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.

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”