49ers clinch first-round bye with 34-27 win over Rams


49ers clinch first-round bye with 34-27 win over Rams


ST. LOUIS -- The 49ers wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs on Sunday with a 34-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams to close out the regular season.In the process, coach Jim Harbaugh became the fourth rookie head coach in NFL history to win 13 or more games. He is the first coach to accomplish the feat after inheriting a team coming off a losing record.The 49ers finish at 13-3 after going 6-10 last season. Mike Singletary was fired as 49ers coach after a late-season loss at St. Louis eliminated the 49ers from the playoff picture.Under Harbaugh, the 49ers are NFC West champions and will be heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.Gaining the No. 2 seed behind the top-seeded Green Bay Packers was of the utmost importance for the 49ers. The No. 2 seed gets a first-round playoff bye and a home game in the divisional playoffs. The No. 3 seed, the New Orleans Saints, must play next week in the wild-card round.Since 1990, a No. 2 seed has reached the Super Bowl 12 times, while the No. 3 seed has made it to the Super Bowl just twice.--The 49ers put the game out of reach late in the third quarter with some trickery that left the 2-14 Rams completely baffled.Kicker David Akers hit wide receiver Michael Crabtree on a 14-yard pass on a fake field goal. Crabtree remained on the field, near the sideline, after the third-down play. He did not re-enter the huddle before the fourth-down snap.
The Rams did not see Crabtree on the field, leaving him uncovered. When Akers added the extra point after the his first career TD pass, he broke the NFL record for most points in a season with no touchdowns. Gary Anderson previously held the record with 164 points. Akers' PAT gave him 165.Akers had field goals of 36 and 42 yards earlier in the game after missing his first attempt from 48 yards.--Quarterback Alex Smith accounted for both of the 49ers' first-half touchdowns with an 8-yard scoring run and a 28-yard pass to Crabtree, who did most of the work with a nifty run down the right sideline.--On Smith's touchdown, he slipped to the ground while avoiding Rams defensive end Chris Long. But Smith popped back up. Tight end Justin Peelle leveled linebacker James Laurinaitis with a block while running back Frank Gore blocked Chris Chamberlain. Smith then dove inside the right pylon for the touchdown.--Cornerback Tarell Brown intercepted an ill-advised halfback pass from Jerious Norwood to put the 49ers in position for Crabtree's touchdown catch. Crabtree has scored at least one touchdown in four straight games against the Rams.Brown added another interception in the fourth quarter against Kellen Clemens, who got the start in place of injured Sam Bradford. Anthony Dixon added a 1-yard TD run with 6:30 remaining.--Linebacker Patrick Willis returned to the lineup after missing three games with a right hamstring strain. Meanwhile, receivers Ted Ginn (ankle) and Kyle Williams (concussion) did not suit up.--Smith relied on Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game. Davis caught eight passes for 118 yards, while Crabtree had nine receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Smith completed 21 of 31 passes for 219 yards and no turnovers.--The 49ers finished the regular season with 22 straight quarters without a turnover for the first time in team history.With just 10 giveaways for the season, the 49ers tied the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season. The New England Patriots committed 10 turnovers last season.--The 49ers finished with a plus-28 turnover margin, tied for second-best margin in the NFL for a single season since 1970.--After taking a 20-7 lead at halftime, the 49ers used the opportunity to rest Gore and defensive lineman Justin Smith in the second half.--Rookie pass-rusher Aldon Smith was held without a sack. He finished the season a half-sack from the NFL rookie record. Jevon Kearse recorded 14.5 sacks for the Tennessee Titans in 1999.

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

After a couple of practices and one exhibition game against the Denver Broncos, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan once again came to the realization things are often not as good or bad as they seem.

That was his takeaway a day after the 49ers provided the Broncos with five giveaways to go along with 11 penalties in a 33-14 loss at Levi’s Stadium.

“But when I get in and watch the tape, it wasn’t quite as bad as it felt,” Shanahan said Sunday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “When you look at each situation, especially when you talk about the ones on offense, it takes 11 guys to execute a play, and if you have one guy off a little bit, it breaks down.”

A couple of passes that could have been caught, a ball that slipped out of quarterback Brian Hoyer’s hand and some other correctable errors gives Shanahan reason to be optimistic.

