49ers muff Super opportunity in OT loss

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49ers muff Super opportunity in OT loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Kyle Williams' teammates spent the aftermath of the 49ers' heartbreaking, season-ending loss fixating on the many other things that went wrong on Sunday.Williams had the misplays that will long be remembered as the reasons for the 49ers' excruciating 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.Even without Williams' two turnovers on punt returns -- the only two turnovers of the game -- it was far from a perfect performance, as 49ers players on both sides of the ball were quick to point out."It's not the end of the world," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "It only feels like it."RATTO: 49ers failed to cheat the reaper
The 49ers' remarkable season ended on a damp day in front of a sold-out and rambunctious crowd at Candlestick Park. And it ended one game away from a trip to Super Bowl XLVI.Lawrence Tynes kicked a 31-yard field goal with 7:06 remaining in the first overtime to provide the winning points for the Giants, who advance to play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.Tynes' kick came after Williams' second fumble of the game gave the Giants the ball at the 49ers' 24-yard line. Linebacker Jacquian Williams reached in with his right hand to strip Kyle Williams, who was holding the ball in his right arm.49ers' Williams: 'It's just one of those things ... football happens.'
"It was just one of those situations where I caught the ball, tried to head up-field, tried to make a play, and it ended up for the worse," a distraught Williams said.Devin Thomas recovered the loose ball, and a stunned 49ers' crowd fell silent. The end of the season was only five plays away after running back Ahmad Bradshaw run plays gained 8, 6 and 4 yards. Quarterback Eli Manning centered the ball between the hashmarks with a 2-yard loss before Tynes came on."We all have things wish could've been different -- wish we could've done better," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.Williams' first mistake gave the Giants an opportunity to take the lead in the fourth quarter. He got too close to a bouncing punt with the 49ers protecting a 14-10 lead. Giants coach Tom Coughlin challenged the no-call on the field, believing the ball touched Williams.Referee Ed Hochuli ruled the ball grazed Williams, and the Giants took possession because Thomas immediately recovered it. Six plays later, Manning hit Mario Manningham with a 17-yard touchdown against the coverage of second-year player Tramaine Brock.RATTO: Fair or not, Williams cast as 49ers villain
Brock was in the game after starting cornerback Tarell Brown was knocked out by teammate Dashon Goldson late in the third quarter as both were going for a possible interception. That pass fell incomplete, and the 49ers forced no turnovers in a game for only the third time in 18 games this season."He'll make you pay when you lose the turnover differential," 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith said of Manning. "And it's like that every week. That's how we won a lot of games, and it's how we lost."The 49ers' saw their one chance for a game-changing turnover disappear with 2:29 remaining in regulation at the Giants' 21-yard line.Brock made a stop on Bradshaw and linebacker NaVorro Bowman appeared to strip him of the ball. But head linesman Mark Hittner ruled Bradshaw's forward progress had been stopped and there was no fumble. That ruling meant that the play was not subject to review."It looked like a fumble," Harbaugh said. "Every play that happened in the game except that one was played out to the conclusion of the play."With the exception of quarterback Alex Smith's two touchdown passes to tight end Vernon Davis, the 49ers' offense did very little right throughout the game.Trailing 17-14 in the fourth quarter, the 49ers had a first down at the Giants' 15-yard line with 7 minutes to play. The 49ers settled for David Akers' 25-yard field goal to tie the game.Then, the 49ers had four other possessions, including one in overtime, in which they could have won the game. The offense went nowhere. And the 49ers converted just 1 of 13 third-down opportunities in the game."We were awful on third down," Smith said. "We didn't help out our defense enough. A lot of three and outs."For me, I'm looking at -- what did we go? -- one of 13 on third down. I know obviously he (Williams) will be thinking about those two punts for quite a while. But we didn't lose the game there. We lost the game across the board. Offensively, we weren't good enough. We didn't get it done."The 49ers were playing without receiver and return man Ted Ginn, who missed the game with a right knee injury. His absence was critical on special teams and on offense. Without a deep threat, the 49ers were unable to get anything going with their outside receivers.Smith completed just 12 of 26 passes for 196 yards. He threw touchdown passes to Davis that covered 73 and 28 yards. But wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught one pass for 3 yards. No other 49ers wideout had a reception."The defense played great. Great defense. They were great," Crabtree said. "Sometimes you got to move the ball and make plays -- give people chance to make plays."Crabtree was targeted on five passes throughout the game, and he believed there should've been more passes come his way."I'm a receiver. I'm always going to think I'm open, even when there's somebody on me. Like I said, just give me a chance."When asked what the 49ers could have done better on third down, Crabtree said there's no reason to always get to third down."Do better on second down and limit the third downs," he said. "It doesn't always have to come down to third down."The game brought an abrupt end to a 49ers season that began with low expectations. The 49ers had a new coaching staff and no offseason program to implement their systems because of the lockout.But the 49ers were one of the remarkable stories of the NFL season, as Harbaugh's team won the NFC West for the first time since the 2002 season and earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.The 49ers advanced past the divisional round with a memorable 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints. And nobody was ready for it to end quite like this."Proud of our players, the way they played, worked and competed," Harbaugh said. "It wasn't there for us today. In a lot of ways, we played well enough to win, and we don't come away with it. It's a tough one. It might take a while to get over it. But we'll get over it."

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.”