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NFL morning after: A Sunday of football, the best TV show ever

Aaron Dobson AP

The late, great Hall of Famer Art Donovan was in an old ESPN commercial, back when ESPN first began airing NFL pre-game and post-game shows, in which he pointed out that if you watched both of ESPN’s Sunday NFL shows, plus both of the NFL games airing in your own local market, you’d spend more than eight hours on Sunday watching nothing but football. As the idea of that much football in one day sunk in, Donovan proclaimed, “I love it!”

Now, of course, there’s a lot more pre-game and post-game coverage than there was back then, plus there’s the Sunday night game, which didn’t exist back then. Now you can turn on the TV for the first pre-game show, on NFL Network, at 7 a.m. Eastern, and keep watching football through the Sunday night game on NBC, which often ends after midnight, then watch the various highlight shows that keep going well after midnight. Forget eight hours of football, you can spend 16 hours or more in front of TV watching nothing but football.

And I love it.

The NFL is America’s best and most popular television show, and there’s simply no such thing as too much of it. I think nothing of turning on pre-game shows at 7 in the morning on Sunday and leaving some football, either live games or NFL news and highlight shows, on my TV until I go to bed after midnight. During the offseason, I love a good TV binge — I can go back to Breaking Bad or The Wire or Seinfeld or Arrested Development over and over and over again — but I’ve had my fill of any of those great shows long before I’ve watched 16 hours in one day. There really is no such thing as too much football.

Think about how great the television programming was yesterday, for those of us who can watch all the games on the Sunday Ticket package. In an insane rush of fantastic finishes starting around 4 p.m. Eastern, we got four different thrilling endings within minutes of each other:

– The Jets beat the Patriots in overtime after New England fans found out the hard way that you’re not allowed to push your teammate into the line to try to block a field goal.

– Washington beat Chicago 45-41 in a crazy back-and-forth battle that featured six rushing touchdowns, three passing touchdowns, a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown.

– Cincinnati beat Detroit on a 54-yard field goal as time expired.

– The Bills kicked a go-ahead field goal with 31 seconds left, then hung on for dear life as the Dolphins maneuvered into position for a last-second Hail Mary that fell incomplete in the end zone.

That kind of drama beats anything you’ll ever get in scripted television, but that was just a few minutes of Sunday’s football binge. We also got:

Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis, in which the Colts legend turned Broncos quarterback suffered his first loss of the season in front of fans who cheered him loudly when he was introduced before the game, then cheered even louder when the Colts won.

– The Steelers beating the Ravens on a field goal on the last play of the game.

– Two of the most talented receivers you’ll ever see, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, putting up 155 yards apiece in Bengals-Lions.

– Monte Kiffin’s Dallas defense stepping up in a big way, completely shutting down Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia offense in a 17-3 win.

Philip Rivers continuing his ridiculously efficient season passing the football by completing 22 of 26 passes in a win over the Jaguars. Rivers has now completed 73.9 percent of his passes this season. (The all-time single-season record is 71.2 percent, set by Drew Brees two years ago.)

Case Keenum leading the reeling Texans to a surprisingly competitive performance against the undefeated Chiefs before ultimately falling to Kansas City, the league’s most pleasant surprise.

Watch all of that football, all day long, and you’re going to be exhausted and bleary-eyed by the end of the day. But it’s still not too much football. There’s no such thing as too much of sitting in front of your TV watching football.

Here are the rest of my thoughts on a great Sunday in the NFL:

The first three touchdowns of the day were scored by the defense, and Matt Schaub wasn’t even playing. Mr. Pick Six himself was out for the Texans’ late afternoon game, but the early afternoon games got started with not one, not two, but three quarterbacks giving up the ball to a defensive player who took it to the house. First we had Sam Bradford throw an interception that Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn returned for a touchdown. Then we had Ryan Tannehill throw an interception that Buffalo’s Nickell Robey returned for a touchdown. Then we had Mike Glennon fumble a ball that Atlanta’s Thomas Decoud returned for a touchdown. It was Geno Smith and Jeremy Kerley, of all people, who got on the board for the Jets’ offense and ended the league-wide run of defensive touchdowns. (And Smith would throw a pick-six of his own later in the first quarter.)

