49ers key matchup No. 1: Smith vs. Manning


49ers key matchup No. 1: Smith vs. Manning

This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Giants matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX-TV), at Candlestick Park.

Matchup No. 3: Justin Smith vs. Kevin Boothe
Matchup No.2: Joe Staley vs. Jason Pierre-Paul
49ers QB Alex Smith vs. Giants QB Eli ManningTale of the tape
Smith (11): 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, eighth season, Utah
Manning (10): 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, ninth season, MississippiThere are a lot of different ways to spin the key matchup in this game.It could be 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers against the New York Giants' top receiver, Victor Cruz. It could be Michael Crabtree, who was held to one reception for 3 yards in the NFC championship game, against left cornerback Corey Webster.We've examined key matchups when comes to pass protection, too. But it all boils down to is this: Alex Smith vs. Eli Manning.The quarterback who makes the most plays and does not commit the critical mistake will give his team the best chance of winning this matchup of NFC heavyweights.The 49ers' passing game struggled during the Giants' 20-17 overtime victory in the NFC championship game. Smith competed just 12 of 26 pass attempts for 196 yards. The 49ers converted just one of 13 third-down opportunities.That failure to connect on plays on the outside inspired the 49ers to sign free-agent wide receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, as well as select A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the draft.The 49ers' offense looks much-improved through five games. The 49ers are coming off a 621-yard performance against the Buffalo Bills to become the first team in NFL history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 300 yards in the same game."Both teams are different," Smith said. "Even looking at last year's tape of us, a lot of faces have changed here and there and that's the nature of this game. Can't get caught up too much in last year and what was going on. I think both of us are different."Smith enters the game as the NFL's leading passer with a 108.7 efficiency rating. Manning, who has two Super Bowl rings to his credit, is No. 9 at 96.0.
Manning has thrown for nearly 100 more yards per game Smith. Manning has accounted for 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, while Smith has tossed eight touchdowns and just one interception.In the NFC championship game, Manning took a beating. He was sacked six times and was knocked down 12 times. Yet, he kept getting up and made the plays to enable the Giants to pull out the victory and advance to a Super Bowl title. He completed 32 of 58 passing attempts for 316 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's a good quarterback," 49ers All-Pro defensive lineman Justin Smith said. "A lot of people don't give him the respect he deserves. I think he's definitely one of the top three, four quarterbacks in the league. it's going to be a tough game."

Montana, Clark scheduled to address crowd at Levi's Stadium


Montana, Clark scheduled to address crowd at Levi's Stadium

SANTA CLARA -- Dwight Clark and Joe Montana are scheduled to address the crowd Sunday at Levi’s Stadium at halftime of the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

It should be an emotional day, as 36 members from the team that defeated Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title are expected to attend.

Montana is scheduled to be surrounded by his former teammates and speak from the field at halftime. Clark is likely to be situated in a suite, where he is expected to make some remarks. Clark, 60, announced in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Former 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross, appearing on the 49ers Insider Podcast, said he is looking forward to seeing so many of his teammates from the squad that served as a springboard for five Super Bowl titles under the ownership of Hall of Famer Eddie DeBartolo.

“I can’t wait to see (Clark),” Cross said. “I can’t wait to see Eddie. I can’t wait to see Joe. There is a core group of guys I’ve gotten to see a few times a year since we all went our separate ways. There are guys I’ll get a chance to see, in some cases, (for the first time) since almost around the time we parted ways in the early-‘80s.”

The NFC Championship Game on Jan. 10, 1982, is best-remembered for “The Catch” – Clark’s leaping, finger-tip grab of a Montana pass for a 6-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.

The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 28-27 at Candlestick Park. Coach Bill Walsh’s team went on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI.

“For those of us who played on the Niners charity basketball team with both Joe and Dwight, and knowing their hoop skills and the way they could jump, we weren’t terribly surprised at: A, how high he threw it; and, B, how high Dwight got,” said Cross, who was blocking from his right guard position near the sideline and had an unobstructed view of the play.

“If Dwight got his fingers on it, it was going to be a catch. That was the thing about D.C., you won’t find too many instances in which he had a ball on him or near him that he dropped. There wasn’t much doubt.”

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”