.

The other issue is the fact that Kaepernick wasn’t playing at a high level during his final days in San Francisco and the negatives he brings as a distraction likely outweighs a substantial enough reason for a team to take the chance of bringing him in.  Had he knelt and then made his thoughts known to media outlets to bring his grievances to light in a more controlled manner, it might have played out differently.  But the pig socks and the strong Twitter statements haven’t helped his cause, and when you take into account the national backlash the league is already feeling over the anthem protest to begin with, it would be tough for one member club to want to take the additional baggage surrounding Kaepernick on.

Let’s be honest, when you look at how things have been handled by concerned players even here in New England, it’s completely different from Kaepernick’s actions.  Even Indianapolis has handled things better, with former Patriots Darius Butler and Kamar Aiken doing positive things to try and spark productive discussions with local police.  It’s a stark contrast to what the now unemployed player did, and it’s amazing that people seem to have forgotten that.

At the end of the day, Kaepernick had the right intention with his plight but it’s ultimately been his poor execution and decision-making that has him in this position.  He may try and prove collusion, but these are likely the real reasons his NFL career may be over.

He needs to look in the mirror instead of pointing any fingers when it comes to why NFL owners don’t want anything to do with him.  Hopefully the progress he ultimately makes someday years from now in sparking a positive change, which if Kaepernick is being truthful in some of the other things he’s said, will be more rewarding than the NFL career he cost himself by going too far with his actions.

He’s his own worst enemy.  The sooner he admits that and shifts his focus to truly wanting to finish what he started, the sooner maybe he’ll finally bring about the change he sought to begin with.


Matt Ryan fell apart Sunday against Miami.

4) Dolphins come away with big second-half over Atlanta – With the Falcons set to visit Gillette Stadium next Saturday night, they’ll likely be fired up after dropping a disappointing game at home against the visiting Miami Dolphins.

Atlanta put together a 17-0 first half lead, but were shut out by Miami in the second half as the Dolphins put up 20 unanswered points and forced an interception by Matt Ryan with 0:47 to go with the Falcons sitting at the Dolphins’ 26-yard line.  The turnover sealed the win for Miami, who improved to 3-2 on the season and kept them even with the 3-2 Bills, who are on a bye this week.

It’s the second loss to an AFC East team in successive weeks for Atlanta and it’s also the second-consecutive loss at home for the Falcons, who will face another AFC East foe this week on the road when they come to Foxboro next Sunday in a rematch of February’s Super Bowl.

Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen said that two home losses is a disgrace and at 3-2, they need to “reset” with a critical game on tap next weekend.

“We’ve got to reset,” Allen said via ESPN. “It ain’t no other way. What you going to do, just lay down? There’s s— else you can do. You’ve got be a man. You’ve got to know what we work for when we wake up every morning. What we grind for. What this team stands for. We’ve got to reset.”


Rivers and the Chargers did just enough to beat the Raiders Sunday.

5) Chargers Upset Oakland – Despite a hapless Los Angeles team that seemed like their season was headed into the tank, the Chargers managed to get their second win of the year after beating the Raiders 17-16 with a last-second field goal.

The Raiders saw quarterback Derek Carr return from his back injury but he’s clearly still hampered, with Carr struggling his way through a 21-of-30 performance that included two interceptions.

For the Chargers, it’s their second straight victory as they appear to be gaining some momentum and confidence despite playing in a division where they’re going to have their work cut out for them in catching the 5-1 Chiefs and 3-2 Broncos.

“I thought the guys stepped up and made plays when we had to,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said via ESPN.  “That’s what we’ve been talking about. I’m so proud that they starting to see the fruit of their labor because these men work hard every single week.”

The Chargers will visit New England in two weeks on 10/29 and one stat to watch will be the fact that Los Angeles’ defense has struggled in the first quarter, having been outscored 50-7 in the opening quarter through six games.   The Patriots have had some success scoring points in the first quarter, which has been the Patriots’ second highest scoring quarter with 40.  The Patriots’ highest scoring quarter has been the second quarter, which has seen them put up 71 points through six games.

All-22 Film Review, Patriots Win Over 49ers

Steve Balestrieri
November 22, 2016 at 8:34 am ET

All-22 Film Shows Good and Bad in Several Key Areas

Reviewing the game film from Sunday’s win over the 49ers it is easy to find plenty of good and bad plays to highlight. Bill Belichick will have plenty of positives and negatives to work with within the upcoming week to prepare for the Jets.

