Roman gets high marks for 49ers' record-setting offensive display

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Roman gets high marks for 49ers' record-setting offensive display

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Right tackle Anthony Davis, who was singled up on the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL most of Sunday, looked to his right and saw an important figure walking through the 49ers' victorious locker room."It's that guy," Davis said, gesturing toward 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. "He was dialing them up."The 49ers, who've made a habit of putting together strong defensive showings, found the connection Sunday for a record-setting performance against the Buffalo Bills on offense.An organization steeped in offensive history, rolled up 621 total yards in a 45-3 victory over the Bills at Candlestick Park. It set the franchise record for most yards in a game. The 49ers began play in 1946 and joined the NFL in 1950."We're talking about legends who played here," tight end Vernon Davis said, "Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice. To be able to perform at this level and do it better than what they did, that's a huge honor, a huge honor."
Moreover, the 49ers became the first team in NFL history to roll up 300 rushing yards (311) and 300 passing yards (310) in the same game.The 49ers defeated the New York Jets 34-0 a week earlier. After losing to the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 23, the 49ers have outscored the opposition 79-3.That could serve as momentum heading into Sunday's showdown at Candlestick against the New York Giants, who defeated the 49ers in overtime to win the NFC championship game and go onto a Super Bowl title."This is what can happen when everyone's executing on the same page," 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. "Everybody was just very crisp."Quarterback Alex Smith completed 18 of 24 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was a career-high and near-perfect 156.2 (perfection is 158.3).Michael Crabtree had six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, and Vernon Davis added five catches for 106 yards. Kyle Williams caught a 46-yard touchdown pass, and Mario Manningham added a 10-yard scoring grab from Smith.Moreover, running back Frank Gore carried 14 times for 106 yards and a touchdown."We're the same team," Crabtree said. "It's just putting it together. . . We've got athletes. We've got playmakers. We just have to use them. We've got to create that identity."The identity of the 49ers has been a team that is driven by the defense. The offense has not been prolific for a long time. But the offense took a step back to a time in which there were stars at each of the skill positions on offense.The 49ers broke the record of 598 total yards, which was set -- coincidentally -- against the Bills in 1992 during an epic Steve Young vs. Jim Kelly shootout in which neither team punted. The Bills won that day, 34-31, sending the 49ers to one of their two losses on the season."Very cool . . . a lot of offenses and great offenses," Smith said. "When you think of the 49ers, you think of great offenses, so this is quite an honor. It's great to be with those guys."Smith sustained a sprain to the middle finger on his throwing hand with about 10 minutes remaining in the game. X-rays were negative. Everything else was quite positive for the team on Sunday.For the first time in his career, Smith threw for 300 yards in a 49ers victory. He also rushed for a career-high 49 yards.The 49ers' offensive line had another strong showing going up against a strong Buffalo defensive front. Anthony Davis, showing another sign of his dramatic improvement, held defensive end Mario Williams to two tackles and two quarterback hurries. Williams is in his first season with the Bills after signing a six-year, 100 million contract with 50 million guaranteed.The 49ers pride themselves on a varied offensive approach. And never was that as obvious on Sunday. Smith hit some deep passes, and the running game showed a few new wrinkles with the insertion of Colin Kaepernick lining up wide and running plays as a decoy. Kaepernick also took several snaps at quarterback, adding 39 rushing yards including a 16-yard scoring run with 10 minutes remaining."He's got playmaking ability," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "In a game where the playmakers really shone brightly, there were some shining stars out there today."The offensive players believe one of the brightest stars is situated in the coaching booth during the game. That's the location from which Roman calls plays and directs the symphony."That's gold," Gore said. "I think everything started going great for us because our passing game was on early. Coach G-Ro (Roman) did a great job of putting us in great situations. The O-line did a hell of a job. I've got to give all the credit to them. I just ran the ball. They did everything."We had them off-balance. You've got to give it to the coordinator -- give it to Coach G-Ro."Smith said he felt connected with every play call that came through."When the play call comes in, I know exactly what he's thinking, what we're trying to do, and what we're trying to accomplish," Smith said. "I think the whole offense is constantly putting us in good situations, him especially. Really, thinking through things all week and putting us in good situations. I don't think there's any play that comes that we don't feel has the potential to be a great play."In a rare moment, the 49ers produced an assistant coach to take the podium after the game. Roman stood in front of reporters with his right eye colored a dark red. He said it's a result of sleepless nights and thinking too much."I believe it," right guard Alex Boone said. "He's an evil genius, and I love it."Last week, Smith was removed for a handful of snaps with Kaepernick inserted to take snaps at quarterback. On Sunday, Kaepernick and Smith were both on the field for several plays."I think it's a great thing," Smith said. "I mean, it's another thing that defenses are going to have to prepare for. You only have so many reps during the week to get ready, so the more they have to think about, the better."Roman, who served on the Carolina Panthers coaching staff in the late-1990s under George Seifert, knows all about the history of the 49ers. Last summer during the lockout, he made a habit of watching hours upon hours of Bill Walsh installation videos.Now, he can lay claim to the honor of being the offensive coordinator who called the record-setting game."I think it's just a credit to the players and I think it's a credit to what we can accomplish as we move forward," Roman said. "I'm not a big statistical guy -- don't get caught up in it. But, at the same time, just in the normal course of events being able to put up that kind of production, obviously, we're doing something right."