Pro Bowl voting begins way too early. The NFL allowed fans to start voting for Pro Bowl rosters on Sunday morning, when some teams had only played five games and some had only played six. Why on earth are we voting for Pro Bowlers now, when they’ve still got two-thirds of the season to play and the game is more than three months away? If the NFL wants to make the Pro Bowl more relevant, how about waiting until the end of the season to vote, so fans can actually vote for guys who had good years?

Jimmy Johnson said something about Jerry Jones masked as something about Jim Irsay. Asked on the FOX pregame show about Irsay’s comments tweaking Peyton Manning last week, Johnson said, “Just because a guy has money and owns an NFL team, doesn’t mean he’s smart.” Johnson was ostensibly talking about Irsay, but I think he was also taking a little shot at Jerry Jones, his old boss in Dallas with whom Johnson has had a famously prickly relationship.

Devin Hester, the greatest kick returner ever. Hester’s return touchdown was the 19th of his career, tying him with Deion Sanders for the most return touchdowns in NFL history. But most of Sanders’ return touchdowns came on defense. All of Hester’s were kick returns. There’s really no one who has been even close to the kind of consistent big-play threat returning kicks that Hester has been throughout his NFL career. Usually, once a return man establishes himself as one of the best in the league, opposing teams start kicking to him differently and limit his effectiveness. They punt high to force him to fair catch, or they punt out of bounds. On kickoffs, if they’re not sure the kicker can boot it out the back of the end zone, they tell him to kick it high and short to help the coverage team get into position to make the tackle. The amazing thing about Hester is that he’s still scoring touchdowns even after opposing teams have come to realize that they must kick away from him. As soon as a team’s attempted punt out of bounds ends up staying just barely inbounds — which is what happened with Washington on Sunday — Hester makes them pay for it.

The top picks in the next two drafts had big days on Saturday. It may be too early to talk about the top pick in next year’s NFL draft, and it’s definitely too early to talk about the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. But I’ll do it anyway. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney spent as much time in Tennessee’s backfield as their own running backs on Saturday, looking like the kind of one-man wrecking crew who absolutely deserves to be considered the top pro prospect in college football right now, despite some talk that he was off to a slow start this season. And then there’s Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. A redshirt freshman, Winston won’t be eligible for the draft until 2015. But his performance on the road against No. 3 Clemson, in which he completed 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, leaves little doubt that he’s good enough to play in the NFL. No, I don’t mean he will be good enough to play in the NFL. I mean he’s good enough right now, and the only thing holding him back is the NFL’s three-year eligibility rule. Winston is better right now than either of his two immediate predecessors at Florida State, EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder, ever were. And Manuel and Ponder were both first-round draft picks. Winston has all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback.

I hate it when coaches won’t be aggressive. Tennessee’s Mike Munchak punted on fourth-and-inches in the third quarter while the Titans were trailing 24-0. What was Munchak afraid of? Your team is losing and needs to do something. If you’re just going to give up on fourth-and-inches, you might as well give up on the game. If there’s anything that’s not fun about a day watching football, it’s watching a bunch of punts from coaches who don’t have the guts to go for it.

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Fans flood former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley with contributions

Talley Getty Images

On Thanksgiving, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News shared a troubling glimpse into the current struggles of former NFL linebacker Darryl Talley, a member of the Bills’ Ring of Honor and a key piece of the team that went to four straight Super Bowls.  While it appears the Bills organization may have turned its back on Talley, Bills fans definitely haven’t.

An effort launched Thursday to raise money for Talley, a College Football Hall of Famer who starred at West Virginia before playing for the Bills, already has generated more than $27,000.

On one hand, the NFL and its teams need to do more to take care of the men who struggle with medical and financial issues after giving so many years to the sport of football.  On the other hand, fans could be the best way to fill the void.

It’s not surprising that fans have genuine gratitude; any success a team enjoys flows from the efforts of its players.  While the NFL surely believes it’s doing enough to take care of the men who made pro football into a billion-dollar behemoth, someone needs to do more for Talley.  Now, someone is.

