Defense, again, leads way for the 49ers


Defense, again, leads way for the 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Even while the 49ers' offense was going nowhere in the second half, their lead remained safe.The 49ers' defense made things difficult for second-year quarterback Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns' non-existent run game on Sunday at Candlestick Park. The defense powered the way to the 49ers' 20-10 victory."I thought the effort that our guys play with is evident to me to the guys on our team," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Ahmad Brooks, down after down, he's just giving it everything he has. Same with Justin Smith."Looked up and down the defensive roster and you see them come off the field and they're just pouring everything out of their bucket. They're giving everything they've got."The Browns only points came on Phil Dawson's 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half and on McCoy's 45-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Cribbs with 6 minutes remaining.The 49ers are 6-1 for the first time since 1998, and their five-game win streak is the franchise's best since 2001.
"It feels good," said 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who recorded a team-high 11 tackles. "We just wanted to come into this game and pick up where we left off. A lot of teams are getting complacent after their bye weeks and we didn't want to be that team. We wanted to separate ourselves and I think we did that."Browns running back Peyton Hillis did not suit up for the game due to a hamstring injury. Montario Hardesty started but managed just 6 yards on two carries before leaving the game with a calf injury.Cleveland managed just 66 yards rushing on 23 carries, as the 49ers have now gone an NFL-best 29 games without allowing an individual to gain 100 yards on the ground against them.There were plenty of defensive highlights:--Brooks recorded two sacks in the game, including a strip of McCoy on the second play of the game. Isaac Sopoaga recovered the ball at the Cleveland 20-yard line, leading to the first touchdown of the game. Brooks did it all without his helmet."My helmet came off during the pass rush and I was just going to lay my shoulder on the quarterback and make sure he was down and maybe even strip the ball," Brooks said. "But right when I was going to do that, I saw Justin Smith somehow come into the play and I just ran into the quarterback head first."After the play, I was kind of dizzy. I was bleeding and leaking as if I just got into a fight and lost. But the thing thing about it is I got the sack. It was well worth it."--Rookie Aldon Smith recorded a sack for the fourth consecutive game. He has recorded each of his team-leading 6.5 sacks in those games. Smith already ranks third in franchise history for sacks from a rookie. Charles Haley had 12 sacks in 1986, and Dana Stubblefield recorded 10.5 sacks in 1993.--Outside linebacker Parys Haralson forced a fumble in the fourth quarter. He is tied for the NFL lead with three forced fumbles on the season.--Safety Dashon Goldson intercepted a McCoy pass in the end zone in the third quarter. It was his sixth career interception and his first since December of last season against the Seattle Seahawks.--Linebacker Patrick Willis recorded seven tackles and picked up his first sack of the season.

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”