49ers notes: Secondary depth on display, etc.

879445.jpg

49ers notes: Secondary depth on display, etc.

SANTA CLARA -- Aaron Rodgers threw for 312 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions when he and the Packers opened the 2011 season against the New Orleans Saints. It began a record-setting season in which he threw for 45 touchdowns, six interceptions and posted the highest-ever QB rating in a single season -- 122.5.

On Sunday, the 49ers ensured he would have a difficult time matching those stats, and their third and fourth cornerbacks were a big reason. Chris Culliver was on the field for 65 of 72 defensive snaps (90), and Perrish Cox played 55 snaps (76).

Culliver and Cox can expect to see plenty more action with the 49ers' schedule featuring matchups with the pass-heavy offenses of the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.

"Especially with the schedule we got this year," veteran cornerback Carlos Rogers said, "These powerful quarterbacks, they've got a lot of weapons and it's going to take all of us on the field at one time like this past game."

Cox and Culliver are featured in almost all of the 49ers' pass-heavy schemes. SportsNet Central's 49ers reporter Mindi Bach will have detailed analysis of the team's nickel, dime and dollar defensive packages on CSNBayArea.com Wednesday.

"The main goal is taking away big plays from any offense," Cox said. "We knew Aaron was one of those guys."

The main goal was achieved. The Packers, who were third in the NFL last season averaging 307.8 passing yards per game, managed just three plays that gained more than 20 yards. Rodgers made a pair of 28-yard completions in the second quarter and completed a no huddle 49-yard pass out of the shotgun formation in the fourth quarter.

"Them little couple yards that he get -- five, six, seven here or there -- that's not gonna kill us," Culliver said. "But if we keep 'em in front of us and don't allow them to get in the end zone, that's our MO. That's what we strive for."

The collective effort from the 49ers' secondary was no better illustrated than by the game's final play, when Rodgers' attempt to Jordy Nelson was batted down by Culliver.

"That was a fun play," the second-year cornerback said. "Coach called a good defense, and I just played it like a play in practice."

Culliver finished the game tied for third on the team with four tackles and contributed the one key pass defended. Cox had two tackles.

Cox, who bumped his personal grade from "okay" to "more than good" because of the team victory, had one final -- and scary -- observation.

"It could be better."

Alex Boone made the first start of his life -- at any level of football -- at right guard Sunday, and he played well enough to ease the pain of the offseason loss of Adam Snyder.

"It felt great," Boone said. "Proud of the offensive line. Thought we ran the ball well. Thought pass protection was great. Still a few things we need to iron out, but other than that, great day."

Clear communication in a loud and hostile environment and keeping his pad level low as a 6-foot-8 guard are two of Boone's biggest challenges, but he was encouraged by the Week 1 win.

Boone is sandwiched by center Jonathan Goodwin and right tackle Anthony Davis, and he feels the continuity on the line gets better every day.

"A.D. and I are like brothers," Boone said. "Thick as thieves. I think we blend well together."

The Packers did sack Alex Smith four times, thanks to two and one-half sacks from All Pro linebacker Clay Matthews.

The offensive line will look to improve in Week 2, but it won't be easy. They face one of the league's toughest front four in the Detroit Lions' Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Vernon Davis was the subject of some heavy ribbing from teammates after he followed his touchdown catch Sunday with an attempted dunk over the goal post that didn't quite make it.

Apparently, the team had a pretty strong reaction when the highlight was replayed on the charter flight home, and it was fellow pass catchers Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree sourcing most of the grief.

Davis claimed it was returning pain from a tweaked foot in training camp that he felt just before he attempted the dunk that distracted him, but even he smiled as he provided the backstory.

After acknowledging that Moss and Crabtree are probably the two best basketball players on the team, Davis told his story of going to high school to play basketball and converting to football.

He was asked if he can still dunk the round ball. "Oh yeah," Davis said. "Windmills, whatever."

Davis finished the game with three catches for 43 yards and the touchdown, good for the team's third-most receiving yards -- behind only Crabtree and Moss.

More from the "teammate clowning" department, Carlos Rogers is tied with Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks for the team lead in sacks after Week 1, and he said he's making sure Smith, in particular, knows it.

Smith set the 49ers rookie sack record with 14 last year, a half-sack away from Jevon Kearse's NFL record for rookies. Smith didn't put a number on it, but he said he's looking to statistically improve upon his freshman campaign. He's on pace to do so, with one sack after one game played.

REWIND: Smith sets sack goal

For reference, Fred Dean set the single-season franchise mark with 17.5 sacks in 1983.

After six-plus years in the league, the sack was the first of Rogers' career.

"I just don't blitz," he said.

Not according to 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

ryan-shanahan.jpg

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.

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “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.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.