49ers slow down high-powered Packers offense


49ers slow down high-powered Packers offense


GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- The Green Bay Packers' powerful passing game forced one of the 49ers' best defensive players off the field.Linebacker Patrick Willis was taken off the field as part of the 49ers' defensive alignment of six defensive backs. Cornerback Perrish Cox saw significant action as the sixth cornerback."It's difficult to take him (Willis) off the field," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said after the 49ers' 30-22 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. "But it's either that or he has to line up on a receiver sometimes, which he did a couple of times."Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga played just four snaps in the entire game. Instead, the 49ers decided to employ extra defensive backs throughout the game to cover Packers receivers of Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Randall Cobb.MAIOCCO: Smith outshines Rodgers in 49ers' victory
"Along the defensive front, I thought they played tremendous," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of his team. "They played a gap short the entire game but still were able to do a job on their run game."Packers running back Cedric Benson could not take advantage of the situation, as he gained just 18 yards on nine carries. He gained 12 yards on six rushing attempts in the first half."That was one of the keys," Fangio said. "They made a pretty conscious effort to try to run the ball in the first half. Some of those (defensive) calls were good calls for the run. Even when they weren't good calls, our guys made the plays."But, ultimately, it was the 49ers' pass defense that preserved the victory. Trailing by eight points, the Packers took over at their own 16-yard line with 3:37 remaining. After two first downs moved the ball to the 49ers' 45, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks recorded a sack of Aaron Rodgers. And on fourth down, third cornerback Chris Culliver broke up a deep pass intended for Nelson."Coach put us in a great position, and I just made a play when it was my time," Culliver said. "I knew he was going to go deep."While first-team All-Pro Patrick Willis watched more from the sideline than he's ever been while healthy in the NFL, fellow first-team All-Pro NaVorro Bowman had a strong performance.Bowman led the 49ers with 11 tackles and baited Rodgers into a critical fourth-quarter interception. On the next play, Frank Gore scored on a 23-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers a 30-15 lead."Coming into this game, just knowing that this is the 'hot-shot team' or the best team in the last couple years, it just makes a huge statement all across the league," Bowman said. "It just shows how much work we've been putting in and how hard the coaches have been working. Everyone together is getting on the same page. We still have a lot of work to do but this is definitely a great start for us."Rodgers completed 30 of 44 passes for 303 yards. His two touchdown passes were the only times the Packers got into the end zone against the 49ers' defense. Cobb victimized the 49ers' punt-coverage unit with a 75-yard touchdown return in the fourth quarter."Our guys played well," Fangio said. "To hold this team to 14 points at home is a tall task. Really, a lot of the credit goes to our offense to move the ball. We couldn't afford for this game to be where they had 14 or 15 possessions."The Packers had just 10 possessions, including three drives in which the 49ers held them without a first down. The Packers averaged 35 points per game last season.

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.