Jan 3, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh against the Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jets hire 49ers DC Robert Saleh as head coach

Robert Saleh, the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator since 2017, agreed in principle to become the head coach of the New York Jets, the team announced Thursday night.

He replaces Adam Gase, who was fired hours after a loss to the New England Patriots in Week 17 that concluded his two seasons in which the team went 9-23, including 2-14 in 2020.

San Francisco fielded a top-10 defense in total yards (fifth), rush yards (seventh) and pass yards (fourth) under Saleh’s leadership last year. In 2019, the 49ers were second overall in the league in total defense (281.8 yards per game) and first in pass defense, as its 169.2 per-game average was the league’s best since the Jets’ allowed an average of 153.7 through the air per game in 2009.

Saleh, 41, interviewed with the Jets twice, with the second one occurring Tuesday and Wednesday. Saleh met with every team that had a head-coach opening except the Houston Texans, according to the New York Post.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with people if they don’t hire him,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said recently of Saleh. “I mean, he’s as good as you can get. … And he’s going to hire the best staff. He knows about players. He knows who knows what they’re talking about … and he also knows how to deal with people. So, I hope everyone’s not very smart and doesn’t hire him so I can keep him. But I’m expecting not to have him.”

The Jets interviewed Saleh and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith in person and conducted virtual interviews with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and New Orleans Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn.

Saleh will become the 20th head coach of the Jets, who have the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Jets, who lost a franchise-record 13 consecutive games to open the 2020 season, have gone five years without a winning record. They last made the playoffs in 2010.

The Jets simply weren’t been competitive under Gase, as 15 of the team’s 23 losses under his watch were by double digits. This season, they were outscored by 214 points.

The New York offense ranked last in yards per game in each of the past two seasons. The Jets scored 243 points this season, 37 fewer than the next-worst team, the New York Giants.

Saleh was the linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2014-16 after serving as the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive quality control coach from 2011-13.

Saleh also served as an assistant coach with the Houston Texans from 2005-10 after college stints at Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia.

–Field Level Media

Feb 2, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA;  San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers    before Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pioneering coach Katie Sowers parts with 49ers

Assistant coach Katie Sowers’ pioneering four-year tenure with the San Francisco 49ers is over.

The 49ers’ first female coach and the NFL’s first openly gay coach told the San Jose Mercury News that her contract expired and she will explore other opportunities.

“I will sadly not be back,” Sowers confirmed in a text message to the newspaper.

Sowers, 34, originally joined the team as a 2017 summer intern. She became the first female to coach in a Super Bowl last season. In 2020, she worked as an offensive assistant under wide receivers coach Wes Welker.

“I’m going to miss you SF. Let’s see what 2021 has in store,” Sowers wrote in an Instagram story Wednesday night.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks make final push for top playoff seed vs. 49ers

The Seattle Seahawks have already clinched their first NFC West title since 2016.

But they still have something to play for in Week 17 when they meet the coronavirus-displaced San Francisco 49ers (6-9) on Sunday afternoon in Glendale, Ariz.

The Seahawks (11-4) can still earn the NFC’s top seed and a first-round bye with a victory and a loss by Green Bay (12-3) at Chicago (8-7) and a loss or tie by New Orleans (11-4) tie at Carolina (5-10).

Of course, the odds of all those scenarios happening are slim — FiveThirtyEight.com puts the Seahawks chances of getting the No. 1 seed at 4 percent — but there’s still a possibility.

Which is all Seahawks coach Pete Carroll needs to hear.

“We’re going for it, and we would love to have that break (the bye in the wild-card round) for players if we can get it,” Carroll said.

The Seahawks captured the division title with a 20-9 victory against the Los Angeles Rams last weekend, as Russell Wilson threw for one touchdown, rushed for another and the defense limited the visitors to three field goals.

“I don’t want to break that mentality at all,” Carroll said. “We want to stay right with it and keep pushing and trying to get better. … This is a championship opportunity to put ourselves in the best situation going into the playoffs.”

Through the first half of the season, Wilson carried the Seahawks and the defense was on pace to shatter the NFL record for most yards allowed in a season.

But over the past seven games, the Seahawks are allowing an average of just 15 points, best in the league, are tied for first in sacks (24) and are third in total defense.

“We figured it out,” Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said. “Guys are just starting to be accountable, we’re communicating like no other. To hear the other guys’ voices each and every play is truly special.”

