San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s post-game rant Sunday night after the NFC Championship Game was met with racial slurs and hate-speech on Twitter.
Sherman tipped away a pass intended for rival 49er Michael Crabtree in the end zone as the Seahawks clenched the game 23-17.
“I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get,” Sherman screamed at Fox’s Erin Andrews. “Don’t you ever talk about me!”
At a postgame conference, Sherman continued to call Crabtree “mediocre” and added that “A-hole faces who write on Twitter and Facebook” were his inspiration.
“We appreciate the motivation,” Sherman said. “You helped us win.”
“Well Sherman went straight n--ger on erin Andrews #sherman #class,” tweeted @Tull1210.
“Richard Sherman just proved you can take the n--ger out of the hood but you can’t take n--ger out of the n—ge #SFvsSEA #Seahawks,” tweeted Steve Fleishman.
“Sherman releasing his inner n—ger,” wrote @texasguyanon.
“I can’t wait till manning and the rest of the broncos light Richard Sherman up# shut up you dumb n—ger,” tweeted Jarret Galvin.
After midnight on Monday Sherman defended his statements on Twitter writing, “A lion doesn't concern himself with the opinions of a sheep.”
The NFC Championship Game will act as the rubber match between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers after the two teams split their two regular season meetings as NFC West rivals. They were the two best teams in the NFC for much of the season, and it’s only right that we see them meet again with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Let’s take a closer look:
HOW DID THEY GET HERE?
These two teams finished with the two best records in the NFC, with Carolina tying San Francisco’s mark of 12-4. Of course, only one of these teams could win the NFC West, and that was Seattle, who has only had to play one playoff game to this point, holding on at home to beat New Orleans last week. Meanwhile, the 49ers have made it to the championship game the hard way, by winning two road games against division champions Green Bay and Carolina, doing so in impressive fashion, especially with their impressive 2nd half against the Panthers last week.
SAN FRANCISCO OFFENSE VS. SEATTLE DEFENSE
Last week, the 49ers scored points in every quarter and moved the ball against the Carolina defense better than nearly every other team the Panthers had played all season. San Francisco is clicking offensively behind Colin Kaepernick and the receiving trio of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis. Any of the three is capable of having a big game in any given week, as Crabtree was the star in the wildcard game against Green Bay, while Boldin was unstoppable last week against the Panthers. This week, they’ll be going up against a Seattle secondary that has three Pro Bowlers, creating an intriguing matchup between the strengths of both teams. Kaepernick will have to be sharp throwing the ball, because the Seahawks are great at creating turnovers, but if he can be accurate with his throws, it will be tough for Seattle to keep all three receivers under wraps for the entire game. The X-factor in the matchup is Kaepernick and Frank Gore running the ball. Seattle has one of the best rush defenses in the league, but even they’re able to contain Gore, preventing Kaepernick from getting on the edge and making plays with his legs is another story. If Kaepernick can be effective with both his arm and his legs, the Seattle defense will face their toughest opponent of the season, but if they can force Kaepernick to be one-dimensional they’ll be in good shape at home, as their defense has been exceptional for much of the season.
SEATTLE OFFENSE VS. SAN FRANCISCO DEFENSE
The Seattle offense has been quite underwhelming over the past month, as they are a far cry from the form they had earlier in the season. Russell Wilson has thrown for more than 200 yards just once in the past five games, in part due to a lackluster set of receivers, as Percy Harvin has not become a factor after missing most of the season with an injury. Unless something changes against one of the best defensive teams in the NFL this week, the Seahawks will have to rely on running back Marshawn Lynch to carry the offense. Lynch has been great for much of the season, including last week against the Saints, but he was just a shade above average in two games against the 49ers during the regular season, and he’ll have to be much better than that to carry the Seahawks to victory on Sunday. Even for a physical and powerful back like Lynch, San Francisco’s linebackers pose a tough matchup and could be tough to run against. If Lynch can have some success, it should free up Wilson to make some plays and move the ball, but if the Seahawks can’t rely on their running game, they don’t have the receivers necessary to move the ball consistently and create big plays against such a talented defense.
