Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers hoping for morning glory in Carolina

By David Del Grande, The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 15, 2016 at 12:53 AM
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers might have appeared well polished for their opener against the Los Angeles Rams. But truth be told, coach Chip Kelly began preparing for a trip to Carolina well before anything else he ever did for his new team.

You see, Kelly is a big believer in getting a player's body acclimated to game-type conditions. And with Sunday's matchup with the Panthers scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Pacific time, that could be an adjustment for most teams.

Not the 49ers.

"We've always practiced in the morning," noted Kelly, who coached at the University of Oregon on the West Coast before heading east to lead the Philadelphia Eagles. "I practiced in the morning when we were at Oregon. I practiced in the morning when we were in Philadelphia.

"Part of that is because of the science aspect of it. Your body releases HGH at the most between nine and 11 (a.m.). So we should be out on the field between nine and 11."

Adjusted or not adjusted, the 49ers will be at a distinct disadvantage in the scheduling of Sunday's game.

The Panthers opened the season in the national spotlight -- the Thursday night curtain-raiser against the Denver Broncos.

After flying back to Carolina, they will have had nine days to prepare for the 49ers.

Meanwhile, the 49ers were at the other end of the scheduling spectrum. They had the latest kickoff of the 16 Week 1 games -- 7:20 p.m. on the West Coast on Monday night.

After taking Tuesday to rest up, they will have three days of practice before having to head east.

Again, Kelly is not concerned,

"We have it all worked out," he assured Tuesday. "We're going to leave on Friday after training and then get there some time Friday evening and then get up and practice on Saturday in Carolina. You know your schedule in April, so we've got everything planned out accordingly.

"Whenever you play a Monday game, you're going to have a short week, and at some point in time, I think coming up here in a couple weeks, we're going to play a game on a Thursday. It is what it is."

The one advantage the 49ers got from Carolina opening four days earlier was it's given them four extra days to study the film from the Panthers' 21-20 loss to the Broncos.

"There wasn't going to be a game coming in on Sunday, so all of our breakdowns were done," Kelly said. "Some of our coaches took the time Sunday afternoon and Monday to get a jump-start on just watching the film, so that when we get into the game-planning, it's not the first time we saw them.

"It's just the same thing I think everybody does when you have a Monday night game. You know you're going to be short, but you can steal a little bit of film prep time in the days before, because those are long days. Sunday is a long day for us and Monday is a long day for us because we didn't play until seven o'clock. I think our coaches are all caught up from a film standpoint."

Of course, preparing for the Panthers means having to deal with Cam Newton, a unique quarterback who can make things happen even when the defense is where it was designed to be.

"He's a very rare athlete in that there aren't many people that are that accurate throwing the football, that can run as well as he can run and have that size," Kelly assessed. "So very rarely does the first person get Cam to the ground. If he is running the ball, we have to gang-tackle. We're going to have to get everybody running to the football and swarm him.

"Sometimes you've got a guy that's just a runner or you've got a guy that's just a thrower. It's easy to kind of game plan for those guys. A guy that's like Cam, and that's why he was the MVP last year, is because he can do it all. And not only can he do it all and he maybe the biggest quarterback in the league doing it. So, it's going to take all 11 guys getting around him on every play for us to win this battle from a defensive standpoint."

--The numbers looked good: 22 for 35, 170 yards, one touchdown; nine rushes, 43 yards; 8 for 17 on third-down conversions; 28 first downs; 32:10-27:50 edge in time of possession ...

And most important: 49ers 28, Los Angeles Rams 0.

So it was no surprise when coach Chip Kelly, after having a chance to review the film from Monday's game, praised quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

"We have all the confidence in the world in him," the new coach insisted. "First game in our system ... understanding what he's doing ... first real live game ... There were some real positives that we can build upon with him."

--On a night when the 49ers held Rams star running back Todd Gurley to 47 yards on 17 carries, got two interceptions from linebackers and got two sacks from front-seven defenders, Chip Kelly found time this week to single out a member of his secondary for his role in the 28-0 win.

A rookie, no less. In his role as third cornerback, fourth-round draft pick Rashard Robinson played the defensive version of a perfect game. No completions allowed. In fact, never even targeted.

"I don't think they specifically stayed away from him for any reason, but when he was out there, he just didn't have the ball thrown his way," Chip Kelly said. "He was solid in coverage and was close in everything he had to do, so if they did throw it, it would have probably been a contested throw."

NOTES: QB Blaine Gabbert ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards among quarterbacks with 43. He'll be up against the Week 1 leader, Carolina's Cam Newton (54), when the 49ers visit the Panthers on Sunday. ... RB Carlos Hyde was one of only three running backs to rush for two touchdowns on opening week. The others were Pittsburgh's DeAngelo Williams and San Diego's Melvin Gordon. Hyde also is tied for third in the NFL in scoring (12) and seventh in rushing yards (88). ... RG Andrew Tiller was limited in practice Wednesday because of a slightly sprained ankle. Tiller suffered the injury in Monday's season-opening win, but was able to play through it. ... OLB Ahmad Brooks has had more than his fair share of success against this week's opponent, the Carolina Panthers, in his career. He's had 5 1/2 career sacks in four games against the Panthers. ... P Bradley Pinion ranks third in the NFL after one week in total punting yards with 319. Pinion had three of his kicks fair caught, the fourth-most in Week 1.

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