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49ers mailbag: Who starts at RB if Christian McCaffrey is out? Has anyone talked to Robbie Gould lately? Updates on injuries?

Marc Adams
Oct 17, 2023 at 11:02 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers lost for the first time in the 2023 season, falling to the Cleveland Browns, 19-17. It was a poor performance by the entire team, loaded with mistakes and missed opportunities, which culminated with a failed field goal attempt by Jake Moody that could have won the game with less than 10 seconds remaining.

No one expected the 49ers to finish 17-0, but few expected them to lose to the Browns. Although I did predict the 49ers would have problems with Cleveland's defense. But enough about my accomplishments, let's get into the 49ers Webzone mailbag. You had plenty of questions this week. Unfortunately, we could not answer them all. But let's take a look at the ones we did respond to.

Penalty on Gipson or no? That was a game-changer. - Jed S.

Tashaun Gipson was called for a personal foul late in the game, but a penalty should not have been called. Gipson hit the receiver in the shoulder. It was a bad call that had a huge impact on the game, especially because it came on third down, and kept the drive alive. Do the 49ers win the game if that call wasn't made? Most likely. But they shouldn't have been in a situation where a bad call by the officials potentially cost them the game.

If the 49ers would have handled their business, they would have won this game handily. Even after this missed call, the 49ers still had a chance to win it (more on that below). They played poorly and lost.

How are McCaffrey and Deebo? - Lorraine M.

Here's the latest update on some 49ers injuries:

  • Christian McCaffrey (oblique/rib)- Awaiting results from an MRI that was taken on Monday.
  • Deebo Samuel (shoulder)- Considered day-to-day.
  • Trent Williams (sprained ankle)- Standard ankle sprain, not a high ankle sprain. Considered day-to-day.

Matt Maiocco, of NBC Sports Bay Area, posted this morning, "As I understand it, Christian McCaffrey's injury is more of a pain-tolerance thing. The extra day helps. At this point, it's not out of the question McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams can all be available for MNF vs. the Vikings." So if that turns out to be the case, perhaps all three players will be ready for the Monday night matchup in Minnesota.

Why wasn't Kittle involved in the passing game, especially with both CMC and Deebo out? - Andy G.

Good question. I really felt like the 49ers needed George Kittle to step up in the passing game. A good tight end can be a quarterback's best friend in a tough game like that, especially after McCaffrey and Samuel went down.

The Browns played Kittle really well and turned him into the invisible man. The consistent pressure that came right up the middle didn't help. Brock Purdy didn't have much time to throw, and when he did, Kittle was well-covered. His one catch for one yard was the worst output of his NFL career. It was even worse than the one catch, for eight yards, performance in his third NFL game, back when Brian Hoyer was his QB.

How much of their poor performance was due to the rain? - DoctorWDS

Weather is the great equalizer. It can mess things up and level the playing field. Certainly, the rain cost the 49ers some points on at least one drive, when Purdy missed some open receivers and then fumbled the ball.

But the Browns were playing in the rain, as well. Kyle Shanahan said before the game that he wanted a rainy, ugly game because the team needed to be tested. They were tested, alright. Injuries, mistakes (dropped passes, penalties, missed tackles, etc.), officiating, and missed field goals all played a part, but the Cleveland defense played the biggest part. They are really good, and probably the best defense the 49ers have faced in Shanahan's tenure.

In the end, the 49ers beat themselves, even as good as the Browns defense was. The 49ers committed 12 penalties and missed 10 tackles.

Anyone you'd love to see the Niners trade for, or away, before the deadline? - Scott B.

The 49ers traded for Randy Gregory a couple of weeks ago, and Gregory played well in his first game with the 49ers, coming up with one sack and three QB pressures (in only 12 pass rush snaps).

If there was someone they believed could help the team, then I'd be all in favor of trading for someone else. I think a cornerback or offensive tackle would be good choices. When Williams went down on Sunday, Jaylon Moore came in to play. We don't want Moore to have to play too often, especially against a pass rusher like Myles Garrett.

When Deommodore Lenior went down on Sunday, with what looked like some kind of cramp, Ambry Thomas came in to play. I don't think we want Thomas to ever play. So an offensive tackle or corner would be a good choice.

Don't expect it to be any big name, though. I know they traded for McCaffrey last season, but I don't see that happening again.

Has anyone talked to Robbie lately? We need him. - Phillip V.

I assume Phillip is speaking of Robbie Gould, who is still without a team. Yes, Gould probably would have made that FG in Cleveland. But I doubt John Lynch is reaching out to him just because his rookie kicker missed a couple of field goals.

It's going to happen. Kickers miss kicks sometimes. Even Gould missed occasionally. He just didn't miss game-winners very often, although he did miss one last season, as David Lombardi reminded us.

It just hurts when the missed field goal costs you the game. As you may recall, the 49ers' first loss in 2019 came because kicker Chase McLaughlin missed a potential game-winner. McLaughlin was playing in place of an injured Gould.

Can we get a redo on our 3rd round draft pick?- Evan S.

Moody wasn't "money" on Sunday. But before this game, he had not missed. So I wouldn't give up on him yet. He was a rookie kicking in a tough place to kick. Just ask Phil Dawson about kicking in Cleveland.

