What was not necessarily expected, though, was cornerback Chris Cook joining Kilgore on the IR list after Cook injured a hamstring in the third quarter of the Niners’ 42-17 loss to the Broncos.
The 49ers did announce the re-signing of special-teams ace/safety Bubba Ventrone, which leaves the team with one open roster spot and reports still swirling that outside linebacker Aldon Smith's nine-game suspension could be reduced by a game or two. Smith has already missed seven games.
@fguz78: Health, time together and, well, cohesion. Injuries have wreaked havoc on the Niners' O-line and it's easy to see why the individual parts have not clicked. Think about it: Right tackle Anthony Davis, who started the first 64 games of his career, has played in only two thus far thanks to injury; right guard Alex Boone was slowed by his offseason holdout; left guard Mike Iupati has dealt with numerous injuries and missed the last game with a concussion; and now, center Daniel Kilgore is lost for the season with a broken left ankle. Only time can help, with healing and cohesion.
@PGutierrezESPN The Niners offensive line is clearly not as dominate as in years prior. What needs to happen to get their mojo back?— Frank (@fguz78) October 24, 2014
@TeejTaylor: Officially, no. But reports continue to surface that Aldon Smith's nine-game suspension could be reduced and he could return as soon as this week, even if general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh claim ignorance. No doubt they hope it's true. From a pure football standpoint, Smith would give the Niners pass rush a huge lift -- five of their 12 sacks came in one game, at the St. Louis Rams -- and he'd be fresh, something the rest of the 49ers' banged-up defense cannot claim with a straight face.
@PGutierrezESPN Any word on Aldon Smith?— Thomas Taylor (@TeejTaylor) October 24, 2014
@ScreamAt_Me: Intriguing question. On one hand, you have a proven vet in Ahmad Brooks, who is tied for the team lead with Justin Smith with three sacks and is coming off a career-high 8 1/2 sacks in 2013. On the other, you have the sky's-the-limit rookie in Aaron Lynch, who has one sack thus far but is taller, more athletic and, yes, much younger and inexpensive. For my money, give me the proven commodity ... but mix in the young gun to keep offenses honest.
@PGutierrezESPN who is a better pass rushing option opposite of Aldon Smith at this point , Ahmad Brooks or Aaron Lynch ?— Uncle Quan (@ScreamAt_Me) October 24, 2014
@Maximill15: Let's see ... vs. St. Louis Rams (W), at New Orleans Saints (L), at New York Giants (W), vs. Washington Redskins (W), vs. Seattle Seahawks (W), at Oakland Raiders (W), at Seahawks (L), vs. San Diego Chargers (W), vs. Arizona Cardinals (W). So that makes it a prediction of 7-2, to give the Niners an overall record of 11-5. Yes, the division is still within grasp, with the 5-1 Cardinals due to come back to Earth soon and the 3-3 Seahawks stumbling about with consecutive losses. Chew on this from the glass-is-half-empty corner: the Niners are three plays away from being 3-4 and both the Seahawks and Cardinals being 5-1 -- the Philadelphia Eagles unable to punch it in from 1 yard away, the Dallas Cowboys' Terrance Williams' unbelieveable sideline catch in Seattle, and the Rams' fake punt against the Seahawks.
@PGutierrezESPN what's your second half of season record prediction ?— Maximillian Krieg (@Maximill15) October 24, 2014
@giantsniners85: I like the way you think, though Percy Harvin was a divisive force in that Seahawks locker room and they realized last season they did not need him necesarrily to win a Lombardi Trophy. Of course, it would depend upon the haul the Niners could get for Michael Crabtree in a contract year, and just how desperate another team would be. More realistically, I think, is for Stevie Johnson to start swiping snaps from Crabtree.
@PGutierrezESPN What are the chances of a surprise Crabtree trade? (a la SEA dealing Harvin randomly in middle of season)— Eric (@giantsniners85) October 24, 2014
And I leave you with a few #ThrowbackThursday shots I took from #TBT's past ...
“I want them to enjoy their families, enjoy their children if they have them, play with their kids and come back mentally stronger, physically stronger,” Harbaugh said in the wake of last weekend’s 42-17 blowout loss at the Denver Broncos. “We resume next Monday.”
