Shurmur doesn't see many differences in 49ers' defense

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Shurmur doesn't see many differences in 49ers' defense

Cleveland Browns first-year coach Pat Shurmur spent the previous two seasons as St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator, so he's quite familiar with the 49ers' defense.
And despite the 49ers' 5-1 start, he said he does not see many differences this season with the defense his team will face Sunday at Candlestick Park.
"When you watch them schematically, they're very similar -- scheme, coverage, philosophically -- as they were a year ago," Shurmur said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "I've always felt they were a good defensive team, and I think they've taken it up a notch more this year."Ours might be the same. If you start having success, you build confidence. And they added some good young players who have helped them. They're getting some production out of rookies, like Aldon Smith. And you got leadership in there, guys who have played well in that system for a long time and they're doing the same."Here are some other notes from the call with Shurmur:--On 49ers inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis: "It's a big problem. I was very familiar with Takeo Spikes a year ago, and I tell you what, NaVorro has stepped in and did an extremely good job. They haven't really skipped a beat there. And they can run. They do a good job of going sideline-to-sideline to make tackles, but they also fit downhill very well when you run right at them. That's a pretty darn good tandem of inside linebackers."--On 49ers holding three-game lead in NFC West and five-game cushion on the last-place Rams: "Nothing surprises me in this league any more, regardless of the division," Shurmur said. "I don't know how people predict who's going to be good to start the season. I think that's why you've got to play them out. The 49ers have done an excellent job of finding a way to win their games."Really, with the pickup of one or two players or the injury of another. What happens is your team can change tremendously. So here we sit at the midpoint of the season, and who knows who's going to win each division?"--The Browns expect running back Peyton Hillis to return to action Sunday. He missed last week's game with a hamstring strain."Yeah, I expect he'll be back," Shurmur said. "He'll be out practicing today. He's a full go."Hillis tripled his rushing totals of his first two seasons with 1,177 yards rushing, along with 11 touchdowns, last season. He also caught 61 passes for 477 yards. But there's has been a lot of drama surrounding Hillis, who reportedly is disgruntled that he has yet to receive a new contract. Hillis has been inactive for two games this season.--The Browns are coming off a 6-3 victory over the Seahawks, a game in which they held the ball for nearly 43 minutes and converted 12 of 24 third-down attempts."It's important that you score points in games like that when they're available," Shurmur said. "You can't have two field goals blocked. We had another drive in the third quarter where we threw an interception in the red zone. When the game's tight like that . . . and we knew going in, Seattle's a pretty good defense. I knew going in we were going to have to stand toe-to-toe with them and battle them."--On Browns left tackle Joe Thomas: "First off, he's a pro. Joe's out at practice every day. He's a good pass protector. Obviously, he's a good run-blocker. He's what you're looking for from a left tackle. You don't tend to worry about him so much because he's such a good player. Now, we're going to get challenged this week for sure. Our guys are well-aware of how the 49ers are built and how talented and how explosive they can be. So I think we're counting on him to have one of his better games against an opponent that's going to be a big challenge."--Shurmur did not get a chance to work with second-year quarterback Colt McCoy in the offseason, but he did get a playbook in his hands when it was allowed before the lockout."Yeah, I think any time you don't have a chance to practice, you got to make that up somehow," Shurmur said. "The offseason for all of us coaches went from initially frustration, anxiety to 'OK, that's nothing we can do about it.' When you get them you start working with them and get them as good as you can."McCoy started eight games as a rookie. He completed 60.8 percent of his attempts with six touchdowns and nine interceptions for a 74.5 passer rating. This season in six starts, he's completing 56 percent with eight touchdowns and four interceptions for a 75.4 passer rating.--AFC North teams Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are the top-four ranked defenses in the AFC."It goes to show how difficult it is to play offense in this division," Shurmur said. "And now we're traveling out west to play another top-10 defense (49ers rank 11th)."--The Browns make their second trip to the Bay Area in three weeks. They lost to the Raiders 24-17 on Oct. 16. The Browns will follow the same routine, traveling on Friday and staying at the same hotel.

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.