The Seahawks have been sensational at home this season, but the Arizona Cardinals proved in week 16 that Seattle is not unbeatable at home. The Seahawks may have been the best team in the NFC during the regular season, but they’re not playing their best football of the season right now, especially on offense, while San Francisco keeps getting better each week. The 49ers have scored 23 points each of the last three weeks, and if they can reach that mark again, the Seahawks don’t have the playmakers on offense to top it. San Francisco 23, Seattle 16.
The final game of NFL wildcard weekend figures to be a good one. The 49ers and Packers met back in week 1 and in the divisional round of the playoffs last year, with San Francisco winning both games. These two teams should know each other pretty well, so it should be interesting. Let’s take a closer look:
HOW THYEY GOT HERE?
The Packers persevered over an eight-week period without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, enduring a five-game winless streak during that time, and thanks to a complete collapse by the Lions, Green Bay was in position to win the NFC North in week 17, when Rodgers returned and led the Packers to victory over the Bears to put them in the postseason. Things weren’t quite as complicated for the 49ers, who won their final six games and clinched a playoff birth in week 16. However, with Seattle winning the NFC West, San Francisco had to settle for a wildcard spot, despite winning 12 games this season.
SAN FRANCISCO OFFENSE VS. GREEN BAY DEFENSE
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has had an uneven season and hasn’t always been a game changer with his arm, but he finished the regular season strong with 10 touchdowns and one interception over the final six games. The Green Bay defense has had their fair share of problems this season, especially over the last three weeks, and if that continues it may put Kaepernick in position to make plays with his arm, especially with the trio of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis in place. Meanwhile, the 49ers know that they have a good rushing attack behind Frank Gore, with Kaepernick also being a threat to take off and make plays with his legs. The goal for the Packers on defense will be to stop the run as best they can and force Kaepernick to beat them with his arm, which will be their best chance to keep the game as low scoring as possible and keep the pressure off Rodgers and their offense as much as possible, although based on how Kaepernick has played in recent weeks, that doesn’t guarantee success for the Green Bay defense, as Kaepernick is capable of beating the Packers through the air, throwing for over 400 yards against them in week 1.
GREEN BAY OFFENSE VS. SAN FRANCISCO DEFENSE
Not only is Rodgers back, but so is Randall Cobb, and that combination came up big for the Packers in crunch time last week, with both of Cobb’s receptions going for touchdowns, and those two will have to come up big for Green Bay again this week. Rodgers did show some signs of rust, but he should be a little sharper in his second week back, and it should help that he has a nice collection of receivers, including Cobb, the reliable Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, and emerging tight end Andrew Quarless. That group should be enough for a quarterback like Rodgers, although if the Packers need to rely on their running game, they can do so with potential rookie of the year Eddie Lacy, as well as James Starks, who had a big game against the Bears last week. Of course, things won’t come as easy against the San Francisco defense as they did last week against the Chicago defense. The Packers may have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, but they’ll be going up against one of the top rush defenses in the league, and whichever team gets the better of that matchup will have a distinct advantage, especially if the weather conditions make it difficult to throw the ball. As good as Rodgers can be, it will be tough for him if the Packers are forced to become one-dimensional on offense against a quality defense, so it’s imperative that the Packers run the ball effectively and maintain balance on offense, especially if the Green Bay defense struggles and the game turns into a shootout in the second half.
It’s inevitable that the cold temperatures at Lambeau Field will become a factor, although it may end up helping the 49ers more than the Packers, as the strength of the 49ers is their defense, which should be largely unaffected by the weather. The Packers have made a great run to the playoffs, but the 49ers are a more balanced team and better suited for the postseason. It’ll be tough for both teams to throw the ball, and while Rodgers will have some success in the passing game, San Francisco has a better front-7 defensively, as well as a quarterback that can help move the ball on the ground, and those two areas will ultimately give the 49ers the edge. San Francisco 23, Green Bay 14.
