49ers key matchup No. 2: Smith vs. Solder

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49ers key matchup No. 2: Smith vs. Solder

This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Patriots matchups to watch Sunday, 5:20 p.m. (NBC), at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.

49ers OLB Aldon Smith vs. Patriots LT Nate Solder

Tale of the tape
Smith (99): 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, second season, Missouri
Solder (77): 6-foot-8, 320 pounds, second season, Colorado

This matchup is one of the huge storylines because of its potential historical significance.

Outside linebacker Aldon Smith is chasing Michael Strahan's single-season NFL sacks record. And if Smith has the kind of game against New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder that he enjoyed when they met in college, he'll equal Strahan's record, which he set with the New York Giants in 2001.

Smith leads the NFL with 19.5 sacks, a 49ers single-season record. In 2009, Smith, as a redshirt freshman, Smith recorded three sacks against Colorado in Missouri's 36-17 victory. Smith was matched against Solder for most of that day. (Smith claims he had four sacks, but official stats show him with three sacks and another tackle for a loss.) The 49ers chose Smith with the No. 7 overall pick in last year's draft, while Solder went to the Patriots with the 17th overall selection.

There's added incentive for Smith to pile up more sacks. Smith announced this week that he will donate $5,099 for each sack he records during the regular season to the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco (Willy Mays Clubhouse at Hunters Point) and Boys & Girls Clubs of The Peninsula (East Palo Alto Clubhouse).

"I am excited to be able to give back to my community," Smith said. "Now, in addition to playing to win games, I am playing to raise much-needed money for a great organization that makes a huge difference in the lives of millions of young people."

Smith will have a much more difficult task on Sunday night than he had against Colorado in 2009. Missouri racked up eight sacks against Colorado that day. And, obviously, Solder is much-improved since that time. According to Pro Football Focus' grading system, Solder ranks as the No. 10 left tackle in the NFL. He has surrendered just three sacks, five quarterback hits and 25 quarterback hurries on the season.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been sacked just 20 times in 13 games. The Patriots rank fourth-best in the league in sacks allowed per pass play. Brady gets rid of the ball quickly with a lot of success. He averages 2.49 seconds (quickest in the NFL) before either throwing, scrambling past the line of scrimmage or taking a sack, according to PFF. Brady has a 74.2 completion percentage and a 111.0 passer rating when getting rid of the ball in 2.5 seconds or less.

For more on the Smith-Solder matchup, please read, "Aldon Smith worked over Patriots left tackle in college."

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

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AP

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

Aquan Boldin is looking for a new football home.

And the former 49ers wide receiver is visiting with the Bills on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Boldin started all 16 games with the Lions last season, recording 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.

From 2013 to 2015 with the 49ers, he racked up 237 receptions, 3030 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 37 years old in October.

Boldin entered the NFL as the 54th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

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.