Kudos to those who have contributed.  For Bills fans, Mountaineer fans, and general fans of the sport who haven’t given but want to, just click the link.

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Jadeveon Clowney calls chances of playing this week “slim”

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney’s rookie year has been severely compromised by the torn meniscus in his knee that he suffered in the first week of the regular season and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to his difficulties.

Clowney was able to play in last weekend’s loss to the Bengals, but hasn’t practiced this week because of swelling and doesn’t think things will clear up in time for him to face the Titans on Sunday. He said Thursday that his chances of playing for the fifth time this season are “slim.”

“My knee swelled up on me a little bit, and I’m trying to get it back to the way it was before,” Clowney said, via the Houston Chronicle. “It’s bothering me a lot right now. I’m in a lot of pain. It’s been bothering me off and on the whole season. It’s the kind of thing if I can go, I’ll go. If I can’t, I won’t. I told them [trainers, doctors and coaches] how I feel, and it’s up to them.”

Clowney has solicited the advice of Brian Cushing about dealing with knee problems and Cushing showed him some stretches that loosened the knee up enough for him to play last weekend. It seems more lasting health is going to take a while, however, and that’s probably going to make the first overall pick’s rookie season a glorified redshirt year.

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Baalke’s daughter chimes in on Greg Roman

Roman Getty Images

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

The boom is coming; it’s just a matter of time.  And the countdown arguably accelerated after Thursday night’s loss, when the owner’s decision to take to Twitter was matched by the daughter of 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke.  Said Cassie Baalke, a college freshman, about the team’s offensive coordinator:  “Greg Roman can take a hike. The 49ers don’t want you no more.”

49ersnews.com has the screen shot of the deleted tweet.  She later added this message:  “Everyone’s entitled to an opinion..sorry mine doesn’t favor you or agree with yours.”

The real question is whether and to what extent that opinion was influenced by anything she’s heard from her father.  It’s also fair to ask whether this relatively meaningless spark will blow the lid off the relationship between Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh, who brought Roman to the 49ers from Stanford and who has plenty of influence over the currently uncoordinated offense that Roman coordinates.

For whatever reason (and probably for more than one reason), tension has existed for a while between Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh.  A recent profile of Harbaugh by Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine mentioned the painfully awkward shared elevator ride at the Scouting Combine, where the two supposed partners in football behaved like total strangers.  And as one league source explained it to PFT in August, no interaction of any kind was witnessed between Harbaugh and Baalke during a multi-day preseason stay in Baltimore for a game and joint practices with the Ravens.

So could Cassie Baalke’s deleted tweet become the equivalent of Gavrilo Princip’s bullet?  While there’s a good chance Archduke Ferdinand already has been dead for months, it’s the kind of tangible event that could trigger the kind of snide back and forth between G.M. and coach that turns a crack into a compound fracture.

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Larry Fitzgerald: I’m “highly likely” to play on Sunday

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals played and lost without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald last Sunday and they haven’t had him in practice yet this week, but the wideout isn’t ruling himself out for this week’s matchup with the Falcons.

Quite the opposite, actually. Fitzgerald worked out on the side while the rest of the team went through practice and said afterward that he was feeling optimistic about his chances of being on the field in Atlanta.

“I’m highly likely, but it’s not my call, though,” Fitzgerald said, via the Arizona Republic.

Fitzgerald said he was running fine and offered his weekly paycheck to race a member of the media to prove it. The offer was declined even after Fitzgerald pointed out the potential upside for his opponent, but we’ll have to wait to see if coach Bruce Arians and the medical staff are willing to take the bait.

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Friday morning one-liners

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Bills hope Marcus Thigpen is the answer to sparking their kick return game.

It didn’t get the attention of Odell Beckham’s catch, but Dolphins CB Brent Grimes had an athletic interception last week.

Patriots S Devin McCourty isn’t expecting too many takeaways this week.

S Jaiquawn Jarrett has been responsible for highs and lows this Jets season.

Ravens DE Chris Canty, the team’s union rep, is saddened by continued discord between the NFL and NFLPA.

Going on the road has paid off for the Bengals.

Browns LT Joe Thomas thinks this year’s team is better than the last Cleveland team to finish with a winning record.

