Tue Jan 21 4:11pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert celebrates after the NFL NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 37-20 to advance to Super Bowl 54 against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Before taking the field each week, Raheem Mostert seeks out motivation.
There it is in a list of all the times he's been cut by NFL teams. Philadelphia, Miami and Baltimore all let Mostert go in 2015. Cleveland, the Jets and Chicago all sent him packing the following year before he finally ended up on San Francisco's practice squad.
That unlikely path that saw Mostert get cut almost as many times as he was handed the ball his first three seasons somehow has led to the Super Bowl after he posted one of the greatest postseason performances ever by a running back.
''The journey's been crazy,'' Mostert said. ''Not everybody can deal with that type of stress and pain and agony that I went through. But like I said, I kept the faith in not only myself but whoever gave me the opportunity.''
The 49ers are the beneficiaries of that as the former skateboarder and surfer has proven to be skilled enough on his own two feet as an NFL running back when he was finally given the chance.
Mostert led the 49ers in rushing this season with 772 yards and provided the signature performance of his career on the big stage of the NFC championship game when he ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-20 win over Green Bay on Sunday that sent the Niners to the Super Bowl.
Only Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson has rushed for more yards in a playoff game with 248 for the Rams against Dallas on Jan. 4, 1986.
''He's been a special teams player for so long because of his speed, I'm just so happy that he's getting the opportunity to showcase his ability at running back,'' tackle Joe Staley said. ''The guy works harder than really anybody, and he's been patient. Never really complained about his role, always just shows up, works hard and this is what happens when you accept your roles on a team, you don't worry about results, you don't worry about stats, and then you have a moment like this. He was ready for this the whole season.''
Mostert wasn't sure this day would ever come. He carried the ball only 43 times his first three seasons in college at Purdue, where he excelled as a kick returner, before getting a little bigger load his final year when he had 93 carries for 529 yards.
That wasn't nearly enough to get him drafted so he signed as an undrafted free agent with Philadelphia in 2015. He was cut before the season and then signed to the practice squad before being picked up by Miami and spending a month with the Dolphins.
He was then claimed by Baltimore and spent two months there before signing with Cleveland late that season. He spent the entire offseason with the Browns and thought he had made the team when he was on the initial 53-man roster only to get the bad news a day later.
''It just made me stronger,'' he said. ''I got immune to being cut. I wanted to show the world what I can do. And honestly it was just one of those things where I really had a talk with my wife and I was saying, what do you think should happen after that cut? And she basically said, 'Hey, if you love your job, if you love this sport, you will do anything for it. And if you love what you do, you would do anything for it.' And that was my philosophy from here on out.''
Mostert bounced around that season before ending up with the Niners when coach Chip Kelly, who initially signed Mostert in 2015 in Philadelphia, gave him another shot.
Mostert played one game late that season and got his first career carry before he had to impress a new staff when Kyle Shanahan took over the following year.
Mostert is the only skill position player still on the Niners who was here when Shanahan arrived as he proved indispensable as a special teams standout and then slowly carved out a bigger role.
He had a handful of carries his first year under Shanahan as he adjusted from playing mostly out of the shotgun to the outside zone running scheme utilized by the Niners.
The coaching staff realized Mostert's blazing speed could be an asset in that one cut and go system. He ran for 250 yards in a four-game stretch before breaking his arm midway through last season against the Raiders.
He came into this season fourth on the depth chart at running back before finally starting to get the bulk of the carries in December, starting with a 146-yard game at Baltimore.
''Whether it's special teams or offense, the way he hits the hole, he gets so vertical so fast,'' tight end George Kittle said. ''I think defenses, they underestimate his speed. You can just see it. He'll hit a hole and the guy will take what he thinks is a good angle. And, next thing you know, he's by him. Doesn't even touch him. And, his 0 to 60 is literally in two steps and it's so special, especially with our offense. The way we do outside zone, inside zone, he can make one cut and get vertical. It's all we need.''
