49ers not thrilled with 34-27 win over Rams

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49ers not thrilled with 34-27 win over Rams

ST. LOUIS -- Coach Jim Harbaugh was more feisty than usual after the 49ers' hold-on-for-dear-life 34-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.Sure, the victory wrapped up a 13-3 season. Sure, it clinched the much-coveted No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs for the 49ers.But it wasn't exactly a smooth ending for the NFC West champions, who withstood a 14-point flurry from the hapless Rams late in the fourth quarter to make the regular-season finale much more interesting than it should've been."I feel great," Harbaugh said through clenched teeth. "I'm not going to come in here and be sad that we won."The 49ers will return to action with a game at Candlestick Park in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs during the Jan. 14-15 weekend. But the 49ers weren't quite in the mood for a celebration after seeing their 21-point lead with 6:30 remaining in the game nearly disappear."It was a one-possession game with five minutes left and they had all their timeouts," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "It instantly went from, potentially, not going back into the game to game on the line, and we have to close it out."The 49ers eventually closed it out with third-string running back Anthony Dixon picking up 3 yards on a third-and-1 situation on the first play after the two-minute warning. Dixon gave the 49ers a 34-13 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.The Rams made it interesting when fill-in quarterback Kellen Clemens hit Brandon Lloyd on a 36-yard touchdown pass. The Rams recovered the ensuing onside kick, and scored 14 points within 13 seconds on after Tarell Brown's 35-yard pass interference penalty set up Cadillac Williams' 1-yard touchdown.Earlier in the game, Brown intercepted two passes that the 49ers turned into touchdowns.Smith had another solid game, as he completed 21 of 31 passes for 219 yards with a 28-yard scoring pass to Michael Crabtree. The 49ers played the entire second half without running back Frank Gore. Harbaugh indicated Gore had an injury, but Gore insisted he was fine."That was a great effort by Michael Crabtree," Harbaugh said. "He had a lot on his shoulders today."With receivers Ted Ginn (ankle) and Kyle Williams (concussion) unavailable, the 49ers turned to Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis to carry the load in the passing game. Crabtree caught nine passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, while Davis had eight receptions for 118 yards.Brett Swain caught one pass for six yards, and Joe Hastings, who was activated from the practice squad on Saturday, was targeted once but did not catch a pass.
Crabtree's most notable play came when he caught kicker David Akers' pass on a fake field goal -- a play called "Sleeper" that special-teams coordinator Brad Seely designed. And it definitely caught the Rams sleeping.After being on the field for a failed third-down play, Crabtree was told before coming off the field that the fake field-goal play was on. He had to re-enter the playing field inside the numbers and then went back near the sideline at the line of scrimmage without the Rams spotting him before the next snap."We've been practicing it for about 10 weeks, " Harbaugh said. "He was in the previous play. He just had to do everything within the rules. He was in on the previous play, he had to come back inside the numbers. When he goes to the sideline, he can't go off in a group of people. He's got to line up on the line of scrimmage, shoulders facing the defense. He just went out there and lined up, and they didn't see him."Said Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, "It's always covered. If we saw it, we'd call a timeout. But we didn't see it."Akers, who lined up for the apparent field goal, took the direct snap from Brian Jennings and then threw to a wide-open Crabtree for a 14-yard touchdown."We've been practicing that play, so we just ran it," Crabtree said. "I told him, 'Just throw the ball, and I got you.' That's what he did. It almost came up short, but I was able to run up under it."Said Akers, "You got to not give it away, and back up and make it look like we're going to attempt the kick. I looked over and Crab was wide open. I think I underthrew him, but he made a little slate in there and made it look real smooth for me."After his first career touchdown pass, Akers then kicked the extra point that broke the NFL record for most points in a season without a touchdown. Gary Anderson held the previous mark of 164 points in 1999. Akers finished the season with 166 points.The 49ers' offense made it into the record book, too. The 49ers finished the season without a turnover in the final 22 quarters -- a franchise-best streak. The 49ers' 10 turnovers for the season ties last year's New England Patriots for the NFL record for fewest giveaways.Smith finished the season with 17 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.The 49ers didn't start the game strong, and they didn't finish strong. But they did more than enough for the crucial victory.The Rams scored first on Clemens' 18-yard scoring run through the 49ers' defense. Then, Alex Smith scored on an impressive run of his own.Smith, who lined up in the shotgun formation, slipped to the ground while avoiding Rams defensive end Chris Long. But Smith popped back up. Tight end Justin Peelle leveled linebacker James Laurinaitis with a block while running back Frank Gore blocked Chris Chamberlain. Smith then dove inside the right pylon for the 8-yard scoring run to tie the game at 7-7.It says something about the current state of the 49ers, that nobody seemed overly happen with such a monumental victory. After all, the 49ers are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2002."The mentality of this team has just continued to change and change," Smith said. "When you have a team so committed as we are, you expect these types of things to happen."

Expectations have changed.

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.”