49ers film review vs. Rams

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49ers film review vs. Rams

After re-watching all 75 minutes from the 49ers' 24-24 tie against the St. Louis Rams, here are a few observations, as well as some stats compiled by Pro Football Focus . . . --It was not a good day for three Pro Bowl players on the 49ers' defense, including both All-Pro inside linebackers. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman had their worst grades of the season, by far, according to PFF's rating system.Willis had trouble shedding blocks and bringing down hard-charging Rams running back Steven Jackson. And his defensive holding penalty on a third down with 1:03 remaining in overtime enabled the Rams to retain possession and keep the ball in their hands as time ran out.Jackson's 7-yard TD run in the first quarter came on a play in which he ran through a hole created when guard Harvey Dahl blocked Bowman and center Rob Turner blocked Willis.--Cornerback Carlos Rogers surrendered 67 receiving yards. The man he was covering caught all nine passes that came his way, according to PFF. And things could have been so much worse if Danny Amendola's 80-yard reception in OT had not been nullified by an illegal formation.Rogers did a good job in run support, including a nice one-on-one stop against Jackson to hold him to 2 yards in the second quarter.--Two blunders proved to be pivotal plays in allowing the Rams to come back from a 21-17 deficit late in the fourth quarter to take a 24-21 lead. First, the 49ers coaching staff should've been expecting a fake punt from the Rams if they'd noticed Amendola line up at gunner. The 49ers should have used a timeout to get their defense -- not their return unit -- on the field.
Second, there was mass confusion prior to a key third-and-8 play later on that drive. The 49ers were not sure of their defensive call. As Bowman tried to convey a signal, he dropped his mouthpiece. He was bending over to pick it up as Bradford called for the snap. Bowman was late in recovering and by then he could not prevent a 16-yard pass to Amendola.RELATED: 49ers burned by fakesJust prior to the snap of the ball, Justin Smith is seen trying to signal for a timeout. After the snap, he and Ray McDonald continued to call for a timeout as the play continued.--Rams tight end Lance Kendricks made two big blocks on nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. He had a pancake on the Rams' second offensive play on which Jackson gained 10 yards. And Kendricks also handled Sopoaga on Jackson's 7-yard TD run.--The 49ers' offense started out poorly with a three-and-out. Center Jonathan Goodwin got beaten by Kendall Langford as Frank Gore was stopped for a 1-yard loss. Alex Smith had a clean pocket from which to throw on a five-step drop, but he never pulled the trigger and was sacked for a 2-yard loss. On third and 13, the 49ers set up a screen play beautifully. Smith hit Gore on the left side, and all five offensive linemen were out front. However, nobody blocked anyone and Gore picked up just 5 yards.--The Rams' first touchdown came on Bradford's 36-yard pass to rookie Brian Quick. Cornerback Chris Culliver tried to get a jam at the line of scrimmage, missed and fell down. And safety Dashon Goldson could not stop Quick when he had a chance at the 5-yard line.--Alex Smith did himself no favors when he did not slide feet first in front of on-rushing Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. That play, apparently, was not the play on which Smith sustained his concussion, though.Smith was injured on a quarterback sneak, coach Jim Harbaugh said. It is difficult to see any helmet-to-helmet contact (which would be legal because Smith was a runner) on the sneak. But it appears it might have come from middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, who dove into the pile to attempt to stop Smith on a fourth-and-1 play.--Smith, while experiencing blurred vision, completed all three pass attempts after the sneak. He made a nice throw to Michael Crabtree for a 19-yard gain. Then, Crabtree's 14-yard touchdown came when he was lined up in the slot, caught a short pass, and made safety Craig Dahl miss with an inside move.--Backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was up and down. He was mostly down early in his relief performance. He missed a wide-open Vernon Davis, who had several steps on Laurinaitis deep down the left side. He also failed to see Kyle Williams on a deep post pattern when there was not a defender within 10 yards of him.RATTO: Concussion lead to tie, QB controversy
--Kaepernick also made some big-time throws, including a 20-yard bullet to Mario Manningham at the left sideline to begin a scoring drive at the start of the fourth quarter. Kaepernick gained 66 yards rushing on eight attempts. Five of those runs were scrambles on called pass plays.--Outside linebacker Aldon Smith played very well in the run game on plays directed his way. He also made a hustle play to come from the far side of the field to track down Daryl Richardson after a 32-yard gain in the first quarter.Aldon Smith recorded two sacks, both of which were a direct result of Justin Smith tying up the left side of the Rams offensive line. On the first sack, Justin Smith held left guard Shelley Smith while also occupying left tackle Joe Barksdale to allow Aldon Smith a free shot at Bradford. On the final play of overtime, Justin Smith appeared to be within the rules when he crashed into the Rams guard to open the door for Aldon Smith.--Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks had a very good all-around game. The 49ers' run defense was not good in the first half, but for the final three quarters that unit did a good job on Steven Jackson, who had just 45 yards rushing on 17 carries after halftime.--McDonald was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Bradford late in the third quarter on a third-and-10 play. He is also lucky he wasn't called for the same infraction three plays later on a third-and-9. Bradford's pass was incomplete, and the Rams settled for a 27-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead.--Kyle Williams fumbled at the end of an 11-yard reception in the third quarter and desperately struggled to retain possession with the recovery. The 49ers retained possession.Williams was involved in a couple notable plays on the final drive. He made a nice catch of a well-thrown Kaepernick ball at the sideline for a 13-yard gain. With :11 remaining in regulation and the 49ers trailing by three points, Williams ran a wheel route and Kaepernick threw a dart his way before Williams' head got around to look for the ball. The pass went whizzing past Williams, and it was probably a good thing. Had Williams caught the pass and been tackled in-bounds, time would've run out and the 49ers would not have had the opportunity for the game-tying field goal.--In overtime, the snap and the hold were perfect on the 41-yard field attempt that David Akers pushed wide left.--Cornerback Tarell Brown had very good coverage on Amendola on a third-and-4 from the St. Louis 49, but Bradford provided a great throw and Amendola made a nice catch for a 10-yard gain to help get the Rams into position for their missed field goal of overtime.--Rams defensive end Chris Long got the better of his matchup against right tackle Anthony Davis. According to PFF, Long had 10 QB disruptions (one sack, one hit, eight hurries). His sack and five pressures came against Anthony Davis, while one hit and one hurry was against tight end Vernon Davis. Alex Boone and Joe Staley allowed one hurry apiece to Long.

Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons

Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Grigson spent tens of millions in free agency, trying to turn the Indianapolis Colts into a Super Bowl contender.

When most of those big investments went belly up, the first-time general manager paid the price.

On Saturday, Colts owner Jim Irsay fired Grigson after five up-and-down years that ended with Indy missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.

"It was a tough decision, well thought out and in the end the right decision for the Colts," Irsay said.

Initially, Grigson looked like a genius.

He hit it big on his first four draft picks - quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and receiver T.Y. Hilton - and used a series of shrewd, cost-effective moves to deliver one of the greatest turnarounds in league history.

But when Grigson's costly misfires like first-round bust Bjoern Werner in 2013, trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson in 2014 or loading up on a group of aging, high-priced free agents to make a Super Bowl run in 2015 and an anxious fan base, Irsay had no choice.

The timing, almost three weeks after the season ended, was strange - and comes after many thought the delay meant Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano were both safe.

Each agreed to contracts last January that was supposed to keep them together through the 2019 season.

Thirteen months later, Grigson is gone and Pagano's fate may rest in the hands of a new GM.

Grigson, by trade, was a gambler who refused to play it safe.

"I think the guys that sit on their hands, they've got to live with themselves and look in the mirror and realize they didn't take any chances," he once said. "They've got to look at themselves and say, 'Did I even deserve this opportunity?' If you just sit on your hands and say, 'I'm going to play it safe all the time,' you might be middle of the pack. But if you don't take a swing, you're never going to hit it out of the park."

Irsay appreciated Grigson's unconventional style and penchant for taking chances.

What he didn't like was the underwhelming payout.

In five seasons, Grigson made 15 trades for players and only one, Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, played in Indy's season finale. Grigson also drafted 38 players - 18 of whom finished the season with the Colts. Eleven were out of the NFL.

