49ers noticed Cowboys' mistakes on Johnson


49ers noticed Cowboys' mistakes on Johnson

SANTA CLARA -- As far as absurd utterances, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan set the bar pretty high two weeks ago.In the days leading up to the Cowboys' game against the Detroit Lions, Ryan said his cornerbacks would be taking a step down in competition playing against wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
After all, Ryan said the Cowboys' defensive backs work against "better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant" in practice.Then, Ryan added, "They're two of probably the premier receivers in football. But this guy's right there. He's almost that good."Austin and Bryant are good, to be sure. But Johnson this season he has been in a class by himself. He is the first player in NFL history to have nine receiving touchdowns after five games.And, predictably, he tore up the Cowboys two weeks ago.Johnson caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including one in which he rose above three helpless Cowboys defenders for a 23-yard score. The Lions rallied from a 27-3 third-quarter deficit for the 34-30 victory, thanks to Johnson's 2-yard touchdown catch against single coverage on a fade route with 1:39 remaining.The 49ers believe they learned from the Cowboys' mistakes.First, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio certainly wasn't going to rip a page from Ryan's verbal playbook."Well, first off, I want to say he would be the best receiver on our team, not the third best," Fangio said of Johnson during his weekly meeting with reporteres. "So we have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He's a bigger Randy Moss in some ways, in that he's a downfield threat."He's tough to cover down the field in the jump-ball situations, like Randy Moss was. But this guy's bigger. He's thicker. He's listed at 235. I think he might be more than that. He's just a rare guy. He's that big, but yet runs as fast as he does."But the Cowboys' mistake that seemed to resonate among the 49ers' defensive backs was the play in which Johnson called his shot. He motioned to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to just throw the ball up for grabs. Then, he came down with it between three Cowboys."Go up and compete with him for the football," 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. "When you have three guys just standing around watching him catch the football, of course, he's going to come down with it. We need three guys in the air going after the football. Either we come down with it or he doesn't."Rookie cornerback Chris Culliver said the 49ers need to attack the ball and attack the receiver to prevent such plays Sunday when they face the Detroit Lions at Ford Field."A lot of times people don't really compete with him when the ball's in the air," Culliver said. "Somebody should've blasted him. Nobody even attacked the ball. He just jumped. Do something. I wouldn't say there should be no way for him to catch the ball, but they could've put a good lick on him."Johnson is 6-foot-5, with a 6-10 wingspan and a vertical leap of 45 inches. He is the new prototype at wide receiver, and Fangio said there's no one answer for covering him."Everybody's wanted the big receivers for a long time now," Fangio said. "He's definitely one of the elite ones in that category. It becomes an issue. We're basically trying to cover power forwards with point guards."

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His uncertain status has led to speculation presumptive 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will be interested in acquiring him in the offseason.

On Sunday, Cousins got a first-hand look at his former coach’s offense.

Cousins posted a photo on Instagram from the stands at the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense blasted the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship game.

Cousins wrote the caption, “Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!”

Washington finished third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record.

Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, coached Cousins for the first two seasons of his NFL career with Washington on the staff of his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins appeared in just eight games with four starts in 2012 and ’13.

Cousins' career has taken off in the past two seasons while starting all 32 regular-season games. He completed 67 percent of his passes this season with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.

Washington placed the franchise tag on Cousins this season at nearly $20 million. He franchise tag is expected to be approximately $24 million in 2017.

If Washington places the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, a team could sign him to an offer sheet at the cost of two first-round draft picks or negotiate a trade with Washington for a lesser amount.

Conflicting reports over Tomsula to Washington

Conflicting reports over Tomsula to Washington

Former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula reportedly might be back in the NFL after a one-year hiatus.

Tomsula, who spent his first eight NFL seasons as a defensive line coach, could be returning to that job with Washington, Carol Maloney of NBC4 reported on Sunday. But according to the Washington Post, a deal is not done between the two sides.

If the deal were to happen Tomsula would be rejoining Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and general manager Scot McCloughan, both of whom he worked with while members of the 49ers organization.

Tomsula was promoted to the head-coaching job over finalist Adam Gase two years ago after the 49ers' “mututal parting” with coach Jim Harbaugh. Tomsula was fired after the 49ers went 5-11 in 2015. Chip Kelly was hired to replace Tomsula. Kelly was fired after the 49ers went 2-14, including a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak.