Gore, Smith, Davis erase bitter memories


Gore, Smith, Davis erase bitter memories


SAN FRANCISCO -- Quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore arrived in 2005. The next year, the 49ers selected tight end Vernon Davis.The 49ers' unfathomable 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday at Candlestick Park was understandably emotional. And those emotions did not just being for Davis after his game-winning touchdown catch and cry-on-the-shoulder moment with coach Jim Harbaugh.Davis spoke to his teammates at halftime to let them know that this moment could not get away."It was very emotional," Davis said. "One shot. That was the message. We have only one shot and if we don't take advantage of it, we go home. There was a lot of fire within me at that moment."The 49ers defense has carried the team all season. But the 49ers defense allowed a couple of big-play touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Twice, the 49ers looked to be in dire situations."I think we got too excited," Saints running back Darren Sproles said. "We didn't think they could score like that, but they did. They proved us all wrong."Alex Smith.Vernon Davis.Frank Gore.The three players who came into the league within a year of each other experience plenty of frustration together. On Saturday, they experienced elation.Smith completed 24 of 42 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his most passing yards in a 49ers victory. He also ran 28 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 2:11 remaining.Davis caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including the 14-yard game-winner with :09 remaining.Gore carried just 13 times for 89 yards. Gore opened the game-winning drive with receptions of 7 and 11 yards. It was a drive that began with 1:32 remaining on the clock. The Saints had taken a 32-29 lead on Drew Brees' 66 yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham.It seemed like the 49ers had let their one shot get away."We had some time left, so we gathered up and said we had time to do it," Gore said. "Alex was calm. He kept telling us, 'We're going to get it.'"All that frustration over the years was erased with an expertly executed final drive. Smith to Davis made the big plays, including the 14-yard touchdown for the final points.The 49ers will be moving on to the NFC championship game next week against the winner of Sunday's game matching the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants.Alex Smith cashed in with a 2.5 million bonus for taking the 49ers this far. But this victory meant a lot more than any dollar signs can capture. Yes, it is clear that Smith has a future with the 49ers."Along the way, there has been a lot of stress, doubt and criticism, especially for Alex," Davis said. "He has had a lot of criticism in his life. But when I look at that kid, I look at him as a warrior."Said Gore, "We've been down for a long time, knowing we had a great team. It never happened. It's a blessing. I'm happy. It's starting to happen for us, and we deserve it."

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

CHICAGO – The 49ers trained for the expected low-30s temperature and snow at Soldier Field with a week of workouts in the 80-degree heat of Florida.

However, the team’s specialists got some practice handling wet footballs during the 49ers’ final practice in Orlando, Fla.

Special-teams coordinator Derius Swinton and his assistant, Michael Clay, made a game of it. Long-snapper Kyle Nelson had to execute 10 perfect snaps to holder Bradley Pinion for field goals. Then, Pinion moved back to punt formation, where another 10 in a row were required.

But they had to be perfect while Swinton and Clay squirted water on the ball and at the hands of Nelson and Pinion, who also received a blast of water in his ear hole at one point.

“We always look up to see if there’s a chance of rain or snow, and we go, ‘Wet-ball drill,’ ” Nelson said. “They (Swinton and Clay) get to have fun, squirting water on us and use the water bottles.

“They make it as bad as possible.”

Nelson and Pinion teamed up to execute perfectly on all 20 field goals and punts.

“If I can do this, in a game it’s going to be even easier,” Nelson said. “They make it a lot harder in practice than it is in a game, so when we get to a game, everything is not as fast.”

The weather conditions on Sunday against the Chicago Bears will likely challenge Nelson, Pinion and kicker Phil Dawson as much as anyone. Dawson has been tracking the weather forecasts for more than a week to get mentally prepared for what he might face.

“Soldier Field is notorious for being a tough place to kick because of the wind and the field itself,” Dawson said this week on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “The footing is pretty poor. So when you add snow and moisture to the equation, it’s going to be one of those days.

“You need to have conversations with your coaches and let them know – be honest with them – about the difficulty. But you have to do that without it affecting your confidence to go out and get the job done.”

Said Nelson, “It takes more focus in bad weather. The snaps have to be a little more perfect. Bradley has to focus more on catching the ball, and Phil has to concentrate on the approach and be more cautious.”

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich had a strong indication he would be fired as Oregon’s head coach. And he said he told Chip Kelly recently he would have no hard feelings if Kelly left the 49ers to return to coach the Ducks.

Kelly this week said he is not interested in abandoning his job with the 49ers to coach in the college ranks. Helfrich suggested during a radio interview on Friday that Kelly told him the same thing privately.

When it was suggested that Kelly hated to recruit, Helfrich did not disagree.

"That's a fact," Helfrich said in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kanell. "I don't know hated recruiting. . . a dislike. A strong dislike. But I think Chip has that challenge in his mind right now to make it right in the NFL.

"I had some of those conversations with him a couple weeks ago when it looked like this was going south. That was a very awkward converation, but (I) just wanted to let him know that to take our personal relationship out of it in every way, shape or form if he wanted to consider this.

"But, me, reading between the lines, I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He's had a rough go of it this year, but he'll get it right."

Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons in Eugene, Ore. He left after the 2012 season to accept the head-coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly was fired late last season and took the 49ers job two weeks later.

In Kelly’s first season with the 49ers, the club is 1-10. The 49ers are on a franchise-long 10-game losing streak entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Helfrich was 37-16 in his four seasons at Oregon after his promotion from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kelly said he spoke with Helfrich the morning after he was fired.

“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person. Just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s an unfortunate thing that goes on in this profession. We all know about it when we sign up, but when it happens you’re still taken aback by it.”

Kelly said he hoped his denial of any interest in the Oregon job would end all speculation about his future. When asked if intends to remain with the 49ers, Kelly said on Wednesday, “Yep. So we're all done with that, I hope."