Then there was free agency, where Grigson signed dozens of expensive players. Only 11 were still on Indy's roster when the season ended, 18 others were out of the NFL.

With an estimated $60 million to spend in free agency this year and a chance to get the Colts righted for the prime years of Luck's career, Irsay couldn't afford to roll the dice again with Grigson so he made the change.

The 44-year-old Purdue graduate's blunt personality didn't always mesh with coach Chuck Pagano. Irsay even acknowledged last summer that the two men needed to resolve their differences before he gave them the extensions.

Players didn't always get along with him, either.

"Thank God. 'Unwarranted Arrogance' just ran into a brick wall called karma," Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee posted on Twitter after word first leaked.

Grigson also drew the wrath of Patriots' fans by tipping off NFL officials that Tom Brady was using improperly inflated footballs during the 2015 AFC championship game. The Deflategate controversy eventually led to a four-game suspension for Brady as well as a fine and the loss draft picks for the Patriots.

And despite Irsay's repeated pleas to better protect Luck, Grigson, a former offensive lineman, never quite figured it out.

Luck missed 10 games because of injuries over the past two seasons and was sacked 41 times last season. The first real glimmer of hope appeared in December when the Colts held Minnesota and Oakland without a sack in back-to back games - the only times all season they didn't allow a sack.

When Grigson arrived, the Colts were coming off a 2-14 season and were about to release Peyton Manning and several other aging veterans in a salary cap purge.

So Grigson cleaned house.

He fired Jim Caldwell, hired Pagano and revamped the roster with low-budget free agents to work with the cornerstone of the future, Luck.

It worked. The man once dubbed by a previous boss as a "great" expansion team general manager, turned the Colts into a surprising 11-5 playoff-bound team.

Indy finished 11-5 each of the next two seasons, too, and advanced one step deeper in the playoffs each season.

The steady progression turned the Colts into a trendy Super Bowl pick in 2015, a trek that was derailed by a litany of injuries that forced the Colts to use five different quarterbacks just to finish 8-8.

Waiting for Shanahan could be a good thing for 49ers

Waiting for Shanahan could be a good thing for 49ers

The 49ers were willing to be patient in securing their next head coach.

Depending on the outcome of the Atlanta Falcons’ game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, they could be required to wait another two weeks.

The other five organizations with vacancies after the regular season have filled their head-coach positions with four assistants from teams that did not qualify for the playoffs and former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, whom the Denver Broncos hired after his team was bounced in the AFC wild-card round.

Early in the 49ers’ search to replace Chip Kelly, the top targets appeared to be Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinators for two of the top-three scoring teams in the NFL.

The coach-general manager team of McDaniels and New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was the runaway favorite to be the package deal, according to sources close to the 49ers’ coaching search.

But when Caserio chose to remain as Bill Belichick’s top personnel lieutenant – just has he has in the past when other opportunities presented themselves – the job became less attractive to McDaniels, according to those sources. McDaniels announced on Monday he would remain with the Patriots for at least another year.

With McDaniels out of the picture, Shanahan became the clear favorite over Seattle assistant Tom Cable. And once Cable publicly stepped aside due to suspicions he was only being used to secure a commitment from Shanahan, only one candidate remained for the job.

Since the middle of this week, Shanahan has been the presumptive coach of the 49ers. Falcons coach Dan Quinn was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator two years ago when he was officially hired just hours after the Super Bowl. He knows he drill. And this week he announced to the Falcons staff that Shanahan would be the next coach of the 49ers, according to the NFL Network.

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, the 49ers will be allowed to interview Shanahan next week – most likely, Tuesday in Atlanta. Shanahan will be involved in the process to hire the next general manager. Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton appears to be the favorite. The 49ers expect the general manager position to be filled early in the week.

If the Falcons lose, the 49ers would be able to hire Shanahan on their own time frame. It would not be expected to take long.

But if the Falcons win, the 49ers would have to wait until after Feb. 5, when the Super Bowl will be played in Houston, to hire Shanahan.

There is an advantage to being forced to wait. In the long term, the 49ers could benefit from their next head coach gaining the experience of a Super Bowl week and calling a game on the biggest stage in all of sports.