Truly, the bye could not have come at a better time for the Niners, who are 4-3 and in second place in the NFC West, behind the Arizona Cardinals (5-1) and ahead of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks (3-3).
At Denver, the 49ers were without All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who injured a toe six days earlier at the St. Louis Rams, cornerback Chris Culliver, who tweaked a hamstring in practice, rookie defensive back Jimmie Ward, who strained a quadriceps against the Rams, and left guard Mike Iupati, who had not passed the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Then the Niners lost cornerback Chris Cook to a hamstring injury against the Broncos and center Daniel Kilgore for the season with a broken left ankle.
Plus, tight end Vernon Davis does not appear to be fully healed after suffering knee, ankle and back injuries, cornerback Tramaine Brock was playing for the first time since the season opener on Sept. 7, when he sprained a toe at the Dallas Cowboys, and right tackle Anthony Davis was also playing in just his second game due to injury.
“I think it’s rough, as far as injuries this year,” Davis said. “It’s been tough for us, but we can’t blame it on the injuries. We still have to play. We have guys that can back certain guys up and we believe in them. We just have to take it one game at a time and put it all together.”
Besides, reinforcements are on the way in short order. Or, at least, they should be.
And in how much better shape would the 49ers be in with a healthy roster?
“That’s something we can’t worry about,” free safety Eric Reid said. “It’s a hypothetical situation that isn’t real right now. No matter what the situation is, we’ve got to go out there and play.”
Still, Aldon Smith’s nine-game suspension is reportedly under consideration to be shortened for good behavior, meaning he could return to bolster the linebacker corps before the Niners’ game at the New York Giants on Nov. 16.
NaVorro Bowman continues his rehab from last year’s left knee injury in the NFC title game, and the team has always targeted around the midway point for his return. Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, on the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list with his left biceps injury suffered in camp, is allowed to return after Week 8 at the earliest, though he has yet to practice.
Plus, running back Marcus Lattimore is expected to begin practicing after the bye.
Of course, tough roster decisions will have to be made once the injured are healthy enough to return to reinvigorate the team.
The schedule also figures to lend the Niners a helping hand after the bye as their first seven opponents -- Dallas, Chicago, Arizona, Philadelphia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Denver – have a combined record of 30-15 (.667) after the Broncos’ victory Thursday night against San Diego. None of their next seven opponents -- St. Louis, New Orleans, the New York Giants, Washington, Seattle, Oakland and Seattle again -- currently has a winning record and they are a cumulative 15-29 (.385), before the Niners close with home games against San Diego (5-3) and Arizona (5-1).
So while the bye could not have come at a better time for the Niners, who have given up touchdowns on opening drives in each of their past three games and are 1 Eagles yard away from being 3-4 rather than 4-3, they no doubt are looking forward to getting things rolling again next week with a home game against the Rams.
“I expect us,” Davis said, “with the group of guys that we have, with so much talent, I expect us to win every week.”
It did not seem fair, did it? Yet that is life in the NFL, and Brock was not decrying his lot after being victimized by Manning on his record-setting night. Besides, with the Niners using their bye week to get healthy, both physically and mentally after the 42-17 loss in Denver in which the 49ers were reduced to having just three healthy cornerbacks, Brock is a huge key in the secondary going forward.
“We just still have to execute,” Brock said after the game. “It wasn’t about me being hurt or not. We still have to go out there and make plays.
“I didn’t feel it in the game.”
Rather, Manning was the one feeling it.
Brock, who was thrust into the lineup with Chris Culliver's strained hamstring knocking him out, allowed six receptions on six targets, per Pro Football Focus, for 126 yards and two Manning touchdown passes.
He was given a minus-2.8 coverage grade by PFF.
But none of that matters going forward. Not with a banged-up secondary -- besides Culliver sitting out Sunday, rookie defensive back Jimmie Ward's quadricep left him inactive and Chris Cook suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter -- needing more than warm bodies and Brock healing up.
“We just have to keep our heads up now and ... get ready for the bye week,” Brock said, “and finish the season strong.”
It was also the day that changed Smith's career forever. Early in the second quarter, Smith took a hit from Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a play that resulted in a concussion that didn't lead to his immediate exit from the game but did when the series came to its conclusion.
