49ers march on to NFC Championship, down Saints


49ers march on to NFC Championship, down Saints


SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers used the formula that they rode to the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs -- with a little something extra.It took the longest run of Alex Smith's career -- a 29-yard TD gallop with 2:11 remaining -- plus Vernon Davis' 14-yard TD with 9 seconds on the clock to secure a 36-32 win over the Saints.Jimmy Graham's 66-yard TD with 1:37 remaining appeared to be the difference for the Saints but the 49ers answered with a comeback that will go down in San Francisco lore.

The game continued a remarkable run for the 49ers in Jim Harbaugh's first season. The 49ers ended an eight-year playoff drought in a year in which the expectations were not high.Harbaugh decided to stick with Smith as his quarterback, and his confidence was rewarded, as Smith put together his best NFL season. The 49ers went through the regular season with just 10 giveaways -- tying an NFL record.The 49ers had a plus-28 turnover margin the regular season, and they continued to be experts at taking the ball away against the Saints.The 49ers earned the first-round bye with a 13-3 regular-season record, and the 49ers' energy from the outset was palpable in front of the red-clad capacity crowd. It was the 49ers' first home playoff game since January 2003, and the 49ers jumped on the Saints early.The 49ers jumped out to a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter, as Smith threw touchdown passes to Davis (49 yards) and Michael Crabtree (4 yards).Smith got rid of the ball before the Saints' blitz could arrive. Davis beat Saints safety Roman Harper in coverage and then broke the attempted tackle of Malcolm Jenkins to get the 49ers on the scoreboard. The 49ers got the ball back on their next possession when safety Dashon Goldson intercepted Saints quarterback Drew Brees and returned it 41 yards to the New Orleans 4-yard line.On third down, Smith hit Crabtree on a slant pattern against the coverage of Saints cornerback Jabari Greer.Special teams got the ball back immediately for the 49ers' offense, as Madieu Williams stripped return man Courtney Roby. Blake Costanzo recovered at the 13. The 49ers settled for David Akers' 25-yard field goal, giving them a 17-0 lead.But the high-octane Saints closed the gap to 17-14 before the end of the half.The Saints were turned away on their first drive after driving inside the 49ers' 10-yard line. Safety Donte Whitner made a legal helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints running back Pierre Thomas, causing a fumble that Patrick Willis recovered.Thomas was not able to return to the game after sustaining the head injury.But the 49ers could not keep the Saints down for the entire first half. Brees threw for 193 yards in the first half, including touchdown passes of 14 yards to tight end Jimmy Graham and 25 yards to Marques Colston.The 49ers forced their fifth turnover of the game in the third quarter when Costanzo forced a Darren Sproles fumble, which Colin Jones recovered. That led to Akers' 41-yard field goal for a 20-14 lead.

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs spent one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Jacobs only played in two games and gained seven yards on five carries. The results were nothing like his 5,087 yards and 60 touchdowns over eight years with the Giants. 

Apparently being pushed to the bench as a 31-year-old veteran running back didn't sit well with Jacobs. 

“Going somewhere where they don’t have route conversions into certain coverages was just absurd,” Jacobs said Thursday on the Tiki and Tierney Show. “They’re just running routes in the defense, getting people killed. Size and strength is what they had, and that’s why they won.

"Let’s be real. They had great assistant coaches, but Jim didn’t know what he was doing. Jim had no idea. Jim is throwing slants into Cover-2 safeties, getting people hurt. That guy knew nothing, man."

On Saturday morning, Harbaugh responded to Jacobs with a tweet to him. 

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in four seasons as the 49ers' head coach. He also added five playoff wins and a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season, the one that Jacobs played for him.

Shanahan: Brooks earns place on 49ers' first-team defense

Shanahan: Brooks earns place on 49ers' first-team defense

SANTA CLARA – The eldest non-kicker on the 49ers’ roster is learning a new position this offseason.

But Ahmad Brooks has plenty of experience adapting to new positions during his 12-year NFL career. He has played inside linebacker, outside linebacker in a 3-4 and defensive end in pass-rush situations.

Now, Brooks has moved to the strong side linebacker position -- the “Sam” -- in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“He’s getting them (first-team repetitions) because he deserves them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “Watching how he played last year and then going into this offseason, you never know when a guy who has been around a bunch, if they’re going to feel that they need the offseason like other people do. And Ahmad’s been here every day and he’s needed it just like everyone has anytime you’re learning a new scheme.

“But anytime you have a veteran like that, you worry that, hey, maybe they won’t think that they do need it. But Ahmad has and he’s been here. He’s worked at everything. He’s in good shape. He’s done what we’ve asked in the weight room with Ray and he’s done everything with the position coaches and coordinator on defense. So, I think he’s learning it and he should because he’s putting the work in.”

Brooks, 33, has entered the past three offseasons with his place on the 49ers seemingly in jeopardy. But the 49ers have not been able to find a younger, better player to replace him. Brooks has tied for the team-lead in sacks in each of the past four seasons with 27 sacks over that span.

Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson and undrafted rookie Jimmie Gilbert were the other players who lined up at the Sam position during the first week of 49ers organized team activities.

Brooks and Aaron Lynch, starters at outside linebacker for the 49ers in the previous systems, have the steepest learning curves in the transition to a new defense. Lynch has moved to the team’s pass-rush defensive end position, known as the “Leo.”

“I think techniques are totally different,” Shanahan said. “How you want to take on blocks, how you want to play the run. Ahmad has been around a little longer than Aaron. So he’s probably had a little bit more crossover, some similar schemes.”