While Mostert has become the featured back, he hasn't forgotten his special teams roots. He still gets extensive time on coverage units and his speed as a gunner helped cause a muffed punt in a divisional round playoff win over Minnesota.
Special teams mean so much to Mostert that he even named his son, Gunnar, after his role on punt coverage. That's something he doesn't want to give up.
''It hasn't crossed my mind because I'm still that team guy,'' he said. ''I love playing special teams. I don't take it for granted because that's where I started. That's where I made my name and made my mark.''
Now Mostert is making an even bigger mark in his new role.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's (neck) surgery "went well." "I feel really good about it. I feel really good about him making a full recovery and being ready to participate in everything," Jones said. The second-year linebacker should be good to go for the team's offseason workouts after missing the final five games of the 2019 season. He recorded a total of 72 tackles (43 solo), half a sack and one forced fumble in his nine games played. LVE was a beast his rookie season with 140 total tackles, and he could return to being an IDP force again in 2020 if he can just stay on the field.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that quarterback Dak Prescott is the team's "No. 1 priority as we go into the offseason." Despite the Cowboys missing the playoffs in 2019, Prescott wasn't the problem. He had his best season with 4,902 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his fourth year in the NFL. The Cowboys continue to reiterate that Prescott is their QB of the future, so expect a contract extension to come soon. If that doesn't happen, the franchise tag is another option to retain him for 2020. Prescott finished as the No. 3 fantasy signal-caller last season, and he'll head into the 2020 campaign as a strong high-end QB1.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (shoulder) underwent a shoulder procedure last week that is said to involve "not a lengthy rehab," and Edelman is expected to be ready for the team's offseason program, according to a league source. The 33-year-old was noticeably hindered by his shoulder to close out the year, but overall it was a very successful 2019 season. Edelman had 100 receptions for a career-high 1,117 yards and six touchdowns over a full season. It was the second time in his career that he reached the 100-catch mark as quarterback Tom Brady's only real trusted receiving option. Edelman's outlook may change if Brady isn't under center in 2020, but he should at least be a solid WR2 in PPR leagues.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen) underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to fix a core muscle injury. A full recovery is expected. OBJ didn't miss a game in his first season with Cleveland despite fighting through injuries. He caught 74 passes for 1,035 yards and only four touchdowns in what was a very disappointing first year with the Browns. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was extremely inconsistent behind a terrible offensive line, which didn't help matters for Beckham's fantasy owners. Another offseason to gain chemistry with Mayfield should help Beckham rebound in 2020, and he could be a nice value pick as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is not expected to undergo surgery, and he will play in the Pro Bowl. It's great news for a Browns offense that will be looking to shake off the disappointment of the 2019 season heading into 2020. Landry was the team's most consistent wideout last year, catching 83 passes for a career-high 1,174 yards and six touchdowns over a full season. In his six NFL seasons, Landry has had at least 81 receptions and four touchdowns and has never missed a game. He's a very consistent WR2/3 in PPR leagues, and the presence of Odell Beckham Jr. should continue to take attention away from him.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel combined for just three catches for 65 yards in the NFC Championship victory against the Green Bay Packers. Samuel added two rushes for 43 yards. The Niners opened up the game with a dominant running attack and a 27-0 lead, resulting in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes. While the stat sheet was underwhelming, both aerial playmakers made the most of their opportunities, picking up chunk gains on each touch. With the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs offense on deck, the Niners will conceivably need to throw the ball more in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders failed to record a catch in the NFC Championship blowout win against the Green Bay Packers. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes, Sanders saw only a single target. The clear third option in a low-volume passing game behind standout rookie wideout Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, Sanders has just two catches in the playoffs. Hell likely be tasked with more work in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert exploded for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. He also caught two passes for six yards. Mostert was unstoppable on Sunday, converting three rushing scores of 36, nine and 18 in the first half. He capped his evening with a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The fifth-year breakout player was the star in the Niners easy 37-20 victory and will again lead the backfield into the Super Bowl in two weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed just six of eight passes for 77 yards and no scores in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Garoppolo had little to do but watch running back Raheem Mostert annihilate the Packers rush defense for 220 yards and four scores. With two consecutive easy victories in the playoffs, Jimmy G has attempted just 27 passes this postseason. Sledding will surely get tougher in the Super Bowl against the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) aggravated his injured ribs during the NFC Championship game but should be available for Super Bowl LIV.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers on Sunday. Coleman had his shoulder popped back into place and Shanahan thinks that Coleman has a chance to play in the Super Bowl in two weeks. Only time will tell if the 26-year-old will be able to play against Kansas City. He ran the ball six times for 21 yards before his injury and had a season-high 22 totes for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the Divisional win over the Vikings. Even if Coleman plays, he'll be second fiddle to Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four scores against Green Bay. Matt Breida would spell Mostert in the backfield if Coleman doesn't gain clearance.