As Smith and the Chiefs prepare for Sunday's game against the Rams, Smith said he hasn't given much thought to the game that altered the course of his career.
"I don't," Smith said. "I haven't given it any thought to be totally honest. Schematically getting ready to play these guys and Coach [Jeff] Fisher, that was the last game I was getting ready to play there [in San Francisco], obviously I remember that, but certainly has nothing to do with this game."
No, Sunday's meeting has nothing to do with what happened then but it's a notable matchup considering what's happened to Smith since he left San Francisco. As a former No. 1 overall pick, Smith's career looked to be headed toward disappointment before Jim Harbaugh arrived. Smith was finally getting things going under Harbaugh's guidance before the concussion landed him on the sideline.
Kaepernick would have likely claimed the job one way or another eventually but Smith's injury expedited the process. As it turns out, it's become a net positive for Kansas City and Smith.
Working under coach Andy Reid, Smith led the Chiefs to a 2013 playoff berth while throwing for a career best 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns. It was a convincing enough performance that Kansas City signed Smith to a four-year contract extension that could be worth $68 million if he is able to play it out.
In six games this season, Smith is on pace to post similar numbers with 1,270 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions for a rating of 91.0. Fisher has come away impressed with Smith's work since relocating.
"Alex is playing very, very well," Fisher said. "Alex has deceptive speed. He can pull the ball down, run for big plays, is making really good decisions. They've done some amazing things with him as far as timing's concerned. That ball's coming out and it's accurate and they put a lot of stress on your defense by the way they disperse the receivers."
Almost two years after it happened, the details of that fateful day aren't really important. Whether he can remember it or if he simply chooses not to, one can understand. It all worked out in the end.
"It's been great," Smith said. "Now I feel like I've been here a while in football years, all last year. This is home."
So where does that leave Stevie Johnson?
With the San Francisco 49ers enjoying a much-needed bye this week after seven games, you could say Johnson, who is technically fourth on the depth chart, is a combination of them all. At least, he is when thrown the ball.
True, Johnson is only third on the team with 25 receptions, behind Boldin's 39 catches and Crabtree's 32. Johnson's 315 receiving yards are also third, behind Boldin's 447 yards and Crabtree's 322 yards.
But Johnson's three touchdown receptions are tied with Crabtree for the team lead and Johnon's yards-per catch average of 12.6 is better than that of either Boldin or Crabtree. Johnson's six catches of at least 20 yards lead the Niners.
All of this despite playing just the fourth-most snaps among the wideouts.
Truly, pound-for-pound, Johnson, who was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills for a conditional fourth-round pick in May, might actually be Kaepernick's best pre-bye receiver or, at least, his most productive.
Consider: per Pro Football Focus, Kaepernick has a 127.8 passer rating when throwing the ball to Johnson, completing 25 of 31 throws his way for 312 yards, the three scores and an interception.
Might a shift in roles for Johnson in the second half of the season be in the works? It's something the 49ers might consider over the break.
Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) will also be joined by Mike Triplett (New Orleans Saints reporter), Mike Wright (Chicago Bears reporter), Terry Blount (Seahawks reporter) and Josh Weinfuss (Arizona Cardinals reporter) to give the latest on their respective teams as the season nears its midway point.
Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask Bosworth and the panelists questions.
Rank: 12| Last Week: 7
Comment: The 49ers’ (4-3) three-game winning streak came to a crashing halt Sunday night in Denver during a 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Peyton Manning’s record-setting game.
That defeat sent the Niners tumbling five spots in our Power Rankings.
Truly, the bye week could not have come at a better time for a team so nicked up physically -- and mentally. Against the Broncos, the 49ers were without five players projected to be starters -- left guard Mike Iupati (concussion), linebackers Aldon Smith (suspension), NaVorro Bowman (knee) and Patrick Willis (toe) and cornerback Chris Culliver (hamstring).
And that was before losing center Daniel Kilgore in the game to a season-ending broken left ankle.
The time off figures to help with the healing process, and there are reports that Smith’s nine-game suspension, which lasts through the 49ers’ Nov. 9 game at the New Orleans Saints, could be reduced for good behavior by a game or two, which would conceivably bring him back for their first post-bye game at home against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 2.
