49ers key matchup No. 2: Crabtree vs. Finnegan


49ers key matchup No. 2: Crabtree vs. Finnegan

This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Rams matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (FOX), at the Edward Jones Dome.49ers WR Michael Crabtree vs. Rams CB Cortland Finnegan
Tale of the tape
Crabtree (15): 6-foot-1, 214 pounds, fourth season, Texas Tech
Finnegan (31): 5-foot-10, 188 pounds, seventh season, SamfordMichael Crabtree has known for a little more than four years that Colin Kaepernick was a "gamer."He saw it when Texas Tech played Nevada in an early season game in 2008. Nevada featured a quarterback who threw for 264 yards and rushed for 92 yards in a game Texas Tech won handily.
"We played against Nevada, and the guy was putting up points and running and doing the same thing he's doing now," Crabtree said.What Kaepernick is doing now is trying to use his arm more than his legs as the 49ers' freshly anointed starting quarterback. And one of Kaepernick's main goals is to get the ball into Crabtree's trusted hands.Crabtree has caught a touchdown pass in each of the past five games against the Rams. In those games he has 27 receptions for 435 yards and six touchdowns. Crabtree might be sneaking up on the rest of the NFL, but the Rams are not taking him lightly."Crabtree is a special guy," said Cortland Finnegan, the Rams' top cornerback. "He can run all the kind of routes. To me, he's underrated. He makes all the plays that all the big-time guys make."Finnegan, one of the more physical defensive backs in the game, figures to be matched against Crabtree throughout the game. Finnegan has three interceptions and eight passes broken up on the year.
Crabtree is the 49ers' top receiver. He leads the 49ers with 50 receptions for 567 yards and five touchdowns. He has been particularly impressive with his yards after the catch. Finnegan is a sure-tackler, ranking third on the Rams with 83 tackles.
"I'm trying to do it all," Crabtree said. "I wouldn't just pick that out. If I can go deep, I'll go deep. If I can get YAC yards, I'll get YAC yards."Crabtree clearly has no problem with coach Jim Harbaugh's decision to insert the big-armed Kaepernick into the starting lineup. The 49ers lead the NFC West with a 8-2-1 record, and appear headed for the playoffs."I think we're capable of doing anything with the defense we have, whoever's at quarterback," Crabtree said. "I'm just loving the fact we're trying to get in the end zone, and he (Kaepernick) is just trying to make plays. He's really showing he can be a starter in this league."

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.”