Setting the stage for the final five weeks of the Steelers season.

Tom Savage will be the backup quarterback for the Texans this week.

Colts LB Shaun Phillips has no bad feelings about his time with the Titans.

DE Andre Branch is expected back for the Jaguars.

The Titans may be awfully shorthanded on the offensive line this weekend.

The Broncos haven’t won a road game this season when their opponent gets on the board first.

The Chiefs are holding a blood drive this week.

Spreading Thanksgiving cheer was part of the Raiders’ plan for the week.

The Chargers’ hurry-up offense showed improvement last weekend.

Cowboys WR Dwayne Harris took issue with a personal foul call against him.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin will face the team that gave him his first chance as an NFL head coach in his 300th game in the job.

It’s now a 6-0 record on Thanksgiving for the Eagles.

The Redskins won’t look outside the organization for immediate help at cornerback.

Another loss leads to more questions about the Bears.

The Lions secondary found its footing after a rough start to Thursday’s game.

It looks like Mike Neal and Jayrone Elliott will be at outside linebacker in place of Nick Perry for the Packers this weekend.

T Mike Harris is excited about his opportunity in the Vikings starting lineup.

The thoughts of Falcons G Jon Asamoah and CB Javier Arenas are with their former Chiefs teammate Eric Berry.

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin isn’t worried about hitting a rookie wall.

Some suggestions for an improved mental approach for the Saints.

Buccaneers LB Mason Foster feels he’s back on form after a shoulder injury.

Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson is looking forward to tangling with Falcons WR Julio Jones.

Rams G Rodger Saffold is preparing to face a Raiders team it looked like he’d be joining this offseason.

Said 49ers WR Michael Crabtree, “Everybody’s a football player. We’ve been here. We’ve been the best team the past three years and we lost Super Bowls and lost big playoff games. We’ve been here before. We got to do better. That’s it. That’s it, man.”

What did we learn about the Seahawks during Thursday night’s win?

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Jim Harbaugh: We always evaluate offense, we’ll do it again

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

In the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the 49ers managed to score 33 points in games against a pair of NFC East bottom feeders but avoided generating much of an alarm because they were able to win both games.

They are now up to 36 points in their last three games and the alarms are sounding because they both lost and lost to the Seahawks on Thursday as a result of their low-functioning offensive unit. 49ers CEO Jed York said the team’s play was “not acceptable” and quarterback Colin Kaepernick agreed with that assessment while coach Jim Harbaugh said that the team needs to win all four of it’s remaining games to make the playoffs.

Harbaugh’s likely correct and he was asked if there needed to be a deeper evaluation of or major changes to the offense in the wake of things hitting rock bottom against the Seahawks in order for that to happen.

“We always do that. We’ll do that again. We’ll evaluate it. I don’t know what you refer to with major changes,” Harbaugh said, via the San Jose Mercury News.

It’s a bit late in the game to be making major changes to the offense for this season and there aren’t a lot of people feeling confident that Harbaugh will be the guy overseeing those changes when they are made come the offseason.

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Marc Trestman: “It starts with me, I’m looking inside”

trestman AP

Bears coach Marc Trestman said after Thursday’s loss to the Lions that the blame belongs with him.

“It starts with me. I’m looking inside and accepting accountability for this loss, obviously. We just couldn’t get it done today and didn’t have enough ammunition,” Trestman said.

The Bears have been a major disappointment this season, leading to talk in Chicago that Trestman should be fired. That seems unlikely, given that Trestman is in just his second season and showed promise in his first, but Trestman knows that the results this season have not been good enough.

“It was extremely disappointing,” Trestman said of the loss to the Lions. “We just didn’t play well. That’s the bottom line. We didn’t play well enough offensively, we didn’t play well enough defensively to win this game.”

Now the Bears have to regroup for a three-game homestand against the Cowboys, Saints and Lions. The Bears are out of realistic playoff contention, but if they win a game or two in this homestand, they can be playoff spoilers. And Trestman can save his job.

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Jerry Jones: Cowboys got “whipped” up front

DeMarco Murray, Connor Barwin AP

Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan caught some attention for saying that he didn’t see why people thought the Cowboys’ offensive line was so great, but the attempt to make him eat his words failed rather spectacularly on Thursday.