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

The 49ers’ new regime heads to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week with the first major wave of offseason activity set to kick off.

Already, the 49ers have made roster improvements. And there figure to be plenty of activity ahead in the coming weeks.

Here are some questions submitted by readers on Facebook for this edition of 49ers Mailbag:

Do you see the 49ers cutting ties with larger contracts like Bethea, Torrey Smith and Ahmad Brooks?‬ (Blair Wilkins)
The 49ers have approximately $75 million in space under the salary cap – and that’s before any adjustment of Colin Kaepernick’s contract. So it’s not as if the organization needs to create cap room.

Any decision made to part ways with veteran players will be made solely on how that player fits into what the 49ers envision on the field.

And that’s what general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff are doing now. They are studying the video from last season to determine which players fit their ideals.

Safety Antoine Bethea is scheduled to earn $5.75 million. Bethea, 32, enters the final year of his contract. There is no question he is everything the 49ers want in a player off the field. If one of the younger guys is not better than Bethea, there is no reason to get rid of him.

Brooks is on the books to earn $5.3 million in 2017. That’s not a huge amount for a starting outside linebacker or defensive end – whichever spot he might fit best. The 49ers must look to upgrade their pass rush. Brooks turns 33 next month. He’s good for six sacks a season. Again, it’s not as if the 49ers can’t afford him. And, as of now, it’s not as if the 49ers have anyone better.

Smith is scheduled to earn $8 million. He has been vastly underutilized in his two seasons since signing with the 49ers. He’s the most interesting case of the high-priced veterans.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is predicated on using the running game to set up the play-action shot down the field. Smith is limited. He’s not a possession receiver. He’s not going to make plays over the middle. He is an outside receiver whose contributions come in the vertical passing game. But that’s what Shanahan wants.

If Smith is paired with a strong tight end, a running back who catch the ball out of the backfield, a slot receiver with short-area quickness to get open underneath, a very good receiver on the other side and an accurate quarterback who can throw the deep ball, there should be a role for Smith in the 49ers’ offense.

Will the 49ers continue to be aggressive pursuing free agents this offseason? If so, what positions?‬ (Bradley Lodge)
The 49ers have zeroed in on two veteran free agents and they signed them both.

The organization has already spent more money than it did all of last offseason on veteran free agency with the four-year, $16 million deal to sign defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, whom the Miami Dolphins recently released.

Nickel back K’Waun Williams has a history with 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. The 49ers did not have to make much of a financial investment to sign him.

The 49ers will definitely go after a veteran quarterback or two in free agency or via trade. Pass rusher, inside linebacker and wide receiver are other positions the 49ers can be expected to look during free agency.

