Hopefully, everyone enjoyed their Turkey Day. The 49ers received more help as each NFC team that mattered in the standings lost. The Niners are now the 7-seed and hold the final Wildcard spot in the playoffs, right behind the Vikings.
How about the Bills/Saints game last night? Matt Breida at running back for Buffalo, with Emmanuel Sanders catching passes along the sideline. Also, Kwon Alexander with an interception.
The good injury news came again for the 49ers in their Thursday practice report.
Only one player, running back JaMycal Hasty was a non-participant. Defensive lineman Maurice Hurst returned to practice for the first time since Week 7 when he initially suffered the calf injury that’s held him out of the last five games.
The 49ers offense has been excellent in the red zone this year. They’re leading the NFL in red zone touchdown rate this season by converting at a 77.8 percent clip. Part of the reason for this success is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s effectiveness in that area. He’s thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions. They also have a slew of players who’re effective near the goal line, from tight end George Kittle to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and backup QB Trey Lance. Their 77.8 TD rate in the red area is by far their best mark under head coach Kyle Shanahan after being near the bottom of the league in his first three years. Last year they were No. 8, and they’ve improved again this season.
Shanahan was asked whether he is surprised at how Williams’ game has seemingly only gotten better with age.
“No,” he answered, “because we see him in practice. You look at his age, he’s still to me the most talented guy. I don’t see many people more talented than him. So usually when, as you get older in age, the talent goes and you still can execute a level with wisdom and experience.
“But I see the same talent and I think he’s got a lot more wisdom and experience.”
The numbers seem to support Shanahan’s assertion.
Williams’ overall grade is the highest of his career, according to Pro Football Focus. He has a near-perfect grade as a run-blocker and has surrendered just one sack this season.
“I think there’s a chance for anything, but I think we made it pretty clear that Trey is our guy of the future, whenever that’ll happen,” Shanahan said. “But it was also nothing against Jimmy that we took him, but we do believe Trey will be our guy of the future. And like I said, I think it’ll be really hard if Jimmy’s on it for him to beat them out right away. So it is kind of going like that right now and I’m not thinking much past that.”
Dee Ford has been designated for return, per an announcement from the 49ers. This will open a 21-day practice window for the defensive end — he’ll either be moved to the active roster in the next three weeks or lose his eligibility to play in 2021.
Ford hasn’t played since Oct. 24, a 30-18 loss to the Colts. It’s all tied to ongoing back trouble, the same issue that wiped out all but one of his games in 2020.
The eighth-year defender has struggled with injuries throughout his career. And, in addition to his bad back, Ford has also dealt with neck trouble and concussion-like symptoms this season.