49ers

Other 49ers-Patriots matchups to watch

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Other 49ers-Patriots matchups to watch

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Over the past three days, we've written about the top three 49ers-Patriots matchups for Sunday night's game.

1. Ultra-talented 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will face a great learning experience against Bill Belichick's defense. It figures to be his greatest mental challenge as a starter.

2. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith had success against Patriots left tackle Nate Solder as a 2009 collegiate player. An identical showing would place the 49ers' second-year player in the NFL record book.

3. And cornerback Carlos Rogers will face his stiffest test, as he goes up against Wes Welker. Quarterback Tom Brady gets rid of the ball quickly, and it's no secret he will look to get the ball to his slot receiver . . . repeatedly.

Here are six other key matchups to consider for Sunday's game:

RDT Justin Smith vs. LG Logan Mankins: It's strength vs. strength, as the 49ers' most physical defender goes up against the Patriots' most physical lineman. The 49ers figure to be in their nickel defense for most of the game, so they'll need Smith to be stout against running back Stevan Ridley, who has 1,082 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

ILB Patrick Willis vs. TE Aaron Hernandez: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio must decide how to account for Hernandez. When the Patriots go with multi-receiver formations, Willis will likely be matched against Hernandez in coverage. The other option for the 49ers is to play more dime coverage with fourth cornerback Perrish Cox entering the game in place of Willis.

RG Alex Boone vs. DT Vince Wilfork: The 49ers will want to run between the tackles to chew up clock and keep the Patriots' offense off the field. If Boone can win this matchup in the run game against a four-time Pro Bowl player, that'll be huge bonus for the 49ers.

RB Frank Gore vs. ILB Jerod Mayo: Gore will make his 100th career start. It's imperative that he has success between the tackles to make Kaepernick's play-action passing more effective. Gore enters the game 29 yards behind Joe "The Jet" Perry for most rushing yards in franchise history, including Perry's two seasons with the 49ers in the All-America Football Conference. (Officially, stats from the AAFC are not recognized by NFL teams.) Mayo is the Patriots' leading tackler with 158 stops (100 solo), according to the film review from New England coaches.

WR Michael Crabtree vs. LCB Aqib Talib: Crabtree is the 49ers' top receiving threat with 66 catches for 761 yards and five touchdowns. Talib immediately took over as a starter after the Patriots acquired him in a Nov. 1 trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Talib sustained a hip injury Monday night, but he should be good to go on Sunday night.

TE Vernon Davis vs. S Devin McCourty: Davis has not been much of a factor the second half of the season. He has more than 37 yards receiving only once in the 49ers' past eight games. In the past three games, Davis has three catches for 19 yards. McCourty started the first six games at left cornerback before moving to safety.

Report: Ravens signing arena league QB over Kaepernick

Report: Ravens signing arena league QB over Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick still does not have an NFL team.

The Baltimore Ravens, who were linked to Kaepernick after praise from head coach John Harbaugh, have reportedly signed David Olson, according to nfldraftdiamonds.com

Olson, who played at Stanford and Clemson, most recently took snaps for the Kansas City Phantoms of the Champions Indoor Football League (CIF).

"He’s a great guy," Harbaugh said on Thursday about Keapernick, who remains an unrestricted free agent. "He’s a guy right now that’s being talked about. We’ll just see what happens with that. Only speculation right now. He’s a really good football player and as I said at the owners' meetings, I do believe he’ll be playing in the National Football League this year."

Starting quarterback Joe Flacco is expected to miss time due to a back injury.

49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan takes pride in speed of offense

49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan takes pride in speed of offense

SANTA CLARA – If there is any validity to Matt Ryan’s complaint that former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan struggled getting play calls to his quarterback in a timely fashion, it is difficult to find much evidence.

The past two seasons, only three teams went through an entire season without the play clock expiring on offense. The Falcons under Shanahan went without a delay-of-game penalty both of the past two seasons. The Denver Broncos of last season were the only other offensive unit in the NFL that was not penalized for the play clock hitting :00.

“Any play-caller that you talk to that’s usually one of the most important things and something I pride myself on a lot, is how quick can you get a play call into a quarterback,” said Shanahan, who will remain the playcaller for the 49ers while also serving as head coach.

"And the quicker you do the more comfortable it is, not just for him but the entire offense. They’re not panicked. They’re being able to move to the line. And with me as a coordinator personally, I try almost every situation to get it in as fast as possible. And I can be honest, there’s sometimes I do better than others. There are sometimes I don’t do it as good. There’s sometimes I do it real good.”

Shanahan said he took a lot of pride in the fact that the Falcons avoided any delay-of-game penalties the past two seasons. He said Ryan deserves credit, too.

“I was really proud of those guys on offense, which is a lot of credit to Matt and the rest of the guys, that regardless when we did get it in, two years straight without a delay of game and being the only team to even do that one year I think was a pretty impressive task,” Shanahan said. “We did a good job of that as a whole.”

In a recent interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, Ryan was critical of Shanahan’s timeliness in delivering the play calls in the Falcons' collapse in Super Bowl 51. (It did not appear the Falcons' offense was scrambling to get to the line of scrimmage and get the ball snapped after the built a 28-3 lead.)

“Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan told Prisco. "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.”

Shanahan said on Thursday that he wants his offense to play fast. Shanahan said he sets his offense so there is no need to audible out of a play if the defense is geared to stop the primary option on a particular call.

“If it’s not the perfect play, there’s usually four other options that you’ve just got to adjust to and either get an incompletion or get a smaller gain,” Shanahan said. “But, it’s not, ‘Hey, if I don’t call the perfect play, you check and get us into the perfect play.’

"I’ve been in systems like that and it’s just what your opinion is, and there’s really no right answer, but I was pretty happy with how our system worked in Atlanta. And I’ve been confident with players playing fast and not putting so much pressure on them to fix every play that the coordinator calls. I like to put a little more on myself and I want them when I do call a bad play, we’ll give you an answer."

Shanahan will continue to call the plays from the sideline. Quarterback Brian Hoyer said he insisted on working on the radio communication during the offseason program. Hoyer played in Shanahan's offense in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns, and he said that experience should help him relay the calls more smoothly to his teammates in the huddle.

"I kind of have a method of I want to be just outside the huddle when the play is coming out," Hoyer said. "I don’t want to be in the huddle trying to give the play while he’s talking to me. I want to hear him say the play in my helmet, take a second, get in the huddle and then call the play.

"Back in Cleveland when I was just learning the system I was just trying to repeat what he was saying, get it to the team and then as I’m walking to the line of scrimmage think of the play. Whereas now, I hear the play coming in and I can paint a picture of what Kyle is trying to emphasize on that play, and then relay it to the rest of the offense and break the huddle and go. We’ve been doing that I think pretty much since day one is using that coach-to-quarterback communication.”