Niners host Dolphins in search of first win at home
The Miami Dolphins make their first visit to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., when the AFC East team visits the San Francisco 49ers of the NFC West in a battle of struggling clubs on Sunday afternoon.
The interconference game matches a Dolphins team (1-3) that played their best game of the season on the road two weeks ago at Jacksonville against a 49ers squad (2-2) that has yet to win on its home turf this season.
The teams haven’t met since 2016, when the Dolphins prevailed 31-24 at home in a contest in which both starting quarterbacks — Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick — threw three touchdown passes.
The rosters look quite different, to the point where all six guys who scored touchdowns in the November 2016 contest are no longer with their respective teams. Coaches Adam Gase (Miami) and Chip Kelly (San Francisco) are also gone.
In fact, the 49ers have used five different starting quarterbacks — not counting Kaepernick — since that contest, with Blaine Gabbert, C.J. Beathard, Brian Hoyer, Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens all getting multiple calls.
Three of those five remain in the running to get this week’s start against the Dolphins, with Garoppolo close to returning from an ankle injury, while Beathard appears on the verge of replacing Mullens as the chief backup.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan began the practice week confident Garoppolo might reappear from a two-week absence and was unwilling to divulge who’d get the start if he couldn’t.
“I’m going to hold that just because there is a difference between them, and if Jimmy can’t go, I’d like Miami to find that out on Sunday,” Shanahan said of a decision between Mullens, who has started the last two games, and Beathard, who replaced the benched starter late in last week’s loss to Philadelphia.
“We’ll get both of them reps because both of them do have to be ready in case Jimmy doesn’t go.”
Mullens committed two critical turnovers in the 25-20 loss, a fumble that led to Philadelphia’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and an interception that the Eagles returned for a score on the next play from scrimmage, creating a deeper hole and leading to the summoning of Beathard.
The 49ers found themselves in the same situation as Garoppolo with running back Raheem Mostert this week. He also has sat out two straight games with a knee injury but entered the practice week with a realistic chance of convincing Shanahan he could go against the Dolphins.
Like Mullens, Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered two key giveaways last week in a 31-23 home loss to Seattle. He threw for 315 yards, many of which came after two interceptions had helped the Seahawks build a 31-15 lead.
Fitzpatrick connected 10 times for 110 yards with wideout DeVante Parker, and noted this week he’s still getting to know many in the Dolphins’ new cast of pass-catchers.
“I think the confidence that I have in our group is high,” Fitzpatrick said. “DeVante is always going to be a guy we’re going to try to get the ball. Jakeem (Grant) has shown some really nice things for us. Matt (Breida). (Mike) Gesicki had a great game and is a guy that I need to continue to get the ball to. …
“It’s a good problem that we have. We’ve got guys that aren’t getting enough touches. That means we have a lot of playmakers and I’ll continue to try to do my best to spread it around.”
Parker (ankle) was limited in practice Wednesday for Miami, as was cornerback Byron Jones (groin, Achilles). Shaq Lawson (shoulder) and starting left tackle Austin Jackson did not participate.
The teams will be meeting for a second time in Northern California outside of San Francisco. The first site was Stanford Stadium, about 15 miles west of Levi’s, when the 49ers crushed Dan Marino and the Dolphins 38-16 in Super Bowl XIX in January of 1985.
–Field Level Media