When he spoke to the media on Saturday night after the game, Shanahan was clearly upset with how his 90-man team performed. He was asked a day later if it was a relief to watch the film and come to the conclusion that not everything was a total disaster.

“It’s not really relief,” Shanahan quipped. “It’s kind of my life story.

“We put a lot into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scrimmage, practice or preseason. I try to compose myself by the time I talk to you guys (the media) after practice. But I’m pretty pissed after practice when it doesn’t go well. We’re competitive guys and we want everything to be perfect. That’s why most of the time I’m not that happy.”

Shanahan said he expects everyone in the organization to hold themselves to the same high standard.

“Whenever you go out to a game like that, you want to win, you want to play well,” he said. “And you turn the ball over like that and you have the penalties that we did, I’m definitely going to be pissed off and I expect everyone in our building to be pissed off. If they’re not, that’s when I would be worried.”

Shanahan said he had the opposite feeling after the practice Wednesday against the Broncos that looked like a decisive win for the 49ers. Upon review, Shanahan said he felt there was still a lot of room for improvement.

“I thought things seemed real good at practice our first day versus them,” he said. “Then, I go in and watch the film and it was good but not quite as good as I felt when I was out there.”

49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon


49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon

The 49ers could get their presumptive starting free safety back on the field this week.

Jimmie Ward, who has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since sustaining a hamstring injury during a conditioning test on the eve of training camp, will go through strenuous workouts Monday and Tuesday.

Ward could be cleared to return to practice as early as Wednesday, when the club is scheduled to hold its next practice.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday in a conference call with reporters that defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley will will pace him through a football-related workout on Monday and Tuesday.

"Hopefully, we'll get him ready to go by Wednesday," Shanahan said.

The 49ers envision Ward, a first-round draft pick in 2014, as a major contributor in the team’s new 4-3 scheme, which is based on Seattle’s defense. With strong safety Eric Reid playing close to the line of scrimmage, Ward will play the deep safety – a role that Earl Thomas has played for the Seahawks.

In Ward’s absence, undrafted rookie safety Lorenzo Jerome started the 49ers’ first two exhibition games and appears to have played his way into solid position for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"Lorenzo has done a good job," Shanahan said. "I think a couple of times he's ran around and been a ballhawk for us and made some tackles. I thought they caught him a few times out of position last night on a few play-action looks because he's been so aggressive. He's going to have to learn from those, but they never made him pay for those by going outside."

--The 49ers will have days off on Monday and Tuesday as they settle into their regular-season routine.

--Shanahan said he has been formulating ideas for the game plan against Carolina in Week 1 of the regular season. So as the 49ers play the exhibition games, they are mindful of not showing too much.

"I never get too far away from that," Shanahan said. "Everything we put into a preseason game, you always try to take into account what you’re going to be doing in the regular season."

--Shanahan said he thought No. 1 quarterback Brian Hoyer "did a good job." He said the first throw intended for Vance McDonald over the middle was thrown a little late.

"Besides that, I thought he did a good job with his reads and went to the right spots," Shanahan said.

Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard also was on-point with his reads, Shanahan said.

--Eli Harold got the start Saturday night at outside linebacker position, as he competes with Ahmad Brooks for a job.

"I try to go off what I see in practice," Shanahan said. "You want to know who has more upside, things like that. Who's going to get better throughout the year if given the opportunity? But you also want to know, when it's all said and done, who is going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things I look at personally."

--Former 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin announced his retirement on Sunday. Shanahan never coached him, but he was obviously a big fan.

"I've personally met Anquan or talked to him before, but he has been one of my favorites of all time," Shanahan said. "I love Anquan. I don't know him at all, but I feel like I do because I've always studied how he plays. I remember watching him in college when he came into Florida State as a quarterback and moved quickly to receiver his freshman year.

"And I remember him coming into the league and people thinking he wouldn't be as great because he didn't have a fast 40 time. And watching him play over the years. That's my definition of a football player. He's as violent of a receiver as there is, and I've always truly believed that receivers can really set the mentality of an offense. I feel lineman have no choice, they have to be tough. Running backs, if you're not tough, you're not going to make it in this league because you get hit every play. Quarterbacks got to hang in there. Receivers are the guys who can pick and choose a little bit. And when you have guys who play like Anquan, that just brings a whole different mentality to your offense that I think usually leads to teams that have chances to win Super Bowls."