The offense, missing two key players in Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan struggled in the middle point of the game, but still put up 30 points and could have easily put up over 40. Malcolm Mitchell had his best game as a pro and scored his first NFL touchdown, a 56-yard pass play from Tom Brady. The “Pony” backfield with both Dion Lewis and James White looks intriguing and gives Brady plenty of options to spread out the defense.

LeGarrette Blount and James Develin are working quite well together. Develin is opening some gaps as the fullback for him to run through and Blount is showing good patience and excellent vision in picking the holes to exploit.

The defense mixed and matched with several different combinations but it is obvious that when they rested Dont’a Hightower, the defense suffered. They did use him with different linebackers, starting Shea McClellin also using Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy and even Barkevious Mingo near the end of the game. All of them had their ups and downs, but Van Noy flashed a nice inside move on the right tackle to pick up his first sack as a member of the Patriots. The Patriots manufactured five sacks by utilizing some different looks and it worked. They got two from DBs (Chung, Butler), two from LBs (Hightower, Van Noy) and one from the DL (Ninkovich), so it is a positive moving forward.

Logan Ryan had a nice bounce-back game in the slot this week. Eric Rowe got the start opposite of Malcolm Butler and played well. I would imagine that they’ll stick with this unit next week in the Meadowlands against the Jets.

We’ve picked out a couple of different plays this week and we’ll look at how the team did.

Dion Lewis 9-Yard Pass: What the Patriots have is an intriguing pair of pass catchers now in Dion Lewis, now that he’s back and James White who has played very well in his stead. So why not use them both? And they did with great effect here early in the game.

The Patriots had a third and about three just inside the 20-yard line. The line up with three wide receivers and Lewis on Brady’s left with White on his right in the backfield. This is a look the 49ers hadn’t seen on tape before so they’re unprepared for it.

lewis-pass-in-flat-2

At the snap, Mitchell who is lined up wide left runs a seven-yard pattern inside and sits, dragging his coverage with him. Both Lewis and White run out into the flat at 45-degree angles. Brady has plenty of options.

The 49ers took a deep drop …too deep and Mitchell is wide open for an easy first down. Lewis is open in the left flat, where Brady delivers the ball and after he makes the first man miss, he runs for other 4-5 yards for a 9-yard gain. But White at the top of the screen is wide open and had only a single man to beat for the touchdown.

lewis-pass-in-flat

Julian Edelman TD Catch: The Patriots moved to the San Francisco four-yard line where they lined up four wide. James White came in motion from right to left. Edelman is split wide right. Martellus Bennett is in the slot right.

edelman-td

At the snap Bennett runs a short out route right along the goal line, taking two defenders with him. Edelman runs a crossing route along the back of the end zone and is covered well by Keith Reaser, but once Brady begins to move in the pocket to the right, the coverage breaks down. Edelman reverses his field, and his quickness leaves Reaser behind. Brady delivers the ball on the money and Edelman does a nice job of keeping both feet inbounds for the touchdown.

edelman-td2

Draughn 26-Yard Wheel Route: This was one of those plays that fans were up in arms about because we’ve seen this one before and it seems that opponents always seem successful with. It was a perfectly executed play by the 49ers and the Patriots were unfortunate because of a slip.

The Niners lined up with a bunch formation on the right side with three receivers tightly aligned. The Patriots answer and deploy Hightower, Chung, and Butler to counter. But at the snap, the Niners do a good job at rubbing the defenders to get open. Jeremy Kerley runs across in the middle of the field and is wide open. Chris Harper drags Butler on a deep post route.

sf-wheelroute-26

Shaun Draughn flares out on the wheel route. Hightower gets caught up in the wash initially and then the issue is compounded when he loses his footing momentarily allowing Draughn to run free. Rowe in the middle of the field and McCourty have coverage responsibility with Kerley. Hightower can’t catch him and Kaepernick makes the correct call and delivers the ball to Draughn for a big gain. Perfect execution by the 49ers here. Draughn would have been open regardless but the slip probably cost the Patriots extra 15 yards downfield.

sf-wheelroute-draughn-26

Dont’a Hightower Sack: Hightower snuffed out a possible 49ers touchdown bid with a big sack of Kaepernick on third down at the Patriots six-yard line. The Pats show blitz with four down linemen and Chung and McClellin lined up on the line of scrimmage.