Plus, running back Marcus Lattimore is scheduled to begin practicing soon as his rehab from his college knee injury ramps up. And the return of nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (left biceps) is also on the horizon.
It is the third time since Sept. 20 that Johnson has been re-signed after being released in moves designed to have him practice but then fill a roster spot on game day. Kassim Osgood has been involved in such transactions before.
The Niners will have an extra roster spot soon as they will place center Daniel Kilgore on injured reserve following surgery on his broken left ankle.
The 49ers enter their bye week licking their wounds, physical and mental, after Sunday night's 42-17 thumping at the Denver Broncos.
The Niners receivers should spend their time off standing in front of a JUGS passing machine, catching ball after ball after ball. Or track down Lester Hayes or Fred Biletnikoff across the bay and borrow some old-school Stickum in time for their next game, Nov. 2 against the St. Louis Rams at Levi's Stadium.
Of course, Stickum is now illegal, but the 49ers' pass-catchers were dropping passes nonetheless.
Especially receivers Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. The trio combined for four drops, per Pro Football Focus, with Crabtree clanging two.
Particularly galling was the normally sure-handed Boldin, quarterback Colin Kaepernick's Mr. Dependable, dropping one in the end zone that hit him in the hands on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line midway through the second quarter.
If Boldin holds on to the ball, the 49ers creep to within 14-7. Instead, they had to settle for a 22-yard Phil Dawson field goal, and the rout was on.
Asked specifically about the drops after the game, coach Jim Harbaugh evaded the question.
"The Broncos played a great game," Harbaugh said. "They really were good and better at every phase and played a heck of a ballgame."
And if you're scratching your head over that particular answer to that specific of a question, imagine Harbaugh's reaction watching his receivers drop catchable passes.
The San Francisco 49ers could get help sooner than expected following this week's bye because outside linebacker Aldon Smith's nine-game suspension could be reduced for good behavior, league sources confirmed Monday.
Smith was suspended before the season by the NFL under terms of the league's personal conduct and substance abuse policies. His nine-game suspension is set to end Nov. 10 after the 49ers play the Saints.
However, sources confirmed an NBC Sports report that Smith's suspension could be reduced by one or two games, which makes it possible he could be available to play in a Week 9 game against the Rams or the Week 10 game against the Saints. He must maintain his good behavior for commissioner Roger Goodell to reduce the penalty.
Under terms of his suspension, the league has allowed Smith to be in the team's facility for meetings and conditioning, although he has not been allowed to practice with the team.
ProFootballTalk reported before Sunday night’s 42-17 Niners loss to the Denver Broncos that Smith could return a game or two early. He has already missed seven games and the 49ers are entering their bye week playing playing host to the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 2.
Smith was hit by the league with the suspension, which would keep him out through the team’s Nov. 9 game at the New Orleans Saints, “for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse and the league's Personal Conduct Policy.”
The suspension broke down with four games for violations of the league’substance abuse policy, five games for violations of the Personal Conduct Policy.
Still, Smith has been allowed to work out at the team’s Santa Clara, California, facility as part of his suspension.
Harbaugh was asked if Smith had kept his nose clean and had been fulfilling his promises to the team.
“Very well,” Harbaugh said. “Settling his community service and when he’s around the facility, very well.”
An incredulous Baakle told reporters on press row Sunday night he knew nothing of the report.
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said in his weekly news conference Monday that Kilgore will undergo season-ending surgery Tuesday.
"It's an obstacle to overcome, and he's made of the right stuff," Harbaugh said of Kilgore. "No doubt that he'll overcome it.
"We'll say a prayer and hope the surgery goes real well tomorrow, which I'm confident it will, and he'll start healing."
Kilgore was in his first year starting at center, replacing three-year starter Jonathan Goodwin, and had been playing well. He was injured in the third quarter when Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall rolled up his leg from behind while tackling Frank Gore for no gain.
Undrafted rookie Dillon Farrell replaced Kilgore but had to leave the game after rolling an ankle with about seven minutes to play, though Farrell showed no ill effects in the immediate aftermath of the game.
Third-round draft pick Marcus Martin figures to assume the starting center role, as he has been recuperating from a left knee injury suffered in the third exhibition game.
"He's excelled at the mental aspects, before and after he was injured," Harbaugh said of Martin. "I've been real impressed with that.