49ers show national audience the light

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49ers show national audience the light

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers were determined to show the light to a national audience Monday night.And that's what they might have done at Candlestick Park, as the 49ers played perhaps their most complete game of the season in a memorable 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers."We beat a great team on a national stage," 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said.The game will be talked about for years, for reasons that largely had nothing to do with football. Kickoff was delayed 20 minutes due to a power outage when a transformer blew outside the stadium. Play was delayed again in the second quarter when the lights went out a second time.NEWS: Candlestick struck by two blackouts
But that was just a sidelight to game that gave the 49ers another measure of legitimacy -- a victory over a team that has already clinched a playoff berth and was aiming for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
But more than the respect that victory might have given the 49ers, there was something much more tangible at stake."We needed this game for our own needs because we're fighting for that bye," 49ers receiver Kyle Williams said. "We have another team, New Orleans, that's coming after us. The fact it was on national TV was a bonus. But this was a game we just needed to win, period."
The 49ers (11-3) have the same record as the New Orleans Saints in the race for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The 49ers hold the tie-breaker edge due to a better conference record. If the 49ers win their final two games -- at Seattle and St. Louis -- the 49ers will clinch a first-round playoff bye and a home divisional game."Probably the biggest game, I think, home game since I've been here," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "Two talented teams, Monday Night Football, a lot on the line. Both teams still playing for playoff spots and playoff implications, and a lot of respect on the line."The 49ers' defense set the tone on the Steelers' first two possessions when defensive backs Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson intercepted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, playing with a high ankle sprain.Roethlisberger completed 25 of 44 passes for 330 yards. But the 49ers' pass defense made more plays. He threw three interceptions, including Tarell Brown's late-game pick, and he was sacked three times.Rookie Aldon Smith recorded 2.5 sacks, giving him a team rookie record of 13 sacks for the season. Charles Haley recorded 12 sacks in 1986 as a rookie.
"We played a good football team," Roethlisberger said. "It is very frustrating to feel like you down your team, the fans and the coaches. It's tough. I'm not going to make any excuses. I played a bad football game. I turned the ball over. That one is on me."And the 49ers' offense put together two timely touchdown drives in the second half to put the game out of reach."We played good football tonight," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I'd really like to focus on that -- not the lights, not the locker room before the game."The 49ers settled for two field goals in the second half. But after the Steelers cut the 49ers' lead to 6-3 in the third quarter, the offense responded with a well-timed touchdown drive.Alex Smith engineered a five-play, 79-yard drive that featured a 31-yard pass to Davis, a 27-yard screen pass to Kendall Hunter and a 21-yard throw to Davis.From the 1-yard line, Smith faked an inside handoff to running back Anthony Dixon and threw to a wide-open Davis for the touchdown."You'd love to come away with sevens all the time," Smith said. "But any time you can get a couple down there in a game like this, it really changes the nature of the game. All of a sudden, you put them in a hole and make them one-dimensional."
The 49ers put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter when defensive end Ray McDonald forced a fumble while sharing a sack with Aldon Smith. Justin Smith recovered at the Steelers 17-yard line.Harbaugh took points off the board after Pittsburgh's Lawrence Timmons was penalized for leaping on a David Akers field-goal attempt. Two plays later, Frank Gore scored on a 5-yard run.Alex Smith completed 18 of 31 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown, and he received one Pro Bowl endorsement from his coach."He was just right on the money all night long," Harbaugh said. "Played great. There's no doubt in my mind that he deserves to go to the Pro Bowl. He's had that kind of season."The 49ers' offensive line rebounded with a strong performance after surrendering 18 sacks in their past three games. The 49ers held the opposition without a sack for the fourth time this season."I thought they played a heck of a game," Harbaugh said. "They were really square in pass protection, picked up a lot of pressures. Alex did a nice job of stepping up."Said left tackle Joe Staley, "I think the main factor was the pregame work that everybody did across the whole offensive line."The 49ers managed another strong defensive showing despite playing without linebacker Patrick Willis, who missed his second game with a right hamstring strain. Larry Grant stepped up in Willis' absence and recorded five tackles with four passes defensed."It's a pride thing," Aldon Smith said. "It's a mentality. It's just something that we live by: Stop the run, stop the pass, play good defense."Just call it a lights-out performance.

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.”