At the snap, Chris Long at the right defensive end crashes down hard to the left drawing the center and left guard with him. McClellin blitzes from the right and is picked up by the left tackle. Initially, all is well, Kaepernick has a good pocket. But the void in the center is filled by Hightower who blasts inside the A-Gap. DuJuan Harris moves up to block him but is easily overpowered.

hightower-sack

The Patriots by rushing six on Kaepernick were able to stop them for a loss and force a field goal attempt. Good execution by everyone involved and although no one else was able to beat their one-on-one matchups, Hightower’s play snuffed out a possible touchdown pass.

hightower-sack2

Mitchell 56-yard Touchdown: The Patriots once again used the “Pony” formation to great effect. Lined up at their 44-yard line, the Pats go three wide with Mitchell lined up wide right and Edelman and Amendola wide left. White is on Brady’s right, Lewis to his left. Edelman comes in motion from left to right just before the snap.

mitchell-56-td

As Brady gets the ball, White and Lewis again flare out of the backfield, Mitchell runs a deep comeback, with Amendola running a deep crossing route. Brady is flushed from the pocket. He again buys time with his feet sliding to the right and the coverage, which was solid breaks down. Mitchell gets behind Reaser, who is caught out of position and in chase mode.

mitchell-56-td3

Brady delivers the ball just barely over his head and Mitchell as he catches it runs under Trumaine Brock who was in catchup mode with Amendola. He then sprints untouched into the end zone for his first NFL TD. This was a play that was well covered at first but illustrates again, that once a QB breaks containment, bad things usually happen in the secondary.

mitchell-56-td2

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Reactions from Northern California to Patriots’ 30-17 Victory Over 49ers

John Morgan
November 21, 2016 at 8:00 pm ET

Some New England fans and certain sports talk radio hosts are whining about the New England Patriots not looking impressive enough in their latest win to improve their conference leading record to 8-2. For another perspective here is a sampling of reactions from Northern California to the Patriots’ 30-17 victory over the 49ers.

 

Reactions from Northern California to Patriots’ 30-17 Victory Over 49ers

San Francisco Chronicle:
Tom Brady, the legend, comes home

“They inspired a lot of kids here in the Bay Area in my time growing up, and I was one of them,” he said.

He mentioned the players he idolized — Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Steve Young, Tom Rathman — and said that seeing them at halftime during the ceremony honoring Eddie DeBartolo “was a pretty, pretty great day for me.”

He shared some words with Rathman, the 49ers’ running back coach, on the field, and recalled first meeting him.

“He was neighbors with my best friend, and I got to know him a little bit before the draft when he had just started in coaching,” Brady said. “I always loved the way he played and how he spiked the ball after he scored. He was one of my favorite players.

“He autographed my shoe at a store opening when I was probably 12 or 13. He and Roger Craig. It was a pretty great memory.”

Not such a great memory is the one shared by 49ers fans, whose team (along with every other team in the NFL) passed on the hometown boy, drafting quarterback Gio Carmazzi in the third round in 2000 while Brady lasted until the sixth.

What could have happened with Brady on a 49ers team that hadn’t yet fallen into disrepair, that still had Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens and Charlie Garner and a decent defense?

We’ll never know. But 17 seasons later, Brady finally played on the 49ers’ home field. And, as he has been for most of his career, he was brilliant.

 

The Mercury News:
49ers historic, ninth straight loss comes against Tom Brady-led Patriots
Chip Kelly becomes first 49ers coach to lose nine straight

The 49ers matched a dubious franchise record by losing their ninth straight game Sunday, falling 30-17 to the New England Patriots in San Mateo native Tom Brady’s long-awaited homecoming.

Brady threw four touchdown passes, one in each quarter, to key the Patriots (8-2) in his first career action on the home field of his childhood team. He completed 24 of 40 passes for 280 yards with no interceptions and a 114.6 rating.

As rain fell through most of the game, Colin Kaepernick got sacked five times — all in the first half — and fell to 0-5 since replacing Blaine Gabbert as the 49ers starting quarterback.

GRONK WHO: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski did not travel because of a chest injury. He wasn’t exactly missed.

 

The Sacramento Bee:
On 49ers: Fates of Kaepernick, Kelly, Baalke still being written

After a 26-20 win in Chicago on Dec. 6, then-49ers coach Jim Tomsula and his staff were set to return for the 2016 season. Then, three weeks later, they weren’t.

