49ers

Quarterback-needy Cardinals playing for pride

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Quarterback-needy Cardinals playing for pride

The 49ers are playing for the NFC West title and a possible first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.

Their opponent Sunday in the regular-season finale at Candlestick Park is the Arizona Cardinals, losers of 10 of their past 11 games. And what are they playing for?

"It's a division game. (The) 49ers," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "It's an opportunity for us to finish well and going against a good football team."

The 49ers and Cardinals have experienced some heated and close games in the recent past. However, earlier this season the 49ers trounced Arizona 24-3 in a Monday night game. Whisenhunt believes the familiarity and rivalry will help the Cardinals show up to play before heading into the offseason.

"I'm sure that doesn't hurt," he said. "I know we have a lot of respect for that football team. They've been very good the last two seasons, and you also want to win. It's important for us to play well. And I think our team will be motivated to come in there give it our best shot."

Alex Smith was the quarterback the last time the 49ers played the Cardinals. In his final full game at quarterback before sustaining a concussion and getting benched, Smith completed 18 of 19 passes and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

"I can't comment much on a quarterback because we've had our share of making moves with quarterbacks during the year," Whisenhunt said. "He played well against us. And he's played well for them, and I have a lot of respect for that. But they've done a good job all year. (Colin) Kaepernick's got in there and played well, also. There's not a lot to complain about when they have the record they have. They have a chance to win the division."

Injuries and poor play have led the Cardinals to play quarterbacks Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley nearly equal amounts this season. Brian Hoyer could be in line for a start Sunday. Whisenhunt said he will make an announcement Wednesday afternoon which quarterback will play against the 49ers.

In any event, the Cardinals' main objective in the offseason will be to solidify the quarterback position.

"I'm sure that's a question, if you look at teams in the NFL, the ones that have stability at that position, consistency of play, it's an important component," Whisenhunt said. "We haven't gotten the consistency out of that position that we needed. And that's something you always look to try to attain."

--In six quarters without the services of 49ers' All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith, the 49ers have surrendered nine touchdowns on defense. Smith is out indefinitely with an unspecified injury to his left arm/elbow.

"I haven't noticed anything different from an attack," Whisenhunt said. "I think the 49ers still look good defensively. I mean, when you're a good football team like they are, the next guy steps up and plays well. We're certainly very aware of how good of a player Justin Smith is. But I think they still play very well even without him."

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.”