On the pregame sideline for Monday Night Football, Steve Young — the former 49ers quarterback who led San Francisco to a 19-6 record on Mondays over the course of his career — smiled as fans in the front row behind the south end zone did their best to catch even an approving glance during his pregame hit with ESPN’s Hannah Storm.
Part of the game broadcast, Young scooted over to the sideline set for a desk segment, but not before finding time to play a little catch. With Jerry Rice.
Young and Rice were two of the big reasons why San Francisco has the most Monday Night wins (48) in the NFL, and for the first time since both the two were playing together in Candlestick Park in 1990, the 49ers have a chance to go 4-0. After a bye, they host the preseason darling Cleveland Browns with two big pieces back in the lineup: Dee Ford and Tevin Coleman.
San Francisco won’t have running back Jeff Wilson’s services, but they will see the return of Coleman, who went down with a high ankle sprain the first week of the season. Coleman was set to be the 49ers’ starter headed into the season, in the wake of yet another knee injury to Jerick McKinnon, and in his place Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida have become the only duo in the NFL to pile up 200 rushing yards apiece.
Coleman, though, will provide a nice boost for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has steadily improved each week, tossing three scores in Week 2 and avoiding constant blitzing two weeks ago against the Steelers.
Coleman rushed 11 times for 44 yards against the Browns last season, but in Kyle Shanahan’s system, could be a mutli-variable threat, as he was in Atlanta, when he caught 92 balls for 1,010 yards from 2015-18.
The 49ers will also have the services of pass rusher Dee Ford (leg), who has helped a rejuvinated front seven become one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, but was a limited participant in practice this week (he’s managed knee tendinitis and quadriceps irritation since training camp) and was listed as questionable.
With Ford’s help, San Francisco has allowed zero rushing touchdowns (best in the league), has allowed just 12 big plays (also first) and only 26 passing first downs (first in the league), while ranking second in the NFL in completions of 20 or more yards allowed (two). They’ve also generated seven takeaways, after being in the bottom 10 in the NFL a year ago.
WWE wrestler Roman Reigns was on the sideline before the game. The WWE held their first Raw and Smackdown shows ever at Chase Center two weeks ago, with noted wrestling fan George Kittle getting a Twitter shoutout from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
San Francisco’s inactives included quarterback CJ Beathard, Ahkello Witherspoon (foot), running back Jeff Wilson, tackle Sam Young, tackle Joe Staley (leg), defensive lineman Julian Taylor and wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who was signed when San Francisco plaed Jalen Hurd on the Injured Reserve. Witherspoon, who was optimistic about coming back this week, was tossing balls to receivers in warm-ups, and may very well be back by next week. He’s one of three starters who have gone down with multi-week injuries over the first three games (himself, Coleman and Staley).