You might be interested to know that in Gould's first six games as an NFL kicker, he made only 64% of his field goal attempts. Dawson made 80% of field goal attempts in his first six games. In Moody's first six games, has made 83%. I'm not saying Moody will be better than Gould or Dawson, I'm just saying that he's not off to a terrible start.

Should Moody have made the kick? Yes. But a rookie, playing in his sixth NFL game, on a wet field, in a windy stadium, isn't going to be automatic. Rookie kickers normally struggle at first. Let's hope he can learn from it and be better next time. And we really hope this doesn't get in his head and make him start missing more kicks. Kickers are odd like that. But Moody seems a little more confident than the average kicker. And he owned up to his miss after the game.

If this is Brock's floor what can the Niners hope for when he has these games? - Lonely

If this is Purdy's floor, the 49ers are in good shape. As bad as Purdy was on Sunday, he still moved the team into field goal range with a chance to win the game. And he did that without two of his best weapons.

I don't want to pick on Jimmy Garoppolo, but Purdy's worst game as an NFL quarterback was not nearly as bad as some of Garoppolo's. Remember the game in Denver last season? Garoppolo was horrible. He was 18-29 for only 211 yards passing. He threw an interception, lost a fumble, and ran out of the back of the endzone like a rookie might do. He was also sacked four times.

And Garoppolo wasn't playing against an elite defense like Purdy played against on Sunday. In games like this, the 49ers need to hope Purdy can just minimize the damage, and do what he can to put the team in position to win. Like he did on Sunday.

Quarterbacks have bad games, especially against great defenses.

In Joe Montana's first full season as a starter, the 49ers won their first of five Super Bowls. During the regular season, the 49ers lost a game, ironically, to Cleveland, in which they only scored 12 points. Montana's passer rating was 51.0, he was sacked three times and threw two interceptions. He also was called for intentional grounding in the endzone, which resulted in a safety.

The 49ers' only points scored that day came off of the foot of four Ray Wershing field goals. And that was in a season Montana won Super Bowl MVP, was second in NFL MVP, made the Pro Bowl, was second-team All-Pro, and finished third in Offensive Player of the Year.

Or take a look at Steve Young's numbers against the Eagles in a 1994 blowout loss. Young was 11-23 for 99 yards, with two interceptions. His passer rating was a horrid 23.6. And that game was at Candlestick. But Young would go on to be that season's Super Bowl MVP, NFL MVP, Offensive Player of the Year runner-up, and first-team All-Pro.

Purdy may not be Montana or Young, but I'm not too worried about his floor. I may be a little concerned about how accurately he throws a wet ball, but that's about it.

Between Danny Gray and Ty Davis-Price, who's more likely to make an impact this season? - JD

Ty Davis-Price wasn't even active on Sunday, due to the return of Elijah Mitchell. But I'm still going to go with Davis-Price, mainly because the 49ers seem to lose running backs to injury. So the second-year running back may end up getting a shot at some point. He had a few carries during the blowout against the Cowboys. He had six carries for 21 yards.

As far as Danny Gray, he went on IR on August 31 and is now eligible to return. But with Jauan Jennings and Ronnie Bell ahead of him, will he actually make much of an impact? His speed makes him a weapon, but we've yet to see the 49ers take advantage of that. I would say Gray's biggest impact this season will be on special teams, as a gunner.

Do you think Mason has shown enough to be the outright RB2? I feel like he has. - Andy G.

Jordan Mason has looked really good, especially in the last two games. I liked the fact that they pulled Mitchell and put in Mason on Sunday. Mitchell was not getting much room to run, and Mason's style seemed to work better against the Browns. Shanahan, though, said it had more to do with Mitchell's lack of practice time during the week. "Elijah came back and practiced late last week on Thursday, so he got really one true day of practice in, and that's that's why JP got the first nod once Christian came out," Shanahan told reporters on Monday.

But yes, I think Mason has shown enough as a runner. I just know that Shanahan and Bobby Turner love backs, like Mitchell, who don't fumble the ball. And so far, he's never fumbled in his NFL career. Mason has done well holding on to the ball, but in the preseason, put the ball on the ground a few times. Still, the way Mason is running, I think he should play more. Especially as often as Mitchell gets injured.

But Shanahan seemed to suggest that if McCaffrey can't go next Monday night, Mitchell will be the starter. "I mean, Elijah's earned a ton with us over these years," Shanahan said. "I think Elijah, when he's been healthy, has been as good of a back as there is. He's just had a hard time staying healthy.

"But I also can't take away anything from JP. I mean, every time JP's got his opportunities, you guys see how he's done. So both of those guys have done very well."

With most of the press calling the 49ers the best team in the NFL - they are going to get every other team's best effort, every week. Can they hold up? - DoctorWDS

I believe they can. Every team has a bad game from time to time. Even some of the great 49ers Super Bowl teams had games they lost that they should have won. The 1994 team was blown out by the Eagles. The 1988 team lost multiple games they should have won. I mentioned the 1981 team losing to the Browns. The 1984 team, which may be the best 49ers team ever, lost only one game—a heartbreaker to Pittsburgh. Coincidently, the 49ers lost that game on a missed 37-yard field goal attempt by Wershing. Only, he missed wide left, not wide right.

That 49ers team was relentless, though. They didn't lose another game and dominated the postseason. This year's team is relentless, as well. They can handle the pressure. And they will bounce back—angrily.

That's all we have for this week. We'll be back with a new mailbag next Tuesday since the 49ers play on Monday night in Minnesota.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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