The Eagles routed the Cowboys 33-10 and one of the biggest reasons they were able to do that was because of the way they controlled the proceedings up front on both sides of the ball. The Eagles ran for 256 yards on offense and held DeMarco Murray under 100 rushing yards for just the second time this year while also sacking Tony Romo four times. That made it very easy for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to diagnose what went wrong.

“Their defensive front was outstanding and really frustrated us and Romo,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I recognize both their fronts whipped our fronts.”

Center Travis Frederick called it a “minor setback” for the Cowboys line, who will get back on the field against the Bears next weekend. With the Eagles hosting the Seahawks, the next game could find both teams with the same record once again and the Cowboys will need to be much better at the point of attack if they want a shot at winning the division.

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Mark Sanchez felt plenty thankful on Thursday

Mark Sanchez AP

Until Thursday, putting Mark Sanchez and Thanksgiving together conjured up images of Sanchez running headlong into Brandon Moore’s rear end against the Patriots in 2012.

Sanchez provided a much better Thanksgiving memory on Thursday in Dallas by leading the Eagles to a 33-10 win that left them in control of the NFC East heading into the final four weeks of the regular season. Sanchez threw for 217 yards and a touchdown, ran for another score and won for the third time in four starts to turn the buttfumble from defining moment to something to joke about.

“Sucked,” Sanchez said, via CSNPhilly.com. “I ran into some guy’s butt and dropped the ball on the turf and they scored. That’s like my favorite holiday, so that’s not cool. It’s really a bummer. The game plan was try not to do that, and we accomplished that.”

Sanchez also took a cue from the calendar and expressed gratitude for the way things have worked out for him over the years.

“It’s just been an incredible journey,” Sanchez said. “The whole thing. Playing in this league. Wearing the Jets logo, wearing the Eagles logo, this is an absolute dream come true. Best of times, worst of times, a lot of people would love to be in this position, no matter what. I’m very thankful. I’m very blessed.”

Sanchez only threw five passes after halftime as the Eagles were able to make their lead stand up behind the run game and defense. Continued success in those areas makes it easier for Sanchez to succeed, so the Eagles will need to keep things rolling when the Seahawks visit in Week 14 after allowing six points in their last 120 minutes of football.

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Richard Sherman on Kaepernick: I was the open man

Richard Sherman AP

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was holding court after Thursday night’s meeting with the 49ers, just as he was the last time the two teams met.

That was in the NFC Championship Game, of course, and Sherman saw his profile grow with the way he crowed about his play to force an interception on a pass to Michael Crabtree on the 49ers’ final attempt to score. Things weren’t that dramatic this time as the Seahawks took control early on their way to a 19-3 win, but Sherman still had the chance to crow after the game.

Earlier this week, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he wouldn’t shy away from throwing in Sherman’s direction and that he’d throw to whoever was open. Sherman had two interceptions during the game, leading to questions about both his growing history with the NFC West rivals.

“What history? I know no history,” Sherman said, via ESPN.com. “There was an opponent [Kaepernick] who said he would throw it to the open man. He didn’t care who was out there [in coverage]. I was the open man.”

Sherman and company will face the 49ers again in Seattle in Week 15 and he said the two sides know each other so well that it comes down to “will against will.” The Seahawks’ will won out on Thursday, dealing the 49ers’ playoff chances a big blow while putting another feather in Sherman’s cap in showdowns with the Niners.

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NFC playoff picture: Cowboys under pressure at the quarter pole

Tony Romo AP

With the Thanksgiving Day games in the books, the NFC playoff picture has gotten a shakeup.

First, let’s take a look at the winners:

— With their rout of Dallas, the Eagles (9-3) moved one game ahead of the Cowboys in the NFC East. For the moment, the Eagles are the No. 2 seed in the NFC, though they would lose their spot if Green Bay beats New England on Sunday.

— The Lions (8-4) have slid into the final wild-card spot after dispatching of Chicago.

— The Seahawks (8-4) moved up from No. 6 to No. 5 in the NFC after knocking off San Francisco. Why does this matter? The No. 5 seed is very likely to draw the NFC South winner in Round One.