Added safety Jamal Adams: “For everybody out there, they got to start putting respect on this defense’s name, because this defense is playing lights out.”

The injury-plagued 49ers, the defending NFC champions, have shown a willingness to play the role of spoiler. Behind third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard, the 49ers dealt Arizona’s playoff chances a blow with a 20-12 victory last weekend.

Beathard completed 13 of 22 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns and Jeff Wilson rushed for a career-high 183 yards and made a 21-yard touchdown reception.

“That’s why I’ve been real proud of the players and the way they’ve handled themselves,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s why I’m truly not going to count this year as a negative. It wasn’t fun. It’s not what we or our fans wanted. But I believe the way we went through it, if you go through things the right way, I think it hardens you and makes you stronger and makes you better.”

The Seahawks beat San Francisco 37-27 on Nov. 1 in Seattle. Nick Mullens replaced an injured Jimmy Garoppolo and guided the 49ers to three touchdowns in the final five minutes.

Shanahan said he doesn’t expect Garoppolo (ankle) to return this week. Wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk (ankle) and Deebo Samuel (hamstring), left tackle Trent Williams (elbow), defensive end Jordan Willis (ankle) and cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) have already been ruled out. Kicker Robbie Gould was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The Seahawks are relatively healthy, with cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) expected to return from the injured reserve list and right tackle Brandon Shell (ankle) is likely to play.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; San Francisco 49ers place kicker Robbie Gould (9) kicks a field during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Report: 49ers, K Gould agree to two-year extension

Kicker Robbie Gould and the San Francisco 49ers have agreed on a two-year, $7.25 million guaranteed contract extension, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Gould, 38, was set to become a free agent when the league year ends.

In his 16th NFL season, Gould has made 19 of 23 field goal attempts and 36 of 38 PATs for the 49ers (6-9).

The former Penn State kicker began his career with the Chicago Bears (2005-15), then spent one season with the New York Giants before landing with the 49ers in 2017.

An All-Pro in 2006, Gould has connected on 86.6 percent of his field goal tries (400 of 462) and 97.4 percent of his extra point attempts (531 of 545) in 236 games.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick (43) causes a fumble by San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) in the second quarter at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

49ers hand Cardinals costly defeat

C.J. Beathard threw two touchdown passes to Kyle Juszczyk, Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed for a career-best 183 yards and Ahkello Witherspoon thwarted a late Arizona Cardinals threat with an end-zone interception Saturday afternoon, lifting the visiting San Francisco 49ers to a 20-12 victory in Glendale, Ariz.

The loss was a costly one for the Cardinals (8-7), who with a third consecutive victory could have earned a wild-card playoff berth by winning their last two games. Instead, now the Chicago Bears (7-7) can eliminate Arizona by winning their last two, including Sunday at Jacksonville.

Juszczyk’s touchdown catches covered 9 yards in the third quarter and 1 yard in the fourth, allowing the 49ers (6-9), who snapped a three-game losing streak, to extend a 7-6 halftime edge.

When Robbie Gould missed right on his point-after attempt following Juszczyk’s second score with 8:36 remaining, the Cardinals needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie.

Murray drove Arizona to the San Francisco 14, but his floater intended for Christian Kirk was picked off by Witherspoon.

Arizona got the ball back one more time after Gould missed his second field goal attempt of the day, a 37-yarder with 1:09 remaining. But the Cardinals couldn’t get out of their own territory as Murray finished a 31-for-50, 247-yard, touchdown-less game.

Starting in place of injured Raheem Mostert, Wilson rushed 22 times and hauled in Beathard’s first of three touchdown passes, a 21-yarder in the first quarter.

Beathard, San Francisco’s third-stringer getting an opportunity with both Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens out, went 13-for-22 passing for 182 yards and the three scores.

DeAndre Hopkins was the game’s top pass-catcher with eight for 48 yards, while teammate Kirk went for a team-high 76 yards on seven catches.

Kenyan Drake scored Arizona’s only touchdown on a 1-yard plunge with 12:08 left in the game, but a two-point conversion pass from Murray to Hopkins went incomplete, leaving the Cardinals two points behind at 14-12.

George Kittle, returning to the San Francisco lineup after suffering a broken foot in Week 8, had a game-high 92 receiving yards on four receptions.