That serves as a lesson that the futures of those on the current 49ers squad – in grave danger of losing nine consecutive games for the first time since Jimmy Carter was president – probably haven’t been decided yet and instead will be written, rewritten and then scratched out again over the next seven weeks, starting Sunday against the Patriots.

What’s more, the fates of the big three – quarterback Colin Kaepernick, coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke – are interwoven. If Kaepernick continues to make progress, that’s probably good news for Kelly, who’s been a Kaepernick advocate from the beginning. If the 49ers keep Kaepernick in 2017, that might not bode as well for Baalke, who has an icy relationship with the quarterback.

 

East Bay Times:
49ers secure wrong kind of historical achievement

The San Francisco 49ers have reached unfamiliar territory, but these aren’t the accolades anyone would want referenced among their list of accomplishments.

After a 30-17 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 11, the Niners have compiled nine straight losses, tying a record set by the 1978 team then went on to finish 2-14 and 4th in the NFC West.

By the time it’s all said and done, this year’s Niners team could compile the worst run defense in history. San Francisco allowed the Patriots to rack up 171 rushing yards and are still on pace to give up 500 points and 3,000 yards on the ground this season.

 

San Francisco Examiner:
Eddie D drowned out by Pats fans during pregame at Levi’s Stadium (VIDEO)

The San Francisco 49ers are honoring former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. during the team’s game against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

DeBartolo was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the summer and was answering questions from the media pregame.

Then, Tom Brady took the field and the hordes of Pats fans in the crowd shouted their appreciation for the man they call Tommy Terrific.

“That must be Tom Brady,” DeBartolo said before laughing.

 

CSN Bay Area:
Instant Replay: 49ers Fall To Pats, Drop Franchise Tying Ninth In A Row

On Sunday, the 49ers received a lesson from the organization that most closely resembles what DeBartolo accomplished in the 1980s and ‘90s with Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana.

Bill Belichick’s AFC East-leading Patriots improved to 8-2 on the season, while the 49ers drop to 1-9 after opening the season with a 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Tom Brady was not his usual sharp self, perhaps due to the weather conditions, but he managed to throw four touchdown passes to lead New England to the victory.

Brady, a 17th-year professional, made his first start against the 49ers in the Bay Area. Brady grew up a fan of the 49ers and was at the NFC Championship game in January 1982 that produced Dwight Clark’s catch that propelled the 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance. Brady was 4 years old.

Brady completed 24 of 40 attempts for 280 yards with four TDs and no interceptions. His passer rating was 114.6.

 

The Mercury News:
49ers pregame: Torrey Smith’s 89-game streak ends; Rob Gronkowski out for Patriots
Rain is expected for the Patriots first visit to Levi’s Stadium

Smith sustained a shoulder injury last Sunday at Arizona and did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday. He was listed as questionable after being limited in Thursday and Friday practices.

Smith, in his third season with the 49ers, has not missed a game previously in his six-year career. The only active wide receiver with a longer streak of consecutive games played is the Atlanta Falcons Eric Weems, who is more of a return specialist.

 

The Sacramento Bee:
Report card: 49ers flunk second half

Offense: Colin Kaepernick made several nice touch passes, which haven’t exactly been his forte, including two exceptional throws to tight end Vance McDonald. But he and the 49ers deteriorated in the second half, when they punted five times and, as has been the case all season, couldn’t maintain momentum in the third quarter. Grade: C-

Defense: Unlike other running backs this year, 250-pound LeGarrette Blount didn’t trample the 49ers, but he finished with 124 yards. The real issue was Tom Brady, who was good on third downs and excellent in the red zone, where he threw three touchdown passes. After forcing four turnovers last week against Arizona, the 49ers had none against New England. Grade: C-

 

Niners Nation:
Jimmie Ward suffers concussion, Eric Reid suffers reported torn biceps

The San Francisco 49ers lost badly to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but more importantly for now, they have a pair of notable injuries to deal with this week. Cornerback Jimmie Ward suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter, and free safety Eric Reid suffered a right arm injury that Matt Barrows tweeted, “could be serious.”

Ward left the game with a head injury, and is now formally in the NFL’s concussion protocol. The 49ers travel to face the Miami Dolphins in Week 12, and so Ward has until the end of the week to clear through the protocol if he is to play in that game.

 

Patriots Win Unsatisfying, But Show Steps in Improvement

Steve Balestrieri
at 8:24 am ET

The Patriots beat the San Francisco 49ers 30-17 on Sunday in Santa Clara, California and moved to 8-2 on the season. That’s the most important thing to take away from beating the 1-9 struggling Niners and moving on to the Jets. While it wasn’t always pretty, there were some steps in the right direction and positives to build upon for the team.