An Arizona Cardinals player suffered an unusually grisly injury on Sunday when he was hurt while tackling a New Orleans Saints player during a punt return. Rashad Johnson lost the tip of his middle finger when his digit was crushed and partially severed. The fourth-year safety was hurt during his team's 31-7 loss to the Saints.
The Arizona Republic's Kent Somers had the following tweet about the gruesome injury: “Johnson's injury happened on a punt return, tackling sproles. Not sure what happened, might have smashed in ground. #AZCardinals.”
He had a few more tweets about the nasty situation:
“S rashad Johnson lost top of right middle finger Sunday. Took glove off and finger was still in,” he tweeted. “Johnson had surgery yesterday. Bone was exposed so must watch for infection… Drs shaved bone on Johnson's finger and repaired. Lost about down to first knuckle.”
Although they are very uncommon, injuries like this have happened in the past, WJLA reported. Hall of Fame player Ronnie Lott famously had a portion of his pinky finger amputated after it was crushed during a game while he was playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s unknown when Johnson will be able to take the field again.
Week 1 of the NFL season can get pretty sloppy for both teams and referees, as both players and officials get back into the swing of things with limited preparation. However, one referee made a mistake so egregious, the league downgraded him, putting his chances of officiating playoff games in jeopardy, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter
Bill Leavy gave the San Francisco 49ers two third downs in a scoring drive that helped them beat the Green Bay Packers after a scuffle following the end of the play was mishandled.
After a third-and-6 play at the Green Bay 10-yard line in the second quarter, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was hit out of bounds by Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. Matthews was hit with personal foul penalty, but so was 49ers tackle Joe Staley for unsportsmanlike conduct in a scuffle after the play was already dead. However Stanley shouldn’t have received a personal foul, since both penalties came after the play ended with Kaepernick stepping out of bounds without gaining a first down, making them dead ball penalties.
The league said Sunday the penalties were dead-ball fouls and the ball should have been spotted at the Packers' 6, making it fourth-and-2. However, officials gave the 49ers another third-and-6 play, which became a 10-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to wide receiver Anquan Boldin to take a 14-7 lead with just under nine minuets to play in the first half.
"The down should have counted," Leavy said after the game. "The penalties were both dead ball, and they should have offset at the spot where the runner went out of bounds. And it would have been fourth down."
The rule in question states, "Dead ball fouls by both teams are offset at the succeeding spot, and the down counts, and any disqualified player or players must be removed ..."
The San Francisco 49ers victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday was a little less sweet because of something that happened to one of the team’s fans. Shortly after kickoff on Sunday afternoon, a 49ers fan fell to his death from an elevated pedestrian walkway at Candlestick Park.
Police spokesman Gordon Shyy says off-duty medics and police officers gave the man first aid until an ambulance arrived but their efforts were unsuccessful. Witnesses to the accident said that the man appeared to be intoxicated before his fall.
49ers spokesman Bob Lange released a statement:
“We would like to express our deepest condolences to the family during this difficult time,” he said.
It’s unclear how far the man fell, The Inquisitr reported.
Elsewhere in the NFL, two fans that were at the Colts/Raiders game in Indianapolis were injured when a barrier that they were leaning against collapsed. After the barrier gave way, the fans tumbled down onto the walkway that the players use to get to the locker room.
Colts spokesman Avis Roper said there was no immediate word on the severity of the fan’s injuries.
San Francisco 49ers guard Joe Looney almost ended Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams’ season with a low block in a meaningless preseason game, but he said he never meant to hurt him.
Williams suffered a hyperextended knee, bone bruise and postular capsule strain Sunday night when Looney dropped down in front of him and collided with his knee in what several current and former NFL players are calling a dirty block. Toomey said Monday he meant no harm.
"I tried to find him after the game to apologize, to let him know I'm not that kind of player who's trying to hurt guys and maliciously take violent hits at people," Looney said Monday, according to CSNBayArea.com. "I've been injured myself. I know what it's like."
