Harbaugh: 'Not perfect, but beautiful' win over Browns


Harbaugh: 'Not perfect, but beautiful' win over Browns

SAN FRANCISCO -- Alex Smith's passer rating continues to hover a shade below 100. And for the first time in his NFL career, he is the quarterback of a winning team.Even with a 6-1 record and a 95.6 rating that places him near the top of the NFL, the 49ers' passing game isn't exactly a sight to behold.On Sunday, Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 177 and a touchdown in the 49ers' 20-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns."It was a hard-fought battle," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "They all are in this league. Not perfect, but beautiful."Smith continued to play with efficiency without being the least-bit flashy. He has thrown just two interceptions in seven games. But he has averaged 181 yards passing through the first seven games of the season."When you play quarterback, you're just trying to win games," Smith said. "That's all I care about. I don't care about style points, how I'm doing it, as long as we're winning."Frank Gore rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 31 rushing attempts. The 49ers rushed for 174 yards. Smith got into the act with some designed runs, as he gained 22 yards on five carries. And Smith threw for 174 net yards, too."This was a team that was second against the pass in the NFL and 19th against the run," Smith said. "And we aren't going to be cookie cutter. You're going to try to play to your strengths and where we match up against them."We felt like we had some good matchups in the run game, and I think we really exploited them in the first half."Gore, who climbed into second place on the 49ers' all-time rushing list, gained for 103 yards in the first half. But the 49ers' offense stalled in the second half.The 49ers managed just one first down in their first five possessions after halftime. Finally, they strung together three first downs to put the game out of reach on David Akers' field goal in the closing minutes.Receiver Braylon Edwards gave the 49ers another piece to the passing game, as he returned to action after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, which he sustained Sept. 18 against the Dallas Cowboys.Edwards caught four passes for 42 yards, while Michael Crabtree had five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown."You've got to get the ground game going to get the pass game going and vice versa," Edwards said. "When you've got a running back that's running for 100 yards a game and the offensive line is just tremendous up front in giving him room, it really opens up the pass game and allows us to do the things we did. And now you get us doing what we can do, it opens up the running game."

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.”