49ers in control with 23-7 win over Cardinals

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49ers in control with 23-7 win over Cardinals

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers offense controlled the clock.The 49ers defense controlled the Arizona Cardinals.And the 49ers continued to control the NFC West -- as well as their playoff positioning -- with an imperfect-yet-effective 23-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Candlestick Park.The 49ers clinched their first winning season since 2002, which also happened to be the last time the franchise advanced to the playoffs. They can clinch the division title next week with a win over the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday and a Seattle loss.

The 49ers remained one game behind the Green Bay Packers (10-0) in the race for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The top two teams get first-round byes.
"It does feel good," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "(But) it's a little frustrating in the passing game with some of the stuff we left out there."The 49ers gained a lot of yards (431) but scored touchdowns on just two of their six trips inside the Cardinals 20-yard line. And the usually reliable kicking game sputtered, as David Akers made just three of his six first-half field-goal attempts. Two of his first-half attempts were blocked.So while the 49ers held the ball for an NFL season-high 44 minutes, 16 seconds of the game, they were never able to create the kind of separation expected when a defense comes up with five takeaways. It was the 49ers' biggest time of possession in a non-overtime game since Oct. 20, 1991, when the 49ers held the ball for 45:04 in a 35-3 victory over Detroit."It makes it more frustrating because of the way they (the 49ers defense) were playing," Smith said. "We really made that game more difficult than it had to be."If we were able to capitalize on a couple of those drives early with the way our defense was playing, all of a sudden that game gets really lopsided."Smith completed 20 of 38 passing attempts for 267 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The 49ers did not start feeling comfortable until Smith found receiver Kyle Williams and tight end Vernon Davis on touchdown passes of 8 and 18 yards less than three minutes apart in the third quarter.
Michael Crabtree had a season-best seven catches for 120 yards. And Williams might have earned more playing time, as he caught five passes for 54 yards. He helped compensate for a gimpy Braylon Edwards, who was held without a catch."I don't think he's 100 percent, but there was improvement this week," Harbaugh said of Edwards, who missed four games earlier this season after undergoing surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee. "Toward the end of the week, he was starting to feel pretty darn good."Edwards and running back Frank Gore sat out the fourth quarter with the 49ers in control with a 23-0 lead. Gore, who was nursing a sore right knee, gained 88 yards on 24 rushes.While it was not a particularly crisp game for the 49ers' passing game, it was a lot better than anything the Cardinals could generate on the wet field.Arizona quarterback John Skelton, who entered with a two-game win streak after taking over for injured Kevin Kolb, completed just 6 of 19 attempts for 99 yards with three interceptions.Skelton was benched in the second half, and Richard Bartel entered and completed 8 of 16 for 64 yards and a touchdown."Our defense played extremely well," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We won that game on the strength of a lot of things, but none more important than the turnovers we were able to get in the kicking game with our defense."The 49ers extended their NFL lead in the takeawaygiveaway column to a plus-17. Patrick Willis, Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner recorded interceptions. Willis forced a fumble that Whitner recovered, and special-teamer Tavares Gooden forced a fumble that NaVorro Bowman jumped on."We know that any time you get turnovers and get back on offense, it makes your chances of scoring and winning even higher," Willis said. "We also know that any time we can be great in the turnover margin by getting the ball that a lot of times it leads to something great. So far, that's what we've been doing."The 49ers appeared to be in control throughout the game, except when Goldson lost control of his emotions early in the fourth quarter. Goldson retaliated after Cardinals receiver Early Doucet took a swipe at Goldson, who was on the ground after Aldon Smith recorded a sack.Goldson got to his feet and took several swings at Doucet during the melee. Goldson was penalized 15 yards and ejected from the game. Afterward, he was remorseful while speaking to teammates in the locker room, Harbaugh said.The 49ers return to action Thursday night for a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh game Thanksgiving night in Baltimore against the John Harbaugh-coached Ravens.

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”