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Behind Enemy Lines: San Francisco 49ers prepare for a trip to the desert

Would the real San Francisco 49ers please stand up?

After a dominating opening-game performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football, the Niners got smacked early and often in a 43-18 loss at Pittsburgh last Sunday.

For the first time in 2015, we’ll get to see the new-look 49ers take on a division foe when they head to Glendale to face the undefeated Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday.

All week, we’ll keep you updated on the happenings in the Bay Area as the 49ers prep for the Cardinals.


Friday, September 25

Kenneth Acker expects Cardinals, Carson Palmer to test him like Steelers (ESPN.com)

Has Kenneth Acker recovered from his baptism by fire at the feet of Antonio Brown this past weekend?

If not, the rite of passage for the San Francisco 49ers’ first-year cornerback will continue this weekend in the Arizona desert against the likes of Larry Fitzgerald.

NaVorro Bowman returns to practice, Reggie Bush still out (ESPN.com)

As noted earlier, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who had a vet’s day off Wednesday, returned to practice and was a full participant. Meanwhile, running back Reggie Bush, who has not suited up since straining his left calf in the season opener, remained sidelined.

49ers ‘strip’ back playbook for Colin Kaepernick (ESPN.com)

Colin Kaepernick raised eyebrows Wednesday when he said, unsolicited, that he was now “being asked to be myself this year,” as opposed to the past, when he was “asked to do things outside of my character.”

Growing pains: Pinion, 21, aims to emerge from slow start (SFGate.com)

After two games, Pinion ranks 24th in the NFL in gross average (44.4) and 15th in net (40.9). Meanwhile, Lee, a three-time All-Pro, ranks second in gross (55.0) and third in net (45.8).

49ers’ Kaepernick free to run and gun (SFGate.com)

In the season’s first two games, the 49ers have used far more of the pistol formation Kaepernick ran at Nevada and have frequently rolled him out of the pocket. The 49ers have run 45 percent of their plays (73 of 163) from the pistol — a shortened version of the shotgun in which the quarterback lines up only 3 or 4 yards behind center — this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Last year, they used the pistol only 6 percent of the time (65 of 1,088 plays). They have also used either a shotgun or pistol formation on 88 percent of their snaps this season (53 percent in 2014).

49ers defense expects Palmer to look deep (CSN Bay Area)

There is little doubt that if Carson Palmer has time to throw on Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals face the 49ers, he will look repeatedly for the home-run ball.

6 Bold Predictions for San Francisco 49ers’ Week 3 Matchup (Bleacher Report)

San Francisco 49ers starting running back Carlos Hyde will struggle against the Arizona Cardinals—that’s bold prediction No. 1.

On 49ers: Can defense gain its footing? It’s been done before (Sacramento Bee)

There were plenty of problems Sunday in Pittsburgh, especially safeties who were either late arriving on deep passes or, in the case of Antoine Bethea in the second quarter, had a Steelers wide receiver blow past him for a touchdown.

Red-zone failures continue to haunt 49ers (San Jose Mercury News)

What the 49ers want to play out better is their red-zone offense. Only 3-of-8 red-zone possessions have led to touchdowns this season. The Cardinals, Sunday’s opponent, are 7-of-7 through their two wins.


Thursday, September 24

Reggie Bush still sitting out practice (ESPN.com)

A week ago, the San Francisco 49ers’ injury report consisted of one player — running back Reggie Bush. But after Sunday’s 43-18 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers, the report has grown to eight players.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer expects 49ers defense to ‘clean up’ mistakes (ESPN.com)

But while Palmer, like Roethlisberger, is a vet, he does not anticipate the 49ers breaking again on third down come Sunday in Arizona.

“We’re not expecting that to happen,” the Cardinals quarterback said in a conference call on Wednesday, referencing the 49ers getting caught out of position often by bluffing at the line of scrimmage before the snap.

Colin Kaepernick: Not fun being down by 20-plus points (ESPN.com)

Yes, Colin Kaepernick got his passing groove on late in the San Francisco 49ers’ 43-18 loss Sunday at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No, he did not have much fun in finding that rhythm with first-year 49ers receiver Torrey Smith.

“I don’t ever see it being fun being down by 20-plus points,” he said Wednesday.

49ers injury report: Bush plans to play vs Cardinals (CSN Bay Area)

Bush sustained a calf strain in the first half of the 49ers’ season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. He did not make the trip to Pittsburgh. He remained in the Bay Area to rehabilitate.