The opening of the new league year – when free-agent signings and trades can occur – is March 9. The draft is seven weeks later.

The 49ers must fill as many of their needs with smart deals that fit into the long-term plan with veteran acquisitions. Then, the draft is about taking the best players on their board when it’s time to select. Teams that reach for need generally strike out.

What are the chances of drafting a QB with first pick and playing them behind a Kap / Cousins until they're ready to become starter?‬ (Hillory Broussard)
If Colin Kaepernick returns, it will not be as a no-questions-asked starter. Just read what Lynch said on KNBR this week about the team’s needs:

“Do we have some places – probably the ultimate position, quarterback – where we need to improve? Absolutely. And we’re committed to doing that.”

That statement can easily be interpreted that Lynch does not believe the 49ers had a starting-caliber quarterback on the roster last season.

But if the 49ers were to go out and swing a trade for Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s going to take a big commitment – in terms of draft picks and a suitable new contract. Then, the 49ers would have that player.

Cousins or Garoppolo would unquestionably fill the 49ers’ need at quarterback for 2017 and beyond -- at least in the minds of the 49ers' new decision-makers. There would be no reason for the 49ers to then draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick – if the 49ers even had the No. 2 overall pick at that point.

 

49ers have already spent more in 2017 free agency than a year ago

49ers have already spent more in 2017 free agency than a year ago

Under the 49ers’ new regime, the club has already invested more in the free-agent market than a year ago under then-general manager Trent Baalke.

Just a reminder: The free-agent signing period does not officially open until March 9.

The 49ers on Friday reached a contract agreement with veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who is penciled into be a starter in the team’s new 4-3 base scheme under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

"As soon as Earl hit the open market, he became a priority for us to sign,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement released Saturday morning. “A man of high character, he represents everything we want to be as a football team. Earl is a tone-setter who plays the game with a tremendous passion and the effort necessary to win in this league. We believe those qualities are contagious and will help to make our team stronger. We look forward to the impact Earl will have on the field, in the locker room and in our community.”

It was the first significant move under Lynch, who also signed a player with NFL experience earlier in the week.

The 49ers also added cornerback K’Waun Williams to a one-year contract. Williams served as the Cleveland Browns’ nickel back for two seasons. The Browns released him before the start of last season and he was unable to play due to an ankle injury.

Mitchell was available to be signed before the start of the new league year because the Miami Dolphins released him last week in a move to save the team $4 million in cap space.

Mitchell took four free-agent visits and after wrapping up his tour with the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, he and the 49ers quickly agreed on a four-year, $16 million contract that includes $5.5 million of money in the first year, according to a source.

Last year, Baalke did little to improve the roster for coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers, who finished 5-11 in Jim Tomsula's one season, dropped to 2-14. Just hours after the season concluded, the 49ers announced the firings of Baalke and Kelly.

The only veteran free-agent addition who stepped on the field for the 49ers last season was offensive lineman Zane Beadles. The 49ers signed Beadles in late-March to a three-year, $9.75 million contract with a $1.75 million signing bonus. Beadles had a good season for the 49ers, starting 12 games at left guard, two games at left tackle and the final two games at center.

The 49ers have already shown more willingness to be aggressive under Lynch’s leadership.

Mitchell, 29, is a seven-year veteran who began his NFL career from 2010 to ’13 with the Houston Texans. He was a rookie in Saleh’s final season as assistant linebackers coach in Houston.

Mitchell joins DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Quinton Dial on the 49ers defensive line. The 49ers view Mitchell as a high-energy player who bring good character to the locker room. The signing of Mitchell could be an indication the 49ers are moving on from Glenn Dorsey, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

With 5.5 sacks in seven seasons, the 49ers do not figure to use Mitchell in passing situations. The club must try to bolster its pass rush in free agency or the draft. Last season, Buckner and Ahmad Brooks shared the team-lead with six sacks apiece. In 2015, Brooks and Aaron Lynch both led the way with 6.5 sacks.