Maiocco: 49ers-St. Louis matchups to watch

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Maiocco: 49ers-St. Louis matchups to watch

Dec. 24, 2010MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comThe 49ers would've been eliminated from playoff contention a long time ago if it weren't for their overtime victory against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 14 at Candlestick Park.Now, the 49ers need a second win against their longtime NFC West foe -- this time in St. Louis -- to still have playoff hopes entering the final week of the regular season.Coach Mike Singletary decided on Troy Smith over captain Alex Smith to start the franchise's most important game in eight seasons, as the 49ers look to recapture the offensive spark that ignited the club last month.NEWS: Singletary: 49ers to start Troy Smith vs. Rams
Before looking ahead to Sunday, let's take a peek back at the 49ers' 23-20 win against the Rams:--Troy Smith completed 17 of 28 passes for 356 yards and one touchdown. Six different receivers caught at least 60 yards in passes. That's the first time that had occurred in 49ers history. Running back Frank Gore had 87 yards on 22 rushing attempts, including 33 yards on the 49ers' five-play drive in overtime to set up Joe Nedney's winning kick. Neither Gore (hip) nor Nedney (knee) is available for the rest of this season after being placed on injured reserve.--Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford completed 30 of 42 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown. After the 49ers took a three-point lead late in the game, he rallied the Rams back into position to win the game. Tight end Daniel Fells dropped a pass inside the 5-yard line with :30 remaining that likely would've won the game. The Rams settled for the game-tying field goal to push the game into overtime.--It was nearly miraculous that the 49ers did not lose the game in regulation. After all, down by four points with 2:30 remaining, the 49ers were faced with a third-and-32 situation. Smith completed a pass to Gore for 14 yards. Then, on fourth-and-18, the pair hooked up again for 23 yards. Smith then threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. Earlier in the game, the 49ers had three touchdowns nullified by penalties.--Neither team committed a turnover, but both struggled on third downs. The Rams converted two of 14 (14 percent), while the 49ers were a ghastly 0-for-11. MATCHUP TO WATCH
49ers right tackle Anthony Davis (76) vs. Rams defensive end Chris Long (72)
TALE OF THE TAPE
Davis: 6-5, 323, Rutgers, rookie
Long: 6-3, 276, Virginia, third seasonGenerally, Davis has played well at home and struggled on the road.But five weeks ago, Davis had a difficult time at Candlestick Park against third-year defensive end Chris Long. And, now, he must face the Rams in their domed stadium.Long recorded one sack, two tackles for losses, two quarterback hits and one pass defensed when the teams met in Week 10. Davis was beaten in pass protection several times. His holding penalty on Long nullified a touchdown pass.But Davis held his own in the final minutes when he supplied good one-on-one protection against Long, giving Troy Smith enough time to find Crabtree on a 16-yard game-tying touchdown pass."He's a good football player," Davis said. "Everybody's quick and strong and fast, so you can't really say that's what makes him good."Chris Long, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, recorded nine sacks in his first 32 games. This season, he leads the Rams with 7.5 sacks."The thing Chris had to deal with a little was a change in systems his second year. That's always difficult for anybody at any position, depending on whether the change is a drastic change or not," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said."But from when we've been here with Chris and the growth we've seen, we've been very happy with him. He's had some quality plays for us. He has a high motor. I love having him on our football team." Other matchups worth watching
49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (92) vs. Rams center Jason Brown (60) -- Franklin is going to be key for the 49ers to slow down Rams running back Steven Jackson. Because inside linebacker Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes are playing with broken right hands, it's difficult for them to shed blocks. Therefore, it is imperative that Franklin is able to tie up double-teams and keep blockers off Willis and Spikes. It's difficult enough for linebackers to tackle Jackson with two good hands. But if Willis and Spikes have to take on blockers and try to stop Jackson at the same time, there could be more missed tackles than usual. Brown is a 328-pound center who came to the Rams two years ago as a free agent from the Baltimore Ravens. He and Franklin know each other from their time together with the Ravens. Brown has started 74 consecutive games, and is a major reason the Rams average 105.1 yards rushing per game.VIDEO: Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes practice with bandaged hands

49ers quarterback Troy Smith (1) vs. Rams free safety Oshmiomogho Atogwe (21) -- When Smith thrived in his first two games as a 49ers starter he made plays against man coverage when defenders had their backs turned. That element seemed to surprise the Rams. Smith is best when he is able to use play-action. But without Gore, the 49ers do not have that same kind of run threat with the combination of Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon in the backfield. That probably will not prevent Smith from taking some chances down the field. Atogwe has 20 interceptions for the Rams over the past five seasons, and he might have an opportunity to make some plays in the secondary. If Atogwe has a good game, he might force his future father-in-law, Mike Singletary, to consider a switch back to Alex Smith.

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.”