There will be plenty of film both good and bad for Bill Belichick to use as a teaching tool this week. There were positives and negatives for each unit of the team and while one should assess the quality of the opponent, the bottom line is they did what they needed to do and move on with home field advantage of the AFC intact.

A second look at the game in our film review is upcoming on Monday, but here are some notes and observations from the game.

Brady Puts Up Big Numbers: Tom Brady put the team on his back [again], and finished 24 of 40 for 280 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions for a passer rating of 114.6, which points to a particularly terrific day. And there were some great plays by #12, his ability to slide in the pocket is better than ever and his move to slide and deliver the ball to Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone for an early fourth quarter score was among the best of the day. He also made fantastic deliveries to Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell for touchdown throws in his homecoming to the SF Bay area.

But his overreliance on Edelman was at times troubling. Edelman, also making his return to the Bay area was targeted 17 times on Sunday, many of the deep ball variety. He did haul in 8 passes for 77 yards and the first score of the game. But it was clear that he missed Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan on those deep routes.

49ers Tried Taking Bennett Away: Without the benefit of the All-22 film, at first glance, it looked like Chip Kelly’s game plan for the Pats sans Gronk was to take away the middle of the field and take away Martellus Bennett. It will be worth a second look tomorrow but SF’s linebackers were seemingly dropping into those areas where the Patriots like to target the tight ends and forcing them to beat them elsewhere.

Bennett was targeted only twice and had just one catch for 14 yards. But the Patriots offense still has plenty of weapons even missing Gronkowski and Hogan and they had more than enough weapons to beat the struggling Niners.

With Bennett not getting a ton of looks, rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell had his best day as a pro today. He had four catches for 98 yards including a nice 56-yard catch and run for a touchdown. He’s had modest numbers on the season, but with a roster deep with targets, it is good to see that he’s picking up the offense very well and seems to have integrated himself in it with the trust of Brady.

The defense has Both Good and Bad Moments: Overall, the defense gets passing grades on Sunday. They held the 49ers to just 10 points until a garbage time touchdown drive in the final few minutes when the Patriots were playing a lot of backups. That’s ultimately what they’re judged on and there, they did their job.

There was plenty of shuffling of players as they tried to find combinations that work. One area that improved on Sunday, the pass rush. Matt Patricia got a little creative this week and he got things off to a good start. Pat Chung was playing an in-the-box Big Nickel LB role and blitzed on consecutive plays, the second where he sacked Colin Kaepernick. Overall the Patriots got five first-half sacks which is a very encouraging sign. They narrowly missed on a few others and the creativity definitely helped. Five different players had sacks including Kyle Van Noy who appeared in his first game.

They also gave up two long drives totaling ten points prior to the garbage time drive. And simply put, the Patriots can’t afford to lose Dont’a Hightower. He was rested for a spell and the defense was gashed. Watching Kaepernick and a below average offense move down the field at ease on those two drives was troubling as well.

Covering running backs out of the backfield is going to be a big area of concern moving forward. The Niners completed big passes to their backs, granted the first against Hightower was the result of a bunch formation and the big LB got caught in the wash. But Elandon Roberts is a detriment in coverage right now. He was targeted both against running backs and tight ends and opponents will continue to test him when he’s on the field. Against the Jets next week and Matt Forte, it is something to keep in mind.

The defense also had their moments in the second half, basically limiting the Niners to just about 70 yards of offense until that final drive. At one point Kaepernick was 0-10 passing in the second half.

Logan Ryan Bounces Back: Ryan, who is a lightning rod for criticism had a really solid day. The Patriots had Malcolm Butler and Eric Rowe outside at corner and played Ryan mainly in the slot against the Niners’ Jeremy Kerley.

While no one is going to compare Kerley with Antonio Brown, he is the 49ers leading receiver and had 40 catches entering the game. He still has 40, as Ryan held him to zero catches on just two targets for the afternoon.

Ryan did a good job of sticking with Kerley all day long and took away Kaepernick’s biggest target. Those are the things that they can build off in the upcoming weeks.

LaGarrette Blount’s Big Day: The Niners made a concerted effort to stop the Patriots running game today and at times were able to hold them to minimal gains, but the running game got untracked and Blount put up big numbers.

