Letdown? More like a beatdown in 49ers' loss

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Letdown? More like a beatdown in 49ers' loss

MINNEAPOLIS -- After season-opening victories over NFC playoff teams from a year ago, the 49ers had risen to the top of some NFL power rankings.The Minnesota Vikings did not figure to offer much of a challenge on Sunday -- even in a location where the 49ers have not recorded a victory since 1992.But the Vikings thoroughly out-performed the 49ers, 24-13, on Sunday in every phase.
Is it possible the 49ers, who defeated the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in the first two games, overlooked a team that went 3-13 last season and was coming off a loss to the Indianapolis Colts?"I thought we were ready to play," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said when asked if the team came out flat. "We didn't get the lead, if that's what you're referring to. That's obvious. But there are multiple things that always determine the outcome of a football game. And we had opportunities. We just didn't get it done."The Vikings seized control of the game after the 49ers won the toss and elected to defer. Minnesota received the kickoff and completed a 16-play, 82-yard touchdown drive. The Vikings never trailed.RELATED: Maiocco's Instant Replay: Vikings 24, 49ers 13
Some of Harbaugh's players believed the 49ers were flat in the 10 a.m. (PT) kickoff.
"We just came out a little flat, and weren't able to get a stop," 49ers defensive end Justin Smith said. "Hats off to them. They came out with a good game plan and moved the ball on us. We just need to tighten up."Said linebacker NaVorro Bowman, "They fed off the energy of the crowd. They took advantage of the home field. They just called the right plays at the right time, and made some plays for their team."You can't think that the game is just going to be given to you. Especially when you guys (media) are hyping us up, saying that we're that good. Everyone is trying to knock us off. You just to be prepared for it every single game."Safety Donte Whitner said he felt as if the team was prepared to play Sunday, but he admitted the 49ers did not match the energy level of the Vikings."I would say our energy level is where it normally is, but I wouldn't say that we weren't ready," Whitner said. "We were prepared. We prepared like crazy all week. We're going to continue to prepare like that. We just have to take that and put it on the football field."We were ready. The coaching staff had us prepared. Now, we just have to go out there and when we get to Ohio, make sure we're ready to practice, change our mistakes and come out and play 49er football. We'll be all right."The 49ers will practice this week in Youngstown, Ohio, and travel just one time zone for next Sunday's game against the New York Jets.
"They did come out with a different attitude," 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said of the Vikings. "They came out to play. They came out to win. You know they got the 'W.' All we can do at the moment is just respect that, the fact that they won, and get back into the office and get better."RELATED: Injury Report: Willis, Sopoaga fine
The 49ers, as one of the top teams in the league, might have a target on their backs, but quarterback Alex Smith said he does not feel as if the opposition is better-prepared to face the 49ers now."There are only 16 games in a season, so every game is huge," Smith said. "Yeah, maybe it's a bigger challenge when a so-called 'good team' comes in. But every game is a challenge."The Vikings had a strong plan of attack to face the 49ers. But former 49ers head coach and current Vikings linebackers coach Mike Singletary said he did not take a more active role in game-planning against his former team."No more insight than any other team," Singletary said. "I think there's so much information floating around, anybody can get the information they need."I think more than anything else, I was just very, very pleased to see our guys respond to the challenge of playing San Francisco. They are playing very well right now. We are coming off a loss last week, and we bounced back and really showed a lot of character and I'm very excited about that."The Vikings stood toe-to-toe and took down a team considered one of the top teams in the NFL. Justin Smith, for one, said he was not surprised that the Vikings posed such a challenge."It's the NFL," he said. "You can't just walk out there and expect to win and for them not to run the ball or throw the ball on you. You have to be on top of your game and make sure you have no mental errors across the board. We just didn't get that done today."

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.