Tomsula weighs in on Mitchell’s ‘low tackle’ against Hyde (CSN Bay Area)

“He came in to tackle him low,” Tomsula said on Wednesday, the first time he has been asked about the play. “I put it as a low tackle. Carlos is a big, strong, physical back. That’s all I have to say about that. It’s not a knee or a hip, it’s a quad.”

Tomsula: No personnel changes planned for 49ers’ secondary (CSN Bay Area)

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 21 of 27 pass attempts for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Pittsburgh had pass plays of 59, 56, 48, 41, 35 and 28 yards. The 49ers surrendered an average of 13.7 yards for every Steelers pass attempt.

Pros and cons of Colin Kaepernick: Does the good outweigh the bad? (SFGate.com)

Colin Kaepernick set career highs for attempts (46) and completions (33) in the 43-18 loss in Pittsburgh. Overall, Kaepernick played solidly and corrected some mistakes from last week and last year. Here are the good and bad from Kaepernick in the game.

49ers notebook: Kaepernick comfortable in revamped offense (San Jose Mercury News)

“The biggest thing is I’m being asked to be myself this year,” Kaepernick said Wednesday. “I don’t think anyone knows how to be myself better than me. It’s a comfort zone for me.

“It’s a situation where I’m not being asked to do things outside of my character.”


Wednesday, September 23

49ers defense singing the third-down blues (ESPN.com)

The 49ers also had a hard time getting off the field on third down in the first half, with the Steelers converting four of five third-down opportunities and six of 10 overall. And if it seemed like Pittsburgh had some big plays on those conversions, you’re right.

49ers’ Colin Kaepernick, Torrey Smith could be impressive tandem (SF Gate)

The 49ers hope so after one of the few bright spots in their 43-18 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday was a 75-yard touchdown from rocket-armed Colin Kaepernick to fleet wideout Torrey Smith.

Cardinals ready for Kaepernick to scramble on third downs (CSN Bay Area)

The Arizona Cardinals want to squeeze the middle of the field and force 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to throw the ball outside the numbers, safety Tony Jefferson said on Tuesday.

49ers’ O-line ranks last in pass protection (CSN Bay Area)

While the 49ers own the league’s top rusher through two games, the offensive line ranks as the league’s worst pass-blocking unit, according to Pro Football Focus, which grades the performances of every player in every NFL game.

Anatomy of a Play: Colin Kaepernick’s 75-yard Touchdown Pass to Torrey Smith (49ers.com)

One bright spot from the San Francisco 49ers Week 2 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was the second-half performance of the passing attack.

Colin Kaepernick completed 22-of-31 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns after the break. The biggest play came midway through the fourth quarter when the quarterback hooked up with Torrey Smith down the middle of the field for a 75-yard score.


Tuesday, September 22

Right side of 49ers offensive line showing its warts (ESPN.com)

The San Francisco 49ers’ rebuilt offensive line, with only one starter remaining at the same position he played at in the 2014 opener (paging left tackle Joe Staley), was a concern entering this season.

Jim Tomsula updates injuries for Torrey Smith, Reggie Bush, other 49ers (ESPN.com)

The San Francisco 49ers had been one of the healthiest teams in the NFL after Week 1, with running back Reggie Bush the only player listed on the team’s injury report through last Thursday. But then receiver Bruce Ellington landed on it with a sprained ankle.

Colin Kaepernick: ‘We don’t play for moral victories’ (ESPN.com)

Because while Kaepernick had his fourth career 300-yard passing game with 335 yards, 274 of those yards came after halftime … when the Steelers led 29-3.

Transcript: Tomsula addresses 49ers’ struggle on defense (CSN Bay Area)

49ers head coach Jim Tomsula addressed the media in the aftermath of his team’s 25-point loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

49ers snap count: Davis takes over as backup RB (CSN Bay Area)

Jarryd Hayne opened the game Sunday as the 49ers’ backup running back against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but rookie Mike Davis quickly replaced him in that role while making his NFL debut.

Bowman: ‘You’re comparing this team to what we had in the past’ (SFGate.com)

What happened to a defense that’s ranked among the NFL’s top five in yards allowed every season since 2011? Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman provided the most sobering and honest assessment.

“You’re comparing this team to what we had in the past,” Bowman said. “We had probably eight or nine vets on our defense.”

5 Things We Learned from Jim Tomsula to Start Cardinals Week (49ers.com)

The San Francisco 49ers coach spoke about cleaning up mistakes from the Pittsburgh Steelers game as well as looking ahead to a Week 3 divisional showdown versus the Arizona Cardinals.

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