49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 15, 2012
Notes: Patriot nemesis Manningham unlikely to play; Jenkins to see first pass?

marioCatch.jpg

****UPDATED**** Manningham has been downgraded to out. There is now no chance for him to play.

The 49ers figure to be without No. 2 receiver and noted Patriot killer (see photo) Mario Manningham on Sunday. Manningham is listed as doubtful after exacerbating a shoulder injury against the Rams on Dec. 2. Last week against the Dolphins his role was filled by Ted Ginn as well as first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins, who played in the slot in three-receiver sets.

Jenkins was in on only three plays and was not targeted. Jim Harbaugh said on Monday that Jenkins was wide open on one of those plays but that Colin Kaepernick threw the ball elsewhere. Jenkins, whom Harbaugh vociferously defended at the start of the season after the rookie was criticized in the media, has yet to have his first NFL catch.

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The opponents' attention to Vernon Davis - three catches for 19 yards in the last three games - has opened things a bit for the 49ers' other tight end, Delanie Walker. Walker has five catches for 108 yards over the same span. That stat line would be even more impressive if he hadn't dropped a would-be touchdown pass late against St. Louis.

Speaking of tight ends, the Patriots Rob Gronkowski was a limited participant in practice Friday, his first session since breaking his forearm Nov. 18. Gronkowski did not practice Wednesday and Thursday, and reports out of the Boston area suggest he won't play Sunday. He is one of 18 Patriots players - this is vintage Belichick - listed as questionable on the injury report.

Notably, offensive tackle Nate Solder, who will be playing against Aldon Smith, was added to the practice participation report on Friday. Solder was listed as "limited" with an abdominal injury. Smith had three sacks on Solder when Missouri played Solder's Colorado Buffaloes in 2009.

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The 49ers' nickel defense will be one of the keys to the game. The Patriots like to stretch defenses with passing alignments and then run through the big openings those alignments cause. Running back Stevan Ridley ranks seventh in the league with 1,082 rushing yards and has scored 10 rushing touchdowns, which puts him in a three-way tie for second with Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. The 49ers match up well in their nickel because inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman remain on the field.

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The weather forecast - which has been changing from rain to snow or a mixture of both all week - currently is back to rain. The prediction is for showers to begin in the afternoon with temperatures around 38 degrees.

- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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