Smith-Crabtree connection picks up where run game left off

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Smith-Crabtree connection picks up where run game left off

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 49ers established their run game in the first quarter.And when the Arizona Cardinals established the fact they were going to load up in hopes of preventing running back Frank Gore from having continued success on the ground, the 49ers were able to do something that has not always come easily.They turned seamlessly to quarterback Alex Smith and the passing game for a 24-3 rout of the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.MAIOCCO'S INSTANT REPLAY: 49ers make Monday night statement
Smith enjoyed a record-setting night as he completed 18 of 19 passing attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Smith's passer rating was 157.1, just a shade below a perfect rating of 158.3.Smith's 94.7 completion percentage sets the NFL single-game record with a minimum of 15 passes attempted. Craig Morton (Denver, 1981) and Fran Tarkenton (Minnesota, 1977) previously shared the record at 94.4 percent by completing 17 of 18 attempts.
"I wasn't worried about any incompletions or anything like that," Smith said. "I was just kind of in a good rhythm. The whole offense was."Midway through the season, Smith tops the NFL with a 69.4 completion percentage. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is second with a 69.0 completion percentage. Smith's only incomplete throw Monday came in the second quarter when tight end Delanie Walker dropped a pass.Tight end Vernon Davis had his third consecutive quiet game. Davis caught two passes for 34 yards. But this time, some of the 49ers' other players were able to pick up the slack.Wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught five passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns, and Randy Moss got involved with a 47-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the third quarter."It was fun to see guys in space and getting the ball to them quick and letting them make plays," Smith said. "Guys were having fun. Randy had the great block on Crabtree's third-down conversion in the third quarter and then to seen him turn around and make the play on his touchdown run was fun."Perhaps the most encouraging play from the 49ers offense came on a play in which Crabtree was not wide open. Crabtree's first touchdown came on a 3-yard pass in which Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson had tight coverage at the goal line.Crabtree has yearned to get more passes thrown his way even on plays in which a defender is nearby. Smith has often been reluctant to attempt to throw the ball into tight windows. But Smith finally gave Crabtree that chance when he threw quickly to beat an all-out blitz. "I just tried to get it out before the DB could turn around," Smith said, "and Crab made a great catch."Said Crabtree, "Yeah, that's really my first time getting it in the red zone, and I've been working so hard with him at practice to be a threat in the red zone and he trusted me. Alex Smith threw it up and I just went to go get it."The 49ers' victory improves their record to 6-2 and extends their lead in the NFC West to two full games over the Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals fell to 4-4 after opening the season with four consecutive victories.After the 49ers' offense sputtered in back-to-back games against the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers showed good balance against a Cardinals defense that entered the game ranked No. 7 in the NFL.Coach Jim Harbaugh characterized the victory as a "good team win," but he pointed to Crabtree's effort with yards after the catch as well as his willingness to fight off Peterson to score the first touchdown of the game."It was a great play by Michael," Harbaugh said. "It was a great throw by Alex, really strong hands catch by Michael Crabtree, and Alex lasered it right in there. It was very good coverage, very contested coverage and great catch, strong catch."Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter helped set the tone for the 49ers' offense, as they combined for 66 yards rushing on 11 carries. Gore said the Cardinals then moved an eighth defender in the box in hopes of forcing the 49ers to turn to their passing game.Left tackle Joe Staley, who lost 10 pounds last week with a nasty case of pneumonia, said he saw a TV interview earlier Monday in which one of the Cardinals defensive backs said their goal was to make Alex Smith try to beat them."And he beat their (butts)," Staley said.After initial success on the ground, Gore finished with 55 yards rushing on 16 carries. Hunter had 43 yards on 10 rushing attempts.
Smith had a lot of help from Crabtree, who had the second two-touchdown game of his career. Crabtree scored his second touchdown when he caught a third-and-goal pass at the 7-yard line, made a move of Peterson and scored for a 9-yard touchdown.Crabtree also had a 22-yard reception in the second quarter on a third-and-23 play to set up David Akers for a 43-yard field goal.In the third quarter, Moss joined the fun with he schooled rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming on a 47-yard catch-and-run for his second touchdown with the 49ers."It was just great execution from the whole offense," Moss said. "Great protection from the O-line. It was a five-wide-receiver set, so we didn't really have the ends protected. The O-line protected, the quarterback delivered, I caught it, ran and had some blocks downfield and it was as simple as that."It was Moss' only catch of the game, but it made an impression on both sides of the ball."He's still got it," 49ers safety Dashon Goldson said. "People still ask me, 'Is Moss still fast?' He showed it out there. It was big time."Said Crabtree, "That guy's been doing it for so long, and I was just happy to see it. I was smiling from ear to ear."Moss said he was also pleased to see Crabtree come up big with a couple of touchdowns."Crab's having a good year," Moss said. "It's good to see guys that you come to work with every day out there making plays. Crab made some key plays in the first half. He's having a hell of a year. I hope it continues."

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.”