The NFL reviewed the play and deemed it legal after the Vikings registered a complaint and argued Looney should be disciplined for the block, which did not cause any ligament damage for Williams. Williams is questionable for the Vikings’ regular season opener Sept. 8 against the Detroit Lions.
While Looney will not be punished, the hit may lead to rule changes regarding low blocks. According to USA Today, “A spokesman indicated to Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the NFL's competition committee will look at the rules involving similar blocks next offseason. The play was not considered a peel-back block because Looney was moving toward his own goal line.”
Even so, Williams’ teammates are still furious that the play happened and will go unpunished.
"My problem with this play is its intent," Jared Allen, Vikings defensive end, told USA Today Tuesday. "He ducked down to hit him in the knee. It was intent to hit him in the knee, and if the league can't see that, they can fine me for this, because it's absurd."
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway told ESPN Monday, "It's really quite ridiculous. It's something we talked about in our meetings with the refs before the preseason started. It's just unnecessary. [Williams] wasn't going to make the play. He wasn't going to be part of the play. I understand that guy [Looney]'s trying to earn a job, as well, but he could have easily just hit him high.”
When Vernon Davis’ name is brought up in conversation, one of the first things you’re bound to hear is how unfair it is for defensive backs to draw his assignment. Followed shortly thereafter by he’s miscast as a tight end.
Both assertions are for the most part true. A fact that circumstance has forced into the head of Jim Harbaugh following the possibly season ending injury to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Apparently.
For as long as Davis has been with the 49ers he’s been one of, if not, their best option in the passing game. He was first in receiving yards on the club twice from 2009-10 and has finished second in the two years since. That being said, there’s more than a few reasons to be optimistic about how well Davis’ switch to wide receiver will turn out.
Physically, Davis has all the tools to succeed. Of all the tight ends and wide receivers in his draft class of 2006 only three finished with a better 40 yard dash time than Davis’ 4.38. He also has the prototypical height at 6’3, but would be best served by shedding some pounds off his 254 lb. frame.
While Davis’ size and ability to use it as a means of creating separation from defenders make him a tantalizing prospect at receiver, he doesn’t have it all physically. For starters, he’s not incredibly agile and fluid in his movements; at least by wideout standards. This is evidenced by his seven second three cone drill time in his draft year, which was good enough for 16th among receivers and tight ends. Of course, that was seven years ago, but it’s all we have in the way of evaluating his raw physical abilities.
No matter what my, or anyone else’s, opinion of the positional switch is matters not. It’s all speculation at this point, really. That being said, stats and combine info can paint a good picture as to why the switch isn’t all that unreasonable and set a barometer for where expectations should be.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
So much for the possibility of this upcoming season being Justin Smith's last with the San Francisco 49ers.
Little over a week after he acknowledged the possibility, and what in all reality seemed like a near-certainty, of his not returning to the 49ers next season, Smith has signed a two year contract extension. This extension ensures that Smith will now be a member of the 49ers going into 2015.
According to this tweet from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, he even negotiated the deal himself.
Among #49ers DL Justin Smith's talents: Taking on blockers, moving mountainous DLs… negotiating his own deal, which he did.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 19, 2013
While the financial details of this contract have yet to be released, this signing by the 49ers is huge show of faith in the veteran defensive tackle who is coming off of a partially torn triceps.
It is often hard to equate Smith’s value to the 49ers based on his own statistics, but the fact that Aldon Smith didn’t register a single sack in his absence really did say a lot last season. There aren’t many, if any, in the league as good at tying up linemen as Justin Smith. It makes Aldon Smith’s job a heck of a lot easier.
Smith has acknowledged that this contract will probably be the last of his career. Me, I’m not buying it.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
Over the weekend, we were reminded how much the Oakland Raiders coveted quarterback Colin Kaepernick prior to the 2011 NFL Draft and how they were planning on taking him in the second round, only to see the San Francisco 49ers trade up and draft Kaepernick before the Raiders had a chance to. Just for fun, why don’t we try to imagine what would have happened if the 49ers hadn’t been able to trade up the way they did, allowing Oakland to draft Kaepernick instead of San Francisco.
