49ers rely on defense, Gore in tough win over Seahawks

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49ers rely on defense, Gore in tough win over Seahawks

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers went back to what they do best Thursday night to prevail in what coach Jim Harbaugh called, "A real football fight."And that's something Pete Carroll and Harbaugh saw the same way. Both were in agreement that the game was unusually physically demanding.
"We found ourselves in the midst of a real slugfest here tonight," Carroll said after his Seattle Seahawks lost a 13-6 decision to the 49ers at Candlestick Park.RELATED: Maiocco's Instant Replay: 49ers 13, Seahawks 6
As they often do in such situations, the 49ers relied on a stout defense and running back Frank Gore.The 49ers entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked defense. They only strengthened their hold on the top spot with a performance in which they allowed only 251 total yards and kept an opponent out of the end zone for the third time in four games."They were playing so physically up front," Harbaugh said. "Justin (Smith), Ray (McDonald), Isaac (Sopoaga), Aldon (Smith), thought he had a terrific game. And the two linebackers (Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman) were just outstanding."And then the secondary made some plays -- big pass breakups. It was a real football fight and our guys won it."Quarterback Alex Smith did not have a great night throwing the ball. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The best thing Smith did was to get the 49ers into run plays to maximize Gore's impact behind the 49ers' determined offensive line."(I) thought Alex had a very good game, made really good decisions," Harbaugh said. "He was fantastic for us all night. Really had a perfect game in the run game, and did a great job of getting us into the right play."Gore finished with 131 yards on 16 carries before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter with bruised ribs. He said X-rays taken after the game were negative.MAIOCCO: Gore batters Seahawks, absorbs pounding
"We knew coming in that we had to be successful in the run game to win this game," left tackle Joe Staley said. "It's a tall task."The Seahawks entered the game with the NFL's No. 2-ranked run defense. The 49ers did not get much going in the first half, but they put together a 10-play, 86-yard drive to open the second half.Smith hit tight end Delanie Walker on a 12-yard touchdown pass. Vernon Davis was held without a catch for the first time since 2008, but he still managed to make a contribution with a block near the goal line.
"If he didn't make that block, I probably would've never got in," Walker said. "It was a great block, got me around the corner and got me in for the touchdown."After that, the 49ers managed only a David Akers field goal. But the 49ers controlled the tempo of the game with its ground attack."Frank was hitting the holes hard," Staley said. "Kendall (Hunter) was hitting the holes hard. I'm really proud of the whole offense, the way they played and stuck with it. It wasn't pretty, a little bit in the second quarter, especially. But we stuck with it. Nobody was down. We just had to execute better."The 49ers' defense certainly executed a lot better in the second half, too.The 49ers allowed only 74 total yards in the second half. NaVorro Bowman had a big hit on Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson that led to a Dashon Goldson interception. Aldon Smith sacked Wilson during the Seahawks' last chance at a game-tying drive."We were obviously playing a great defense out there," said Wilson, who completed just 9 of 23 pass attempts for 122 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. "They made some key tackles and did some good things on the defensive side of the ball. We expected them to play at a high level."Safety Donte Whitner agreed with Harbaugh, who said the second half was the most physical performance he has seen from the 49ers in the past two seasons."My body feels like it," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "I'm sure everybody in this locker room feels that way. I feel Seattle feels like that also. But it's two physical football teams. The NFC West is a tough division right now. You have four of the top defenses in the National Football League in the same division."The 49ers (5-2) take a one-game lead over the Seahawks (4-3). The Arizona Cardinals (4-2) play at Minnesota on Sunday.
The 49ers had their hands full against Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, one of the league's top ball carriers.Lynch became the second back in a row to rush for more than 100 yards against the 49ers. Last week, Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants had 116 yards on 27 carries in the 49ers' 26-3 loss. On Thursday, Lynch 103 yards on 19 attempts. "Every time we play him, we know that we have to come with it," Willis said. "We know he's going to run the ball hard. It's just who he is."Said Justin Smith, "I thought the whole game was pretty physical. They have the right man for the job in 24 (Lynch). We were watching tape all week and just said, 'Man, we have to be ready to go.' He got some yards. He got a lot of yards."But we came out with the win, and that's all that matters."

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.”