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"The red zone, it's a tough area, it's just like third down, tight windows, you have got to get on the same page with guys and only having been here a short while, it's going to take a little time," Jimmy Garoppolo said.

“The red zone, it’s a tough area, it’s just like third down, tight windows, you have got to get on the same page with guys and only having been here a short while, it’s going to take a little time,” Jimmy Garoppolo said.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Despite dominating in major statistical categories such as total yards, first downs and time of possession, the San Francisco 49ers still needed a last-second field goal to overcome the Chicago Bears last week.

Yes, a Niners’ turnover and a special teams miscue helped contribute to that, but the biggest culprit preventing the Niners from winning in far more comfortable fashion was an inability to finish trips to the red zone with touchdowns.
In fact, the 49ers’ went 0-for-5 on trips inside Chicago’s 20 on Sunday, settling for a field goal on four of those trips and purposefully playing for one on their final possession. That the Niners were still able to win is a positive, but the lack of red zone production has been a consistent theme all season and the biggest reason for those struggles has also been a persistent issue.

“The tighter it gets, the more exact you have to be,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Everything gets harder, the windows get smaller. Even the run support with safeties, you can play a two-shell defense and still meet the back at the line of scrimmage because they don’t have to drop back as far. They’re not as worried about posts up over the top and things like that. So, everything gets tighter so you’ve got to execute very well. We didn’t as a whole team.”

At the center of that lack of execution was a series of self-inflicted mistakes in the form of penalties. The Niners were called for six infractions on plays run inside Chicago’s 20 with the Bears accepting four of them. Making matters worse, those penalties didn’t just come inside the Bears’ 20 but inside their 10.

On the Niners’ first drive, they had second-and-goal at Chicago’s 9 when right tackle Trent Brown was called for holding. Suddenly, it was second-and-goal from the 19, a difficult proposition for any team. Two plays later, they settled for the first of five field goals.

In another sequence in the second quarter, the Niners had second-and-1 at Chicago’s 7 and didn’t get the first down on a running play. On third-and-1, they promptly got two false start penalties and suddenly it was third-and-11 at the Bears’ 17. Again, the result was a field goal.

Those mistakes are especially concerning given that the Niners have had that problem for most of the year. After 12 games, the Niners’ 13 accepted offensive penalties committed in the red zone are the most in the league as are the 15 they’ve been called for overall.

Of course, while penalties are at the heart of last week’s red zone woes, there are other ways for the 49ers to improve as well.

“I put a lot on those penalties down there,” Shanahan said. “We had way too many penalties. But, it wasn’t just the number of penalties, it was the time we got those penalties. I feel like that cost us two touchdowns down there, so that was disappointing. The other two times we got in the red zone it was two third-and-6s, and we didn’t convert between the 20 and 15. So, we’ve got to do a better job there. Not getting the third down, and being better on our third down. But, the most disappointing thing with the red zone was the penalties when we should have scored, I believe.”

Three quarters of the way through the season, the Niners are tied with the Cleveland Browns for the second-worst red zone touchdown percentage in the league (40.6 percent). And they’re only a little bit better when it comes to scoring in goal-to-go situations, where they have scored touchdowns on 61.1 percent of their opportunities, ranking 25th in the league.

One thing that could help in both areas is the presence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s only played a game and three snaps but his quick release and accuracy should help him fit the ball into the tight windows to get the job done in tight spaces. There were a few times he was a little late on throws against the Bears, and though he could get away with it in some spots, it clearly didn’t happen near the goal line.
But the chance to get more time with his pass-catchers should only serve him and the Niners well as they get more opportunities deep in opponent territory.

“The red zone, it’s a tough area, it’s just like third down, tight windows, you have got to get on the same page with guys and only having been here a short while, it’s going to take a little time, but I think overall we’re going in the right direction,” Garoppolo said.

The other good news for the Niners on the red zone front is that the penalties, especially of the pre-snap variety, are correctable issues.

“It’s just little things like that when you’re in the red zone and things don’t go perfect, you end up getting field goals,” Shanahan said. “It’s a combination of all those things. The biggest thing was the penalties, though.”

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BEREA, Ohio — Josh Gordon used drugs or alcohol before every NFL game he played, Gordon told the magazine GQ in an interview released Monday.

The Browns wide receiver told GQ that he made taking some substance “a ritual … before every game.”

“We would stay at the team hotel, and then players are allowed to go back home, get what they need and then go to the game,” Gordon said. “So I’d leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol and then go to the game. And then, I’d definitely be partying after every game, win or lose. Every game.”
Gordon said he started taking drugs in seventh grade, continued through college and even did something before every game he played in 2013, when he led the league in receiving yards while playing 14 games.

"I'd leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol and then go to the game," Josh Gordon said in an interview with GQ released Monday.

“I’d leave the hotel early morning, go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol and then go to the game,” Josh Gordon said in an interview with GQ released Monday.

“When I got to the league, I think they had their doubts from the very beginning,” Gordon said. “From the day they drafted me, they had to know there was some type of risk involved. I don’t think that they specifically knew. But I’m sure they had their doubts. [I] missed a lot of meetings, showed up late a lot of times, eyes were probably bloodshot on many occasions. But I guess you couldn’t really draw a definitive conclusion because I thought I was evasive enough. And because nobody told me anything.”
Gordon said he’s different now because he went to a lengthy rehab for himself, not for someone else.

“At this point, I thought, ‘If I want any type of a life, if I wanted to live, [I'll stop],’” he said. “It was like: You’re never going back to f—ing work ever if you can’t figure out how to live. Because at this point in time, the trajectory, you’re going to die. You’re going to kill yourself.”

He also said he moved to Gainesville, Florida, because he could not take what he called harassment from Browns fans in Cleveland.

“Living in Cleveland, sometimes it could be a nightmare,” Gordon said. “I’ve been harassed, had drinks thrown at me. I’ve been [followed] in the grocery store, heckled everywhere. At the games, people harassed and heckled my brothers and my mom. [My] brothers got into fights in the stands. Cars [have] been jumped on. Somebody dented the hood of the car. Had to sue a guy and get the money back ’cause he damaged the car. People are throwing money, pennies, to break the windows. So Cleveland was rough, man.”

Browns coach Hue Jackson said the interview would not affect his thinking on Gordon’s rejoining the team.

“I think he was letting things out, if that’s what was said,” Jackson said. “I think he was cleansing himself of his past, and I get that, a little bit. But again, I think he said what he felt he needed to say.”
At his first scouting combine after being hired, Jackson said he would not put up with nonsense. On Monday, he said, “that’s not going to change.”

“I think we need to let him get out what he feels like he needs to get out,” Jackson said. “I’m sure this is part of his rehabilitation as well. To say certain things that you’ve done, I think that’s kind of good. Because you got to put it behind you as fast as you can.”

Jackson said he will need to know that Gordon is not trying to talk his way into being released with this interview.

“I don’t think he is trying to do that,” he said. “I do need to feel comfortable that he’s not. If he’s coming back to play football, I think he knows he needs to play football here.”