Other 49ers-Patriots matchups to watch

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Other 49ers-Patriots matchups to watch

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Over the past three days, we've written about the top three 49ers-Patriots matchups for Sunday night's game.

1. Ultra-talented 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will face a great learning experience against Bill Belichick's defense. It figures to be his greatest mental challenge as a starter.

2. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith had success against Patriots left tackle Nate Solder as a 2009 collegiate player. An identical showing would place the 49ers' second-year player in the NFL record book.

3. And cornerback Carlos Rogers will face his stiffest test, as he goes up against Wes Welker. Quarterback Tom Brady gets rid of the ball quickly, and it's no secret he will look to get the ball to his slot receiver . . . repeatedly.

Here are six other key matchups to consider for Sunday's game:

RDT Justin Smith vs. LG Logan Mankins: It's strength vs. strength, as the 49ers' most physical defender goes up against the Patriots' most physical lineman. The 49ers figure to be in their nickel defense for most of the game, so they'll need Smith to be stout against running back Stevan Ridley, who has 1,082 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

ILB Patrick Willis vs. TE Aaron Hernandez: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio must decide how to account for Hernandez. When the Patriots go with multi-receiver formations, Willis will likely be matched against Hernandez in coverage. The other option for the 49ers is to play more dime coverage with fourth cornerback Perrish Cox entering the game in place of Willis.

RG Alex Boone vs. DT Vince Wilfork: The 49ers will want to run between the tackles to chew up clock and keep the Patriots' offense off the field. If Boone can win this matchup in the run game against a four-time Pro Bowl player, that'll be huge bonus for the 49ers.

RB Frank Gore vs. ILB Jerod Mayo: Gore will make his 100th career start. It's imperative that he has success between the tackles to make Kaepernick's play-action passing more effective. Gore enters the game 29 yards behind Joe "The Jet" Perry for most rushing yards in franchise history, including Perry's two seasons with the 49ers in the All-America Football Conference. (Officially, stats from the AAFC are not recognized by NFL teams.) Mayo is the Patriots' leading tackler with 158 stops (100 solo), according to the film review from New England coaches.

WR Michael Crabtree vs. LCB Aqib Talib: Crabtree is the 49ers' top receiving threat with 66 catches for 761 yards and five touchdowns. Talib immediately took over as a starter after the Patriots acquired him in a Nov. 1 trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Talib sustained a hip injury Monday night, but he should be good to go on Sunday night.

TE Vernon Davis vs. S Devin McCourty: Davis has not been much of a factor the second half of the season. He has more than 37 yards receiving only once in the 49ers' past eight games. In the past three games, Davis has three catches for 19 yards. McCourty started the first six games at left cornerback before moving to safety.

Jaguars retain offensive coordinator, pass on Chip Kelly

Jaguars retain offensive coordinator, pass on Chip Kelly

It appears the Jaguars have passed on Chip Kelly for a second time this month.

After reportedly not getting their head coaching job, Kelly reportedly interviewed for their offensive coordinator position on Monday.

But two days later, Jacksonville announced that Nathaniel Hackett has been retained as offensive coordinator under head coach Doug Marrone.

Kelly told CSNBayArea.com recently he would take his time to determine his next career move.

“I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said two days after his firing. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

The 49ers fired Kelly with three years, $18 million remaining in his contract. The 49ers hired Kelly just two weeks after the Philadelphia Eagles fired him. Kelly went 26-21 with the Eagles after leaving his successful program with the Oregon Ducks after the 2012 season.

Report: Shanahan announced as 49ers' coach to Falcons' staff

Report: Shanahan announced as 49ers' coach to Falcons' staff

The 49ers feel certain they have landed their head coach, according to sources.

And the Atlanta Falcons are reportedly convinced offensive Kyle Shanahan will be entering the head-coaching ranks with the 49ers next season, too.

Atlanta coach Dan Quinn made an announcement to coaches that Shanahan would be the 49ers’ next coach, Mike Silver of the NFL Network reported Wednesday, adding everyone in the room was “super supportive.”

On Wednesday, Quinn was asked at a press conference about Shanahan and the 49ers.

“I know it’s for sure out there, (but it’s) definitely not our story to tell,” Quinn said. “They (the 49ers) will for sure reach out to (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and to the organization and there will be a window for them if they’d like to visit with him for next week. But that’s really where it’s at, and there’s nothing left to do until then."

The Falcons will face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers will have a second interview with Shanahan after the game. Shanahan will also become involved in the process to hire the 49ers’ next general manager.

The 49ers are checking with the NFL to determine what is allowable under the league’s anti-tampering policy, according to a league source. If the Falcons win on Sunday, the 49ers would not be able to officially hire Shanahan until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

According to sources, the 49ers have narrowed their initial search for the next general manager to four candidates: Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst of Green Bay, Minnesota’s George Paton and Terry McDonough of Arizona.

The general manager candidates are expected to meet with Shanahan, but it’s unclear whether Shanahan can interview the candidates if the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl and he is not officially the 49ers’ coach. The 49ers are expected to hold a second round of general manager interviews early next week and could fill the position by the end of next week.