49ers-Packers matchups to watch: 1. Smiths vs. Newhouse

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49ers-Packers matchups to watch: 1. Smiths vs. Newhouse

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final part in a series that spotlighted three 49ers-Packers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX-TV), at Lambeau Field.

Matchup No. 3: Anthony Davis vs. Nick Perry
Matchup No. 2: Vernon Davis vs. Charles Woodson
Tale of the tape
Aldon Smith: 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, second season, Missouri
Justin Smith: 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, 12th season, Missouri
Marshall Newhouse: 6-foot-4, 319 pounds, third season, Texas ChristianAldon Smith is set to make his first NFL start at outside linebacker.But it remains to be seen if he'll play all that much outside linebacker Sunday afternoon against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.The Packers figure to spread out their offense with multi-receiver formations and then go with mostly a no-huddle offense. That means the 49ers could spend almost all of Sunday's game with their nickel defense on the field.
And that means Smith is likely to play more defensive end. The 49ers play a four-man line when they have extra defensive backs on the field.The weak link of the Packers offensive line is left tackle Marshall Newhouse. Either way, he'll be going up against a Smith. If the 49ers are in their base defense, Newhouse will line up against Justin Smith. If the 49ers are in nickel, Newhouse will have to contend with Aldon Smith, who led all rookies last season with 14 sacks.Green Bay must come up with a plan against the Smiths. The 49ers' best hope for slowing down the Packers on Sunday will be for Aldon Smith and Justin Smith to get some hits on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and disrupt the offense's timing.
Newhouse, a third-year pro from TCU, probably will not be able to handle either Aldon or Justin Smith straight up. Newhouse, who started 13 games for the Packers last season, has good feet but he does not possess great upper-body strength. The Packers are likely to use running back Cedric Benson to help out."He's improved this preseason from last season," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Newhouse. "They give their guys a lot of help, too. In particular, their back. They do a lot of chipping. But their offensive line, their tackles, are young guys that have played well for them, and we'll see if we're up to the challenge."On run downs, Justin Smith should be able to use his strength to clog things up. He was the 49ers team MVP last season. How in the world can he possibly improve over what he did last season when he was named All-Pro at defensive tackle and defensive end?"Anticipation of what the offense is trying to throw at you," Justin Smith said. "It's more film study not just watching it but understanding why they're doing it, and down and distance all those tendencies."Smith has been pouring over Packers film off and on since the schedule was released in mid-April, and he knew a road trip to Green Bay was the next game on the schedule."We've been watching it for a while now," he said. "We know they're going to give us some wrinkles. They do a good job of self-scouting as well. We're pretty much get prepared for them and go from there."

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.

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.