Blount carried 19 times for 124 yards and a stellar 6.5-yard average on the day. He also had a nice 35-yard touchdown run get wiped off the books due to a penalty. While he didn’t make it into the end zone this week, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The Patriots killed off the clock with a good, physical final drive where Blount carried them down inside the five-yard line. He got two cracks at the end zone before Belichick had Brady take a knee at the end of the game. It was a nice day for the Patriots big man as not only he but the team as well, they ran for 177 yards as a team today.

Dion Lewis Returns: There was some optimism with the news that the Patriots running back would make his 2016 debut after tearing his ACL a year ago. And Lewis was put right into the mix with Brady throwing him the ball on his first snap.

Lewis seems to have his trademark elusiveness intact and while obviously a bit rusty, looked good in his first game action in a year. He carried five times for 23 yards and added three catches for 26 more.

The Patriots experimented with a backfield of both he and James White on some passing downs and it will be interesting to see more of it. The two backs combined for nine catches for 89 yards.

Slater Injury Compounds Bad Day for STs: The Patriots reported that Matthew Slater was injured during Sunday’s game and was in a walking boot and on crutches after the game. Losing arguably the best STs player in the league is a big blow to the unit and will bear watching as the schedule unfolds.

Sunday’s rainy, sloppy weather was a perfect metaphor for the Pats plays on Special Teams in Santa Clara. Stephen Gostkowski pushed his first extra point to the right. Ryan Allen had a couple bad punts early in the game. Danny Amendola had a stellar 30-yard return on a punt return so there was some good to go with it. The coverage units looked solid as well.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Five Patriots Players to Watch Against the 49ers

Steve Balestrieri
November 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm ET

Good time to get back on track this week

The Patriots head out to the West Coast after a close loss last week to the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. They’ll be looking to get back on the winning track and keep their lead in the AFC with a win on Sunday versus the 49ers.

The Niners are 1-8 and have dropped eight games in a row. They’re looking to get off the shneid and Chip Kelly’s team will use the game a year ago when he coached the Eagles and they came into Foxboro and beat the Patriots as their motivation.

For the Patriots, they will look to continue their offensive hot streak since Tom Brady has returned. With Dion Lewis now activated, this Sunday we may get our first look at the talented and elusive running back. This week will also be a chance for the defense to get untracked. After they’re worst performance of the season last week, this will be a big opportunity to turn things around in a positive way.

Here are our five players from a Patriots perspective to watch on Sunday:

RB LaGarrette Blount: The Patriots big man in the backfield is having a very solid season and has 678 yards rushing in the team’s first nine games. He also leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns.

This week he’s facing the worst statistical rushing defense in San Francisco’s. The Niners defense is allowing more than 180 yards per game and seven opponents have had 100+ yard rushing days against them.

It would be a shock if Blount doesn’t get 20 or more carries in this week’s contest. Until the 49ers can show that they can stop the run, I’d feed him the ball and let him pound the rock as it will open up a lot of things for the rest of the offense.

QB Tom Brady: And the person who would benefit the most from the running game getting off to a great start? Tom Brady. The game plan this week has to have Blount pounding the ball down low and waiting for the Niners’ linebackers and safeties to start cheating up to the line of scrimmage to help in run support and using play action.

Brady is the master at play action and this scenario could set him up to have a big day throwing the football. He too must remember the game a year ago against Chip Kelly’s Eagles, where he didn’t have a great game. Nothing like a big win to erase the bad memories from that one.

Brady should be able to find plenty of room to attack the 49ers secondary with the plethora of weapons he has at his disposal. He’s also playing at home for the first time in his NFL career and will have a lot of friends and family in attendance. That alone should prompt him to be spot on with his preparation and his performance this week. A motivated Brady fresh off a tough loss is an even better indicator of good things for the Patriots offense this week.

LB Elandon Roberts: For better or worse, he’s going to be under the microscope for the rest of the season because he’s now the man in the middle since the Jamie Collins trade. He and Dont’a Hightower will be tasked with rebounding this week after a rough outing against Seattle.

The 49ers have a good running game with Carlos Hyde, DuJuan Harris, and Colin Kaepernick scrambling out of the backfield. The Patriots first task on defense will be to make the SF offense one-dimensional and take away the running game. That area will be compounded by having the front seven keep Kaepernick in the pocket. He’s not the most accurate thrower but has a very strong arm. The defense will want to pressure him into trying to fit the ball in tight spaces.