Without Kaepernick, San Francisco’s season in 2011 would have unfolded the exact same way, with them losing in the divisional round of the playoffs, but the 2012 season would have been very different. The 49ers still get out to a 6-2 start, but when Alex Smith gets knocked out with a concussion in week 10 they lose to the Rams to fall to 6-3 and don’t have a reliable back up to step in while Smith is out. On the back of their defense, the 49ers beat Chicago the next week without Smith, but lose road games to New Orleans and St. Louis the next two weeks, even with Smith back in the lineup, putting them at 7-5 heading down the stretch.
Smith is fully recovered from his concussion moving towards the end of the season, as San Francisco wins home games against Miami and Arizona, while losing on the road to New England and Seattle. The 49ers finish 9-7, watching the Seahawks take the division while they miss out on a wildcard spot. Despite missing the playoffs, the 49ers are satisfied with Smith’s performance, especially the 6-2 start prior to his concussion, and not wanting to get involved with the shuffle of veteran quarterbacks around the league, they choose to retain Smith. But with a multitude of draft picks, San Francisco uses one of them on a young quarterback to groom, taking Ryan Nassib of Syracuse at the end of the third round. Smith is the starter heading into the 2013 season, as San Francisco expects to compete for a wildcard spot, as the NFC West will be tough to win with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks being the obvious favorite. However, many expect Nassib to overtake Smith by the end of the season, possibly earlier if San Francisco starts to fall out of contention, which could bring about a quarterback controversy for Jim Harbaugh to deal with.
With Kaepernick, the last two seasons are quite different for the Raiders. Even with Kaepernick in the fold, the Raiders start out with Jason Campbell under center in 2011 and they get out to a surprising 4-2 start. With Kaepernick on the roster, there’s no need for the Raiders to trade for Carson Palmer or pick up Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft, so when Campbell goes down with an injury, Oakland hands over the offense to their rookie quarterback. There are growing pains at first, as Oakland loses Kaepernick’s first three games, all within the division, and fall to 4-5. But Kaepernick quickly catchers on and leads the Raiders to three straight wins over Minnesota, Chicago, and Miami to put them in the thick of the playoff race at 7-5. After back-to-back losses against Green Bay and Detroit, Oakland beats Kansas City and San Diego the final two weeks of the season to win the AFC West at 9-7, keeping Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos out of the playoffs. Oakland loses to Pittsburgh in the wildcard round of the playoffs, but they clearly have their quarterback of the future in place moving forward.
In 2012, Oakland is overshadowed in the AFC West by the arrival of Peyton Manning, despite the promise that Kaepernick showed at the end of 2011. Midway through the 2012 season, the Raiders are 6-2 and riding a four-game winning streak. Despite the winning, he starts to grow frustrated with Oakland’s defense, who is unable to can’t stop anybody, which causes the team to lose three in a row. A home game against Cleveland snaps the Raiders out of their slump, as they win four of their final five games, including an upset of the Broncos. A 10-6 record isn’t enough to put Oakland in the playoffs, as they lose out on the final wildcard spot because of a head-to-head loss to the Bengals. Even though Oakland missed the playoffs, Kaepernick and head coach Hue Jackson lead one of the most promising teams in the NFL heading into the 2013 season, as some predict that they could challenge an aging Broncos team for the AFC West title.
Obviously, there’s no way to know for certain what would have happened if Kaepernick ended up in Oakland instead of San Francisco, especially because so many other things would have gone differently had that been the case. But it’s not farfetched to think that both the 49ers and Raiders would be in very different places right now had the 2011 draft unfolded just a little differently. But as it stands now, the two bay-area teams are worlds apart, and a big reason why is Kaepernick being drafted by San Francisco and not Oakland.