From Comcast SportsNetSANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Jim Harbaugh watched how Colin Kaepernick handled himself when things didn't go right for the San Francisco 49ers, and that told the coach plenty more about his second-year quarterback with all of three NFL starts to his name.Enough that Harbaugh is sticking with Kaepernick under center -- for now, anyway -- as his team gears up for Sunday's home game against the Miami Dolphins at Candlestick Park."Just a winning quarterback performance in tough circumstances," Harbaugh said Monday. "In the evaluation, I thought Colin played well, did a lot of really good things, made some good decisions. ... I thought some real positives to take away from his performance."Yet Alex Smith isn't out of this mix yet, either. Another sub-par performance by Kaepernick could have Harbaugh going back to the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick for the final December push toward the playoffs. The reigning NFL coach of the year is leaving every option open down the stretch.A day after a 16-13 overtime loss at St. Louis, Harbaugh accepted the blame for the fourth-quarter pitch that was fumbled by Kaepernick and led to Janoris Jenkins' 2-yard fumble return for a touchdown and ensuing 2-point conversion that tied the game. Harbaugh didn't call the play, but relayed it through the headset to Kaepernick."Responsibility-taking starts with me on that option play that resulted in the nightmare scenario," Harbaugh said. "Position of the game that where I should not let that play be called. So I take responsibility for that."At 8-3-1, the Niners are prepared for a challenge from the Seahawks (7-5) in the NFC West after Seattle won in overtime at Chicago on Sunday. The teams play at Seattle in the second-to-last game on Dec. 23.Everybody around San Francisco is looking for a strong finish by a team that has set its sights on the Super Bowl since moments after last year's near miss: a 20-17 overtime loss to the eventual champion New York Giants in the NFC title game."You're mad to the point where you don't really feel anything right now," linebacker Patrick Willis said Sunday in St. Louis.After this week's home game with Miami (5-7), San Francisco also must travel to New England in another daunting road task. The 49ers are certainly frustrated with the way their two games against the Rams wound up after a 24-24 tie on Nov. 11."We expect to execute," left tackle Joe Staley said. "We didn't execute. Late in the season we shouldn't be having games like this."David Akers missed another key field goal in what has been a difficult stretch for the kicker. His 51-yard attempt with 4:16 remaining in overtime went wide right, only three weeks after he missed left on a 41-yard try also in overtime against the Rams.While Akers was listed on last week's injury report with a pelvis issue, he looked fine during practice from as far out as 50 yards. Harbaugh expects him to play against the Dolphins -- even after the team brought in a couple of backup options for tryouts last Tuesday.Akers, who set an NFL single-season record with 44 field goals in 2011, has made only 15 of his last 24 attempts."We'll see what his health status is this week, but all indications are he's working through something," Harbaugh said. "He's kicked well in practice. He's kicked well in games. I thought the one that he hit in the ball game that was missed was well hit. It just didn't go in."Harbaugh will call on all of his players to improve during practice this week and challenge each other, saying "we don't lay it on anybody's particular doorstep.""It's a tough loss," he said. "It's one you wake up this morning, and that gut-wrenching feeling is still there. The positive things are we still have a quarter of the season to play. Four games, we're in position to control our own destiny and bounce back. Certainly a bit of an edge, I would expect, because we all take responsibility we didn't get it done this week."Notes: Harbaugh said he met with defensive end and special teams regular Demarcus Dobbs regarding his arrest Friday morning -- on his 25th birthday -- for suspicion of driving under the influence and marijuana possession. Harbaugh said Dobbs is expected to be available for Sunday's game after he didn't travel for the Rams game. "That's a situation we're handling internally," Harbaugh said. ... Harbaugh said he had no update on the shoulder injury sustained by WR Mario Manningham.
This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo.
The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?
Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area.
"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."
Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman.
Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.
The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.
"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."
Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis.
Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.
Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday.
“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight.
"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”
CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.
An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.
Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”
“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”
James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.
He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?
Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.
“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”
To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.
“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”
We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.
Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, all Rutgers alumni, brought a smirk to Bill Belichick's face. Also, Mike Giardi and Tom E. Curran analyze Jimmy Garoppolo's peformance