Roberts had a tough game in both run defense and trying to defend RB C.J. Prosise, a converted wide receiver out of the backfield last week. Truth be told, Collins wouldn’t have done any better at trying to cover him. But this being Boston, the coverage capabilities of Collins will now take on the status of a myth. The best way for the rookie Roberts to quiet the critics is to play solid and within himself. Here is a big chance.

TE Martellus Bennett: Bennett had a big game a week ago with seven catches for 102 yards and without Rob Gronkowski this week, he’ll be tasked with being a much bigger part of the offense. Bennett’s numbers would have been even higher a week ago had Tom Brady not missed him on a play down the seam.

On the play that Gronkowski was injured, Brady passed to him down the seam, with Kam Chancellor in coverage and fellow safety Earl Thomas moving up in support. What Brady missed was Bennett streaking down the opposite seam on the left, all alone.

But this week against the Niners, Bennett will once again play a key, dual role. He’s been a fantastic blocker in the Patriots running game and with the focus this week on running the ball, he’ll be a key contributor, hooking up with the outside linebackers and attempting to get Blount to the second level.

But in the passing game, he’ll be the sole target for Brady attacking the seams. We won’t see the two tight end set this week, as they’ll opt for more three wide receivers with Gronkowski out. So Brady’s focus will be on Bennett, who has proven to be up to the task earlier this season.

Safety Pat Chung: The Patriots veteran safety also had a tough game a week ago. Several of the communication breakdowns last week against Seattle involved Chung and he’ll be looking to get back on track. He’ll be a key component in trying to stop one of the 49ers most productive weapons.

Tight end Vance McDonald has been very productive averaging 18.4 yards per reception with three touchdowns this season. He and fellow tight end Garrett Celek, promise to be targeted often on Sunday by the Niners’ offense.

Chung will match up with them underneath and be the first line of defense in slowing down the tight ends in this week’s contest. He’ll also provide the in-the-box run support the Patriots will need to slow down the Niners running game. After a week where so many things went wrong for the defense, it is the veterans who must turn things around and show the leadership for the younger players to follow. This is a good opportunity for Chung to do just that.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll have up-to-the-minute breaking news as well as post-game analysis.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – 49ers Keys, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots attempt to get back on the winning track as they travel out to the Bay Area of California and take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 p.m. ET and will be the Patriots first visit to Levi Stadium which only opened in 2014. This will also mark the first visit to SF for QB Tom Brady who grew up in the area and was a Niners fan.

This week’s game will be televised by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. Greg Gumble will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Jamie Erdahl will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (7-2) came off their bye week and dropped a tough but entertaining contest with the Seattle Seahawks 31-24 on SNF. The Pats had troubles with their defense and stopping Russell Wilson who passed for three touchdowns. LeGarrette Blount ran for three scores for the Pats.

The 49ers (1-8) lost to the Arizona Cardinals 23-20 on a last-minute field goal. Although QB Colin Kaepernick tied the score with a TD run in the final two minutes, the Niners couldn’t stop the Cards and dropped their eighth game in a row.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and 49ers meet for the 13th time on Sunday. The Niners hold an 8-4 advantage all-time against the Patriots including a 4-1 record at home. Three of those games were held at the venerable Candlestick Park and one held at Stanford.  The Patriots have won three of the last four meetings between

The last time these two teams met was in a Sunday Night Football matchup in a cold, wet, rainy Foxboro. Colin Kaepernick threw for four touchdowns and the Niners prevailed 41-34.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the 49ers

Steve Balestrieri
November 15, 2016 at 11:49 am ET

Niners Trying to Find a Spark With Chip Kelly

The Patriots head out to the West Coast after an entertaining but disappointing loss to the Seahawks on Sunday night. They’ll be taking on Chip Kelly, Colin Kaepernick, and the San Francisco 49ers. This will be the first time in his 17-year career that Tom Brady will play in front of his hometown, where he watched as a fan of Joe Montana.

The Patriots (7-2), played just well enough to lose to the Seahawks 31-24. They were sloppy with the football and turned over the ball twice and nearly had two more. The defense played soft and was picked apart by Russell Wilson. But they still nearly pulled even when they had four shots at a tying score in the final minute of the game before being stopped.

The still have a two-game lead in the division over the Dolphins who are 5-4 and are coming together and have won four in a row. The Pats are now tied for the best record in the AFC with KC and Oakland but hold the tiebreaker for the time being.

