49ers improve to 6-1 with 20-10 victory over Browns

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49ers improve to 6-1 with 20-10 victory over Browns

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Frank Gore received regular calls and encouragement from Roger Craig all offseason as he recovered from a fractured hip. Craig shared training tips, too.When Gore charged up the middle with his signature burst for a 2-yard gain Sunday, he took another step forward in franchise history by moving past Craig into second place on the 49ers career rushing list.Gore ran for both 125-plus yards and a touchdown in a fourth straight game, Michael Crabtree made his first TD reception of the season, and San Francisco beat the Cleveland Browns 20-10 for its fifth straight victory."It's a blessing to have my name mentioned next to his," Gore said. "This last year, we got to be close. When I got hurt, he called me every day. He was telling me I was going to be all right, to keep working."Now, San Francisco's star running back is determined to chase another of Craig's accomplishments: those three Super Bowl rings.And this is Gore's best chance yet to get there.He is making his case for a third Pro Bowl while pushing his team toward its first playoff berth in nine years."It's fun. We're right here in the middle of it almost at the halfway point," defensive end Justin Smith said. "We've got a decent thing going on. We've got to continue to go. We've got a long grind ahead of us."Alex Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 177 yards for the first-place 49ers (6-1), who haven't lost since falling in overtime to the Cowboys on Sept. 18."Not perfect, but beautiful," coach Jim Harbaugh said.No handshake flap this time for Harbaugh, either. And no post-bye letdown for his 49ers - even if it was far from flashy.This marked Harbaugh's first game since his seconds-long greeting and firm backslap of Lions coach Jim Schwartz following San Francisco's 25-19 comeback win at Detroit two weeks ago.Harbaugh says he practiced during the bye week by high-fiving with his toddler daughter, Addison, whom he carried out of the stadium Sunday night. Harbaugh was polite to fellow first-year coach Pat Shurmur when they met at midfield."It went well," Harbaugh said.The 49ers - who were made aware by Harbaugh during the week that teams were 3-9 after their byes coming into Sunday - are off to their first 6-1 start since 1998 in the days of greats Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Steve Young.For Colt McCoy and the Browns, it's 0-for the Bay Area. They lost two weeks ago in Oakland, then floundered across San Francisco Bay at Candlestick Park.Cleveland's D'Qwell Jackson committed a costly facemask penalty against Gore that would have stopped San Francisco on third down 2 yards short in the waning minutes. David Akers sealed it with his second field goal of the day, a 26-yarder.Gore already had 103 yards on 19 carries by halftime, then got the other 7 yards he needed to pass Craig and move up the list with 7,089. Gore wound up with 134 yards on a career-high tying 31 carries, his most rushes since Dec. 31, 2006, against Denver.San Francisco has a five-game winning streak for the first time since 2001 and wrapped up its first unbeaten October since 1997.The next big task will be ending an eight-year stretch of frustration in which the team hasn't had a winning season or made the playoffs. The Niners increased their comfortable cushion to four games in the division nicknamed the NFC Worst last year, when Seattle won with a 7-9 record."It was an ugly win, but we ain't putting no points on it. This ain't the BCS with the style points you need to be No. 1," defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said.Harbaugh's big brother, John, helped the sibling cause by rallying to beat Arizona 30-27 earlier Sunday.The banged-up Browns (3-4) improved on special teams, but went without their top two running backs. Peyton Hillis didn't play for the second straight game because of a hamstring injury and Cleveland then lost Montario Hardesty to a strained right calf in the first half.McCoy and Co. managed only Phil Dawson's 52-yard field goal on the final play of the first half before Josh Cribbs' 45-yard TD catch with 6:17 to play.After last week's lackluster 6-3 win over the Seahawks, it didn't get much better for the Browns. They failed to reach the end zone for seven quarters before Cribbs scored."Back home, I hope they don't go into a frenzy like the world is going to end," Cribbs said.McCoy accounted for four of Cleveland's five fumbles, one of which was lost and helped set up Gore's early 4-yard TD run.McCoy - sacked four more times after five last week - lost the ball on the second play from scrimmage after he was stripped by Ahmad Brooks. Isaac Sopoaga recovered at the Cleveland 20.San Francisco's lopsided first half told the tale far before the clock finally wound down.First downs: 15-6. Total yards: 253-93. Time of possession: 18:58-11:02. Rushing yards: 145-25.Crabtree caught a 2-yard pass to put the Niners ahead 17-0 just before halftime. Dashon Goldson made his first interception of 2011 in the end zone in the third quarter.Left tackle Joe Staley even was in on the action, catching a 17-yard pass from Smith for a first down midway through the first quarter for his first career reception. He jumped up in celebration and signaled the first down by emphatically pointing down field with both hands."A little prima donnish for a lineman," Smith quipped.Notes: 49ers WR Braylon Edwards returned against his former club in his first action since right knee surgery after getting hurt vs. the Cowboys. He had four catches. ... The Browns had won the three previous meetings, including 20-7 in '07.

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.”