Smith manages another 49ers victory

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Smith manages another 49ers victory

SAN FRANCISCO -- Based on the comments -- twisted or not -- coming from the New York Giants last week, the 49ers had a pretty good idea what to expect on Sunday."We really felt they were going to load up to stop our run and felt the table was set (for the passing game)," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "(We) really felt it was the right time, and the players did a great job of executing our plan."The 49ers opened with an attack that featured nine pass plays on an 11-play series that culminated with the first of four David Akers field goals.

And the 49ers continued to lean heavily on the passing game throughout their 27-20 victory over the Giants before a lively crowd at Candlestick Park.The 49ers (8-1) took a major step toward a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with the victory over the NFC East-leading Giants (6-3). The 49ers have won seven straight games for their longest win streak since 1997.The 49ers ran the ball 52 percent of the time through the first eight games of the season. On Sunday, Smith dropped back to pass 35 times, while the 49ers called just 14 run plays before Smith took a knee three times at the end of the game to run out the clock."All week we kind of talked about it, and then obviously as we just got closer to the game, we knew that's what it was going to be like," said Smith. "No shock to me. The way we've been running it the last five games, we knew we were going to have to become balanced and potentially soften them up by throwing it."Smith completed 19 of 30 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown -- a 31-yard pass to Vernon Davis -- and one interception -- which slipped through Ted Ginn's hands and was picked off by Giants cornerback Corey Webster.Smith was sacked just two times, and he scrambled three times for 30 yards.Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was quoted last week as saying the 49ers did not want Smith to be in a position to decide the game."He (Smith) is a guy who they are trying to keep out of position to win the football game," Tuck said during the week. "Obviously, with a back like Frank Gore and an O-line keeping them in third-and-short situations, and even if it is third and six or seven, they still feel that they can pick it up running. I think they are asking Alex not to lose the game."Tuck told Smith after the game that his quotes were not meant in the way they were interpreted. But it was clear that the Giants did not want Gore to beat them. They wanted Smith to prove that he could carry the offense.
When asked if the Giants tipped their hand with some of their comments during the week, Roman answered, "Maybe a little bit. But we really thought they'd be concerned about stopping the run and put extra emphasis on stopping our run."Smith proved the 49ers can win a game in which running back Frank Gore is a non-factor. Gore rushed for no yards on six carries to break a streak of five consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
Gore sat out the second half with a right knee injury. Gore said he could've played, but running backs coach Tom Rathman did not want him thinking about his knee during the game. Gore said he did not think his knee would warrant an MRI.
Kendall Hunter responded with 40 yards on six rushing attempts. Hunter galloped 17 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the 49ers a 27-13 lead.The Giants rallied behind Eli Manning's 32-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks. And defensive end Justin Smith turned the Giants away one final time when he batted down a fourth-down pass from the 49ers' 10-yard line.The defensive formula was the same as most weeks. Cornerback Carlos Rogers intercepted two passes, as the 49ers won the turnover battle. Justin Smith and Patrick Willis were exceptional, as usual.But the offensive plan was something the 49ers had not showcased this season."The game plan was to put the ball in his hand, and he responded like we knew he would," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's done that for us all year. He's a top-flight quarterback. Love him."Even before Gore was sidelined with the injury, the 49ers were determined to throw the ball around more than usual. And how did Smith respond?"Exactly how we thought he would," Roman said. "He executed the plan and didn't blink from the first play of the game until the last. I know a lot of guys were excited about the plan this week. We had a great week of practice and went out and executed the plan. Alex is a cool customer -- Detroit, Philly, this game. The guy has some poise to him. He did a good job."Smith distributed the ball to eight different receivers along the way."He put is in the right plays," 49ers tight end Delanie Walker said. "He made the right audibles for us to get down the field and make plays and get the first downs. Alex has been doing that all along. It's just now coming out. We have a great playbook for him to win and he's doing a great job of controlling the offense."Yes, Smith is doing a great job of managing the 49ers -- though sometimes that term can take on negative implications."They call him a game manager and he's a great game manager," Harbaugh said. "But you read it and you hear people talk about him and they're trying to slight him when they say that."After all Smith has endured since coming to the 49ers as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, he said the only thing that matters to him is the bottom line."I could really care less, honestly," Smith said. "That is the honest truth. It feels good to be 8-1. I managed myself into a victory, and that's all I could care about."

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.”