Now, on to the losers:

— The Cowboys (8-4) fell from the No. 5 to the No. 7 seed on account of a good-but-not-great NFC record (5-4). This knocked them out of a three-way tiebreaker with Detroit and Seattle (see below).

— The 49ers (7-5) are now a game behind Seattle, Detroit and Dallas in the wild-card standings. With the defeat to the Seahawks, the Niners are now 1-3 in division play, with Seattle and Arizona having chances to sweep the season series in December.

— The Bears (5-7) are just about out of wild-card contention, though December home games against Dallas, New Orleans and Detroit will all have general NFC playoff ramifications.

Finally, let’s close with a few words on the Cowboys, who are suddenly quite vulnerable. Three of their final four games are on the road, with their lone home contest vs. AFC South-leading Indianapolis.

Dallas desperately needs to regain its footing with a win at Chicago next Thursday night. But can the Cowboys get it done? They are just 3-3 since upsetting Seattle in October, and they were outgained 464-267 by Philadelphia in the 33-10 loss on Thursday. The Bears’ offense isn’t exactly thriving at the moment, but it does have the skill-position talent to challenge Dallas.

Here’s a look at how the NFC’s playoff teams and primary playoff contenders would be seeded after Thursday’s games. The NFL’s tie-breaking rules and standings are referenced.

THE BIG SIX

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2, .818). NFC West leader. Earn first-round bye, home-field advantage.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (9-3, .750). NFC East leader. Earn first-round bye.

3. Green Bay Packers (8-3, .727). NFC North leader. Host Lions in wild-card round.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-7, .364). NFC South leader. NFC South’s top-seeded team on basis of head-to-head win vs. New Orleans. Host Seahawks in wild-card round.

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4, .667). Wild card No. 1. Seeded ahead of Detroit on basis of better record in common games.

6. Detroit Lions (8-4, .667). Wild card No. 2. Seeded ahead of Dallas on basis of better conference record (6-2 vs. 5-4).

JUST MISSING

7. Dallas Cowboys (8-4, .667.).

8. San Francisco 49ers (7-5, .583).

THE REST OF THE NFC SOUTH

10. New Orleans Saints (4-7, .364).

13. Carolina Panthers (3-7-1, .318).

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9, .182).

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49ers have a decision to make about Harbaugh

Harbaugh Getty Images

As 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wraps up the fourth season of a five-year deal, it’s becoming more and more clear that he won’t be back in 2015.  The goal for the current campaign was to set aside the looming divorce and to focus on getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it.

Now that the season has begun the process of slipping away with a home loss to a Seahawks team the 49ers will visit in 16 days, the 49ers soon will have to implement their plan for resolving their relationship with Harbaugh.

If the many (and largely unrefuted) reports of persistent dysfunction between Harbaugh and the front office are true, and if it’s now clear that the season has begun the process of disintegrating, the 49ers must decide whether to keep Harbaugh through the next four weeks and try to trade the final year of his contract — or to part ways now, elevate Jim Tomsula to head coach, and hope that the switch will spur the 49ers to run the table and earn a berth in the postseason.  The notion of firing Harbaugh with games left seems beyond ludicrous on the surface, but only those inside the organization know the full extent of the four-year tug-of-war that has created a strong sense in league circles that the front office looks forward to the day he exits the building for good.

The frustrations that have lingered while the team has thrived could quickly rush to the surface, now that the season is starting to go off the rails.  Even though the 49ers remain two games above .500, 7-5 isn’t good enough with the Eagles at 9-3, the Packers at 8-3, the Cowboys at 8-4, the Lions at 8-4, the Cardinals at 9-2, and the Seahawks at 8-4.

Including that 49ers, that’s seven total teams vying for five playoff berths that will go to the NFC teams not assigned to the South division.  Currently, the 49ers sit seventh of seven.

While it would be shocking for the 49ers to make a change, it’s impossible to rule out anything in the aftermath of the kind of outcome that proves to the 49ers and everyone else that this isn’t the team it had been in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  If Tomsula is going to be considered for the head-coaching job in 2015 (and multiple league insiders believe he’ll have the inside track to succeed Harbaugh), why not give him a chance to get his feet wet now?

