SAN FRANCISCO -- During the week leading to the NFC divisional playoff, 49ers quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst had an idea.He presented it to 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, whose reaction was, "Yeah!"And when the 49ers needed their biggest play in a decade, that's what they called upon.Quarterback Alex Smith hit tight end Vernon Davis on a post-pattern in front of New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper for a 14-yard touchdown pass with :09 remaining to provide the winning points in a remarkable 36-32 victory at Candlestick Park on Saturday.The victory moves the 49ers into the NFC championship game for the first time since the 1997 season. The 49ers will either play at Green Bay or at home against the New York Giants.
Smith's performance in the final 4 minutes was monumental for the 49ers. He ran around the left side for a 28-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 29-24 lead with 2:11 remaining.Then, when it appeared as if the Saints had won the game with Jimmy Graham's 66-yard touchdown reception from Drew Brees with 1:37 left, Smith led the 49ers 85 yards in seven plays.The 49ers went to a play that Chryst developed from his time as an assistant with the Carolina Panthers -- a team that faced the Saints twice a year in the NFC South."He knew there was a red-zone tendency that he felt really strongly about," Roman said. "And it really paid off. . . . It was very specific for the Saints."The epic nature of Smith's pass to Davis conjured memories of Dwight Clark's "The Catch," the play that led the 49ers to their first Super Bowl. It also had a striking resemblance to Terrell Owens' playoff touchdown catch from Steve Young against the Green Bay Packers."We live and we move on and we move on in spectacular fashion," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I know there was 'The Catch.' I don't know what you're going to call this one, 'The Throw and the Catch.'"Smith completed 24 of 42 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the most passing yards he's ever had in a victory. Davis caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. It was the most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL playoff history.
First-year coach Kyle Shanahan is close to completing his 49ers coaching staff.
Shanahan will handle the duties of the offensive coordinator, the position he held with Houston, Washington and Atlanta over the past nine NFL seasons.
Robert Saleh is the 49ers' new defensive coordinator, while Richard Hightower has been hired as the special-teams coordiator.
Here's a look at the 49ers' coaching staffs under Shanahan and last season under Chip Kelly:
2017 49ERS COACHING STAFF
Position: Coach (2016 job)
Head coach: Kyle Shanahan (Falcons, offensive coordinator)
Defensive coordinator: Robert Saleh (Jaguars, linebackers coach)
Special teams coordinator: Richard Hightower (Bears, assistant special teams)
Assistant head coach/tight ends: Jon Embree (Buccaneers, tight ends)
Run game specialist: Mike McDaniel (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Quarterbacks: Rich Scangarello (Wagner, offensive coordinator)
Running backs: Bobby Turner (Falcons, running backs)
Wide receivers: Mike LaFleur (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Offensive line: Vacant
Offensive assistant: T.C. McCartney (LSU, offensive assistant)
Senior defensive assistant: Jason Tarver (49ers, outside linebackers)
Defensive line: Jeff Zgonina (N.Y. Giants, assistant defensive line)
Linebackers: Johnny Holland (Browns, inside linebackers)
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Offensive quality control: Taylor Embree (Chiefs, defensive assistant)
Defensive quality control: Bobby Slowik
Head strength and conditioning: Ray Wright
* * *
2016 49ERS COACHING STAFF
Position: Coach (current status)
Head coach: Chip Kelly
Offensive coordinator: Curtis Modkins (Bears, running backs)
Defensive coordinator: Jim O’Neil
Special teams coordinator: Derius Swinton
Quarterbacks: Ryan Day (Ohio State, quarterbacks)
Running backs: Tom Rathman
Wide receivers: Bob Bicknell
Tight ends: Jeff Nixon (Baylor, co-offensive coordinator/running backs)
Offensive line: Pat Flaherty (Jaguars, offensive line)
Assistant offensive line: Eric Wolford (South Carolina, offensive line)
Defensive line: Jerry Azzinaro (Cal, defensive line)
Assistant defensive line: Vince Oghobaase
Outside linebackers: Jason Tarver (49ers, senior defensive assistant)
Inside linebacker: Joe Bowden
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Assistant defensive backs: Roy Anderson (Bears, assistant secondary)
Assistant special teams: Michael Clay
Offensive quality control: Mick Lombardi (Jets, offensive assistant/assistant QBs coach)
Defensive quality control: Tem Lukabu
Senior analyst: Dana Bible
Director of human performance: Mark Uyeyama
John Benton, who coached on the same staff during Kyle Shanahan’s four seasons with the Houston Texans, has reportedly received permission from the Denver Broncos to interview with the 49ers.
The Broncos hired Benton on Jan. 15 to work as the team’s assistant offensive line coach under line coach Jeff Davidson.
But Denver coach Vance Joseph and general manager John Elway provided Benton permission to interview with the 49ers, Denver’s 9News reported. The Sacramento Bee was first to report the 49ers were looking at Benton.
The offensive line coach is the last major position that remains vacant on Shanahan’s staff.
Benton worked last season as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).
Shanahan’s first NFL coaching job was with Houston in 2006, when he coached wide receivers. Shanahan became the quarterbacks coach with the Texans in 2007 before spending the next two seasons as offensive coordinator under then-coach Gary Kubiak.
The 49ers announced nine additions to the coaching staff on Friday.
Also, the 49ers are expected to hire Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, according to The Sporting News. Bullocks worked in the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The Jaguars' linebackers coach last season, Robert Saleh, is the 49ers' new defensive coodinator. Bullocks appeared in 31 games in three NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and '08.