Updating a previous report, San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) suffered a dislocated shoulder during the NFC Championship game but had it popped back into place, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. The team is still waiting on the results from Coleman's MRI.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman could be a game-time decision for the game, so fantasy players should keep an eye on his status over the next few weeks. He could be a starting fantasy option if he plays.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) has undergone an MRI on his injured shoulder, but the team is waiting for the results, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan said Coleman has a chance to play in Super Bowl LIV.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on Coleman's practice participation over the new few weeks to see if he has a chance to play against the Kansas City Chiefs. He will be part of a committee at running back if he plays and could be a starting fantasy option.
Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (rib) suffered a broken rib during the Divisional Round playoff game but continued to play in the game.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins could miss some offseason workouts but will be fine for the 2020 season. He is one of the top receivers in the NFL and will be an early round pick in fantasy drafts.
Tennessee Titans impending free-agent CB Logan Ryan said he would be interested in re-signing with the Titans this offseason but does not know what will happen in free agency.
Green Bay Packers impending free-agent TE Marcedes Lewis said he wants to continue his playing career and hopes to re-sign with the Packers this offseason because he felt comfortable with his role in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense.
Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers is set to become a free agent at the end of the league year and recently moved from San Diego to Florida in order to be closer to his family in Alabama. The combination of the two is fueling 'a lot of buzz' that Rivers may be a potential target for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.
There has been buzz that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a possible landing spot for Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who will become a free agent in March. After his worst season since 2007, the aging gunslinger is unlikely to re-sign with the Bolts, and he recently moved his family from San Diego to Florida to be closer to his extended family in Alabama. The 38-year-old might have a year or two left of football in him if he continues to play, but the 2019 season showed that he's near the end of the line. Rivers would only be an option for Tampa if they choose not to bring Jameis Winston back for at least another season after he led all of football in passing yards last season.
Houston Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has been fired, and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver has been promoted in his place, according to league sources. Houston's defense was a liability for most of the year, especially their leaky secondary. The Texans allowed 51 points and seven straight touchdown drives to the Chiefs in the Divisional Round loss. During the 2019 season, Houston's defense allowed 388.3 yards per game (fifth worst), 267.3 passing yards per game (fourth worst), 121.1 rushing yards a game and 24.1 points per game. Getting J.J. Watt back healthy for a full season will be a start to the Texans rebounding on defense under Weaver.
The Carolina Panthers hired former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow as their new defensive coordinator on Monday. Snow oversaw the defenses for Matt Rhule at both Baylor and Temple. He has 37 years of college coaching experience and has also served as a defensive coordinator at UCLA, Washington, Arizona State and Boise State. Snow coached four seasons in the NFL with the Lions from 2005 to 2008 when he worked with the team's linebackers. Snow will lead a Carolina defense in 2020 that will be without All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly, who recently announced his retirement from football.