The only reason to stay the course would be to obtain draft picks from the Raiders or whoever else would be interested in making a run at Harbaugh.  Only those inside the organization know whether it’s gotten so bad that they’d prefer to let Harbaugh walk away now than to tread through troubled waters for the next month.

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York says performance “wasn’t acceptable”

Harbaugh Getty Images

If you thought the Thanksgiving night performance from the 49ers in their new stadium wasn’t good, you’re not alone.  The boss didn’t like it either.

This performance wasn’t acceptable,” 49ers CEO Jed York said on Twitter.  “I apologize for that.”

The statement comes at a time when, as noted earlier in the evening, the organization has been conspicuously quiet about the rampant reports suggesting that coach Jim Harbaugh’s time with the franchise will end after the current season concludes.  With the exception of a tweet from York aimed at early October reports that players have grown weary of Harbaugh’s ways, the team has said nothing about the lingering controversy.

York’s latest tweet speaks volumes.  With the team now at 7-5 and facing a trip to Seattle on December 14, the 49ers most likely won’t be going to the postseason.

Running the table could salvage things, but how can the 49ers win the final four games when they barely mustered three points at home in the biggest game of the year?

So, yes, the season is likely over.  And Harbaugh’s tenure is likely over.  Look for the latter angle to gather plenty of steam over the next 10 days, as the 49ers prepare to drive north to Oakland for a game against the Raiders, which could be Harbaugh’s employer by the time January ends.

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Seahawks overpower 49ers, roll to 19-3 victory

Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril AP

In a performance befitting defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks rolled to a decisive 19-3 victory over the 49ers on Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

With the win, the Seahawks move to 8-4, placing them as the top wild-card in the NFC. The 49ers, meanwhile, tumbled to 7-5.

The Seahawks dominated the proceedings, leading from the end of the first quarter onward and never getting any real serious challenge for the 49ers, whose offense faltered in spectacular fashion. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed just 16-of-29 passes for 121 yards, and he was picked twice by cornerback Richard Sherman, ever a Niners nemesis. Seattle also blunted San Francisco’s ground game, allowing just 64 yards on 18 carries.

By contrast, the Seahawks were able to attack with the pass and the run. Quarterback Russell Wilson (15-of-22, 236 yards, one TD) had major success keeping plays alive with his feet. On several occasions, his persistence led to dump-offs to wide-open targets leading to big gains, most notably on a 63-yard second-quarter reception by tight end Tony Moeaki. On the play, Wilson spun away from a blitz and scrambled away from his pursuers.

Tailback Marshawn Lynch (20 carries, 104 yards) set the tone in the ground game for Seattle, with his long rush of 33 yards setting up one of the four field goals from Steven Hauschka.

The game’s lone touchdown came in the opening period, with Wilson hitting uncovered tailback Robert Turbin in the flat for a 13-yard touchdown. The drive was set up by Sherman’s first pick of Kaepernick on a throw wide of receiver Brandon Lloyd.

As it turns out, that was all Seattle needed. From there, the Seahawks added to their lead little by little against a rival rendered fangless in its biggest of the game of the season.

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49ers running out of time vs. Seattle

Marshawn Lynch, Aldon Smith AP

The 49ers are on the ropes.

A fourth field goal by the Seahawks’ Steven Hauschka gave Seattle a 19-3 lead with about 10 minutes left in regulation on Thursday night. Given the struggles of the 49ers’ offense, a 16-point deficit seems mountainous. San Francisco mustered just 115 yards on 38 plays through three quarters — an average of three yards per play.

The Seahawks began the third quarter with a field goal, though it could have been even worse for San Francisco, as an offensive pass interference penalty nullified a touchdown by wideout Paul Richardson. Seahawks tailback Marshawn Lynch made the drive’s key play, breaking a 33-yard rush.

The 49ers then got a field goal of their own, but it took 12 plays and nearly seven minutes to do so, not to mention two key penalties on Seattle, including a holding call on cornerback Richard Sherman.

Now, the 49ers need touchdowns — and fast.

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