Arizona’s Mike Nugent sandwiched Wilson’s touchdown with a pair of field goals — from 27 and 43 yards — to keep the Cardinals with 7-6 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) against the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals still in playoff hunt as they battle ailing 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals meet up at a familiar setting when the NFC West rivals duel on Saturday afternoon in Glendale, Ariz.

The rematch of a 24-20 Arizona win in Week 1 has far more significance for the Cardinals (8-6), who remain in the running for an NFC playoff spot, than the 49ers (5-9), whose bid to repeat as conference champs officially ended with last week’s loss at Dallas.

Both teams will be playing on the State Farm Stadium field for the third time in the last four weeks, with the 49ers having been forced to relocate from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., because of COVID-19 restrictions in the region.

The 49ers have lost their first two neutral-site games in Arizona, beaten in Week 13 by Buffalo 34-24 and then a week later by Washington 23-15.

The 49ers were thumped 41-33 at Dallas last week, and lost far more than just a game that eliminated them from playoff contention. Top running back Raheem Mostert has been ruled out for the season after aggravating a high ankle sprain in the loss, while quarterback Nick Mullens suffered an elbow injury that the 49ers fear could require Tommy John surgery.

Regular starter Jimmy Garoppolo has returned to practice after suffering an ankle injury against Seattle in Week 8, but San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan noted that he’s unlikely to get medical clearance to return to game action either this week or in the finale against Seattle, another game that will be played in Arizona.

“(He will play) only if the doctors told me it’s 100 percent safe and he feels good, and I’d be very surprised if that happens,” Shanahan reported. “Right now, he’s safe to go out to practice. It’ll be fun for him to throw the ball around a little bit, but we’re going to be very safe with him this week and we’ll see next week. But I’d be very surprised if that changes.”

Shanahan wouldn’t name a starter for the Arizona game as the practice week began, but by process of elimination, the last man standing appears to be C.J. Beathard, who came on in mop-up duty in Dallas and threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne on the final play of the game.

The 49ers have since gone out and plucked veteran Josh Rosen off the Tampa Bay practice squad to serve as Beathard’s backup.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, will take the field in third place in the NFC West, two games behind Seattle (10-4) and one back of the Los Angeles Rams (9-5). Arizona visits the Rams next week.

The Cardinals can clinch a wild card this weekend with a win over the 49ers and a Chicago (7-7) loss to Jacksonville (1-13).

Kyler Murray kept Arizona in a favorable position when he threw for a season-best 406 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 33-26 home win over Philadelphia.

But like the 49ers, the Cardinals didn’t escape the game unscathed. Veteran wideout Larry Fitzgerald strained his groin and star linebacker Haason Reddick injured his shoulder in the win, leaving both a bit iffy for the San Francisco game.

Murray, who rushed for 91 yards but threw for just 230 in the earlier loss to the 49ers, warned not to overlook a prideful opponent.

“Good team,” he insisted. “They’ll be ready to go, obviously. It’s a divisional game. It’s going to be very competitive.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson (30) runs against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (27) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys cash in turnovers for win over 49ers

Andy Dalton passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns and the Dallas Cowboys scored 24 points off turnovers in a 41-33 victory Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in Arlington, Texas.

The Cowboys (5-9) won back-to-back games for the first time this year. The 49ers (5-9) committed four turnovers and have lost three straight games and six of their last seven.

Nick Mullens completed 21 of 36 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns for San Francisco but threw two costly interceptions in the fourth quarter.

Donovan Wilson intercepted the first one, setting up a 46-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal that put Dallas up 27-24 with 10:12 to play.

Two plays after Anthony Brown registered the second pick, Tony Pollard broke off a 40-yard touchdown run for a 34-24 lead with 2:27 remaining.

San Francisco’s Robbie Gould made a 31-yard field goal — the 400th of his career — with 43 seconds left, but CeeDee Lamb recovered the onside kick and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown.

After replacing Mullens, C.J. Beathard heaved a 49-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne on the game’s final play.

Starting in place of leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott (calf injury), Pollard rushed 12 times for 69 yards with two touchdowns and added six catches for 63 yards.

Dallas scored the game’s first 14 points off two early turnovers by San Francisco.

Pollard punched in a 1-yard touchdown run five plays after Richie James fumbled on a punt return, and Michael Gallup caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Dalton five plays after DeMarcus Lawrence stripped Mullens and Aldon Smith made the recovery.