The Niners (1-8) lost on a last-minute field goal to the Arizona Cardinals 23-20. Colin Kaepernick had tied the score at 20 with a scramble and a four-yard touchdown run with just under two minutes to go. The Niners have now dropped eight straight.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the 49ers:

Kaepernick is Catching on to Chip Kelly’s System: The QB for at least the near future seems to be Colin Kaepernick for San Francisco. And after a rocky start in his first two games, he’s gaining confidence and a sense of comfort in Chip Kelly’s system.

In his last two games, he’s completed 41 of 69 passes for 608 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. And he can still scramble, in those last two games Kaepernick has run 15 times for 78 yards.

The past two weeks, unlike his nightmarish season a year ago, Kaepernick slid in the pocket away from pressure when he needed to, kept his eyes downfield and hit his targets. He’s always had a cannon for an arm and made strong, decisive, and above all, accurate throws to keep the chains moving.

And yes, he is another scrambling QB that type that typically gives the Patriots and Bill Belichick fits. With two minutes to go, Kaepernick scrambled on a read option play while facing a 3rd and 2 and rolled into the end zone for the tying score.

Before Patriots fans, pooh-pooh the idea that he can operate against them, one should recall the cold, wet December night in Gillette in 2012. Kaepernick and the Niners put up 41 points on the Patriots in a 41-34 win. He completed 14-25 for 221 yards and four touchdowns of 24, 27, 34 and 38 yards with one pick against the Patriots defense that night. He also scrambled seven times for 28 yards.

Run Defense is Horrible: The Niners have statistically the worst run defense in the NFL. Opponents have run the ball 317 times already against them for 1624 yards, good for a 5.1-yard average. The Niners are allowing a whopping 180.4 yards per game.

This may be good news for LeGarrette Blount and James White on Sunday as the Patriots will look to re-ignite their running game and keep the balance that they’ve enjoyed thus far this season.

But last week on the road against Arizona, there was also room for some confidence moving forward. The 49ers had allowed seven 100-yard rushers during the first eight weeks of the season. Facing the dangerous David Johnson who had gashed them for 157 yards in the first meeting, San Francisco held him to just 55 yards on 19 carries. And they held Arizona to just 80 yards rushing total, a full 100-yards off their season average. Just something to consider.

Kelly Has Eye to the Future: The Niners are a long way off from being a competitor for a playoff berth but with two good draft picks on the defense in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, things are trending in the right direction. They have a way to go, but with the draft in the spring and perhaps the QB position being solidified behind an already good running game [more to that below], the Niners may be trending upward.

After losing their previous seven games by an average of more than 17 points, San Francisco played a tough football game and fought to the end, before just barely bowing by three to the Cardinals. While there are no “moral victories”, the team showed that they haven’t quit and are still putting in the effort for Kelly.

They’d love nothing better than to get off the schnide against the Patriots, in a game, that no one will be expecting them to win. Expect them to play hard in this one as they’ll look for a signature win on Sunday.

Niners Have a Good Running Game: San Francisco had done a very solid job of running the football in 2016. Carlos Hyde leads a group that also consists of Mike Davis, Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, and QB Colin Kaepernick.

They are averaging 119.7 yards per game which is good for 7th in the NFL this season. Obviously, having Kaepernick back in the pocket helps the overall offense as teams must respect his ability to scramble and keep the chains moving.

Hyde is the team’s leading rusher with 443 yards and six touchdowns on 122 carries. He was just coming off a shoulder injury last week in Arizona and wasn’t his normal self, being held to just 14 yards on 13 attempts. If they want to pull an upset on the Patriots this Sunday, they’ll have to get their running game going and keep the Patriots defense closer to the box.

Phil Dawson About to Join Select Group: San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson is about to join rare company. He currently has made 399 field goals in his very solid if underrated career and his next, his 400th will mark him as only the ninth player in NFL history to make 400 or more.

Despite playing most of his career in the football equivalent of Siberia in Cleveland, he’s been remarkably steady and has a higher field goal percentage than any of the eight players that are ahead of him.

Dawson has made 11 of his 12-field goal tries in 2016. His only miss was a 53-yarder in Seattle in Week 3. His field goal accuracy in his career is a stellar 84.6 percent which is better than Adam Vinatieri. He’s made all 18 extra points. At the age of 41, he’s having one of the best years of his 14-year career despite the lack of chances. By comparison, the Philadelphia Eagles kickers have attempted 27 field goals this season.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.