49ers-Giants a rivalry for the ages

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49ers-Giants a rivalry for the ages

John Cannon
CSNBayArea.com

Since the 49ers clinched the NFC West title and assured themselves a spot in the playoffs, people have been talking about their last playoff appearance nine years ago, highlighted by that wild 39-38 win over the Giants at Candlestick Park.

What people may not remember is that the 49ers and Giants have a rich playoff history, both in number (this is the eighth postseason meeting between the two teams, which ties an NFL record) and significance. Here is a rundown of that history:

49ers 38, Giants 24 NFC Divisional Playoff, Jan. 3, 1982
This was the first playoff appearance for the 49ers in 10 years. Two seasons before, the 49ers had been 2-14 in Bill Walshs first year. Suddenly they were 13-3 and hosting a playoff game! The Niners never trailed, taking advantage of four Giants turnovers. Ronnie Lott had two picks, one of which he returned for a TD to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Significance: Without this win, theres no The Catch. Dallas was the next opponent for the 49ers on the march toward their first Super Bowl.

49ers 21, Giants 10 NFC Divisional Playoff, Dec. 29, 1984
The 49ers rolled through the NFL that year, losing only one regular-season game. They scored twice in the first quarter on passes from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark and Russ Francis, and cruised to victory despite Montana throwing three interceptions. The defense also forced three turnovers, and no points were scored in the second half.
Significance: The Giants may have gone quietly in this game, but they were becoming the team that would win two Super Bowls. Bill Parcells had become head coach, and Phil Simms and Joe Morris were established starters. From the 49ers standpoint, its easy to forget that while this may have been their best team, Jerry Rice was a still senior at Mississippi Valley State.

Giants 17, 49ers 3 NFC Wild Card game, Dec. 29, 1985
What a difference exactly one year made! The 49ers finished second to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West, so they were forced to go to the Meadowlands to face the Giants, who also were 10-6 but had won the NFC East. The Giants ran the ball down San Francisco's throat with Joe Morris, and while the 49ers were able to move the ball through the air (Montana threw for 296 yards), the Giants kept them out of the end zone.
Significance: This was the first time in the Bill Walsh Era that the 49ers failed to score a touchdown in a playoff game. It would not, unfortunately, be the last.

Giants 49, 49ers 3, NFC Divisional Playoff, Jan. 4, 1987
Easily the worst playoff loss for the 49ers in terms of the score, but this one hurt in more ways than one. In the second quarter, with the Giants already leading 21-3, Giants nose tackle Jim Burt hit Joe Montana as he was releasing a pass. Montana bounced off the Meadowlands Astroturf with a sickening thud, and Lawrence Taylor intercepted the pass and returned it for a TD. Montana did not return to the game, and the 49ers' chances of winning left with him.
Significance: For the third time in the four playoff matchups between these two teams, the winner would go on to win the Super Bowl.

Giants 15, 49ers 13, NFC Championship Game, Jan. 20, 1991
After the playoff debacle of four years before, the 49ers had re-asserted themselves as the top dog in the NFL. They won Super Bowls following the 1988 and 1989 seasons, surviving the retirement of Bill Walsh in-between. They had also dominated their rivals from the east, beating the Giants in four straight regular-season matchups, including a 7-3 struggle earlier in the 1990 season. The 49ers seemed to have this game in hand with a 13-12 lead in the fourth quarter when Roger Craig fumbled while trying to run out the clock. The Giants recovered, kicked a field goal, and won 15-13.
Significance: There are two significant facts from this game: 1) Seven times in NFL history, Super Bowl champions have repeated the following year. No team has ever won three in a row. You could make an argument the 49ers came closer to accomplishing that feat than any other team in NFL history. This loss, while it doesnt tarnish the teams great legacy, still stings for 49ers players, coaches and fans alike. 2) As if the loss alone wasnt enough, this game was effectively the end of Joe Montanas incredible career with the 49ers. He was injured late in the game, taking a huge shot from Leonard Marshall, missed almost the entire 1991 season, and was traded to Kansas City.

49ers 44, Giants 3, NFC Divisional Playoff, Jan. 15, 1994
This was a different 49ers team than the one which had those great battles with the Giants over the previous 10 years. Rickey Watters scored 5 TDs but the 49ers would fall next week to the Cowboys.
Significance: It put the fire in the belly of the Steve Young-led team that won the Super Bowl over San Diego the next season, propelled by a win over Chicago in the NFC Divisional game and a 38-21 defeat of Dallas in the NFC title game.

49ers 39, Giants 38, NFC Wild Card Game, Jan. 5, 2003
The Giants were seemingly in control 38-14 in the third quarter before Jeff Garcia led the 49ers to 35 unanswered points. The Giants had a chance to win the game with a late field goal, but a botched snap cost them that opportunity.
Significance: This was the last gasp of the 49ers Dynasty, as it turned out. Twenty-one years after the first playoff meeting between these two teams, they met again on the soggy turf at Candlestick . The outcome, a crazy finish Hollywood would have turned down, was an indication of things to come as the once-proud franchise turned into a revolving door of coaches and players. Until now.

Media professional and Bay Area native John Cannon was a television and radio sportscaster in Phoenix and Las Vegas. Follow him on Twitter at @JCannonSports, or email him at JCannonSports@gmail.com.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.