San Francisco answered with two short TD passes by Mullens wrapped around a 48-yard Zuerlein field goal.

Jordan Reed caught a 5-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left in the opening quarter and Brandon Aiyuk caught a 2-yard flip pass on fourth down with 5:00 remaining in the half. Both scoring drives covered 75 yards in 13 plays.

On its first second-half possession, San Francisco knotted the score at 17-17 on Gould’s 41-yard field goal.

Dallas made it 24-17 midway through the third quarter on a 12-yard touchdown catch by Dalton Schultz, one play after Dalton connected on a 45-yard pass play to Lamb.

The 49ers tied it again at 24-24 on Jeff Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 2:08 left in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Washington Football Team defensive tackle Daron Payne (94) rushes San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

49ers to end season in Arizona after home ban extended

The San Francisco 49ers will finish out their “home” season at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., instead of returning to the Bay Area.

The team relocated to the desert nearly three weeks ago after officials in Santa Clara County, Calif., banned professional, college and youth sports games and practices through Dec. 21, and the ban has been extended until at least Jan. 8. The 49ers’ home field is Levi’s Stadium, which is in Santa Clara County.

The county took action in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. On Thursday, California reported 52,281 new daily confirmed coronavirus cases — just short of a statewide record set the day before.

The 49ers (5-8) played their past two games in Arizona as the home team — both losses — and are scheduled to face the Dallas Cowboys on the road Sunday. They will return to Arizona to play the Cardinals on Dec. 26 as the visiting team, then host the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 3 to end their season.

General manager John Lynch told KNBR radio in San Francisco that many family members will join players and staff in Arizona for the holidays, following COVID-19 testing.

“It feels like a lot of the families are coming in this weekend,” he said. “They’re all going to test in when we’re gone so we can see them when we get back. That will be a big lift to the guys.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (99) returns a fumble for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Washington downs 49ers, and grabs first place, with defense

Chase Young and Kamren Curl scored defensive touchdowns as the Washington Football Team overcame an injury to quarterback Alex Smith to claim first place in the NFC East by defeating the San Francisco 49ers 23-15 on Sunday afternoon at Glendale, Ariz.

Dustin Hopkins kicked three field goals and the Washington defense stopped the 49ers (5-8) on four potential game-tying, fourth-quarter possessions to secure a fourth straight win. Washington (6-7) now sits alone atop the NFC East with three games remaining after the New York Giants’ loss on Sunday.

The 49ers’ Jeff Wilson Jr. scored on a short run and Kyle Juszczyk on a short pass for the game’s only offensive touchdowns, but San Francisco was undone by three turnovers, two of which Washington turned into scores.

Curl’s touchdown came on a 76-yard interception of a Nick Mullens pass on the final play of the third quarter, giving Washington a 23-7 lead.

Juszczyk’s TD catch from Mullens from 6 yards out, coupled with a Mullens connection with Kendrick Bourne on a two-point conversion, got San Francisco within one score at 23-15 with 10:24 remaining.

But San Francisco, which lost top wideout Deebo Samuels on the first play of the game to a hamstring injury, could not score on any of its last four possessions, including getting stopped on downs at the Washington 44 with 1:38 to go.

Washington used Dwayne Haskins Jr. at quarterback in the second half after Smith, bothered most of the game by a sore calf, couldn’t return to the game after the break. Smith finished 8-for-19 for 57 yards with one interception, before Haskins went 7-for-12 for 51 yards.

Young almost single-handedly was the difference in the first half, during which Washington overcame a 7-0 deficit to take a 13-7 lead.

Washington was down 7-3 midway through the second period before Young stripped the ball from the 49ers’ Wilson, leading to a 31-yard field goal by Hopkins.

Later in the half, Daron Payne swatted the ball out of Mullens’ possession, after which Young scooped it up and dashed 47 yards for his first NFL touchdown and a 13-7 lead with 1:11 left.

Mullens finished 25-for-45 for 260 yards and one touchdown along with the one interception. Brandon Aiyuk was the game’s top pass-catcher with 10 receptions for 119 yards.

The 49ers outgained Washington 344-193 en route to their fifth loss in their last six games.

Washington’s J.D. McKissic, getting more touches than usual with Antonio Gibson out with a toe injury, was the game’s leading rusher with 68 yards on 11 carries.

–Field Level Media