Harbaugh turns down heat in 49ers' kitchen


Harbaugh turns down heat in 49ers' kitchen

SANTA CLARA -- Coach Jim Harbaugh appeared unusually comfortable this week in his dealings with the media.Harbaugh wanted his 49ers team to be loose this week in preparations to face the New Orleans Saints on Saturday in an NFC divisional-round game. And Harbaugh seemed to set the tone for his team when the cameras were focused on him.
"Coach Harbaugh really preaches, 'Don't overcook it,'" 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree said. "Really, just take it as another game we're playing in. Guys are hyped, though. You can feel the tension. Guys are hyped."Harbaugh said he did not want the 49ers to doing anything different than what propelled them to a 13-3 regular-season record. The 49ers enter the playoffs Saturday against the New Orleans Saints, as the club advanced to the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season.
"Go into this thing and trust our own instincts, trust our gut," Harbaugh said on Friday. "Make it about the team. Trust the team. A guy doesn't have to do too much. He's got to do his job and has the ability to trust his team because he's on a good team."Prepare and understand the Saints as well as possible -- focused and loose at the same time."Harbaugh said he was "focused and loose" this week -- though he questions whether that would make any difference to the outcome of Saturday's game.
"It never really matters much how I am. I'm just a coach. I'm just going to be standing over there on the sideline," Harbaugh said. "To me, it's the players. Where are they at in their preparation? In their understanding of this gameplan? And what their morale is? And how they feel physically? If they feel good, I feel good."I go off of them. I ask guys all the time, 'How do you feel?' And they say, 'How do you feel, coach?' And I say, 'How do you feel? If you feel good, I feel good.'"The 49ers held their final full practice of the week. Most of the work has been done to prepare for the Saints, and the players appear comfortable and confident."We're relaxed," 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "It's about going out and having fun. It's still just a game. We're having fun and we have a lot of confidence."The major point Harbaugh tried to make to his players was that their approach should not change even though the stakes are much greater. One player who knows about that is center Jonathan Goodwin, who won a Super Bowl ring two years ago with the Saints."You don't want to get too caught up in it being a playoff game to just go out and do what you're coached to do," Goodwin said. "It's still just football." Harbaugh cited an oversight for the reason the media was kept out of the beginning of practice Thursday. Teams must open a portion of practice daily to the local media.The only player who did not practice on Thursday, Harbaugh said, was tight end Delanie Walker. Harbaugh confirmed previous CSNBayArea.com reports that Walker would not be available to play Saturday due to a fractured jaw. Walker is scheduled to be re-examined on Monday.

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles


49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

UPDATED: The 49ers announced Monday morning that Joe Staley has accepted a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team. He will replace Dallas offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

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Veteran 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is expected to benefit from the Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the Super Bowl.

Staley, originally chosen as an alternate, is expected to be named to his sixth Pro Bowl to take the place of Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson.

The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, Jan. 28, in Orlando, Florida. Members of the Super Bowl participant Eagles and New England Patriots will not play in the all-star game. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The other Pro Bowl offensive tackles representing the NFC are Dallas’ Tyron Smith and Los Angeles’ Andrew Whitworth, who replaced Washington’s Trent Williams.

Staley got off to a rough start last season as the 49ers opened on a nine-game losing streak. The idea of his career coming to an end began to creep into his mind, he said recently on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

But Staley said he had a talk with coach Kyle Shanahan that got him refocused for the remainder of the season. The 49ers finished with a five-game win streak to finish with a 6-10 record, and Staley played well down the stretch.

“I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment early in the year that I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that,” said Staley, 33, an 11-year NFL veteran. “I feel like I can still play.

“I think this last half of the season I played some of the best football of my career. I feel very confident in what we’re doing schematically with the people surrounding us, and it shows in my own play.”

Staley would join fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who was the only 49ers player named to the Pro Bowl when the teams were announced last month.

Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII


Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII


PHILADELPHIA -- Hey Philly, maybe it's time to forget Carson Wentz. Nick Foles might be good enough to win the Eagles their first Super Bowl.

Foles was on fire Sunday night against the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Philly made big play after big play on both sides of the ball in a stunning 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship.

Next up after their most-lopsided playoff victory: the Eagles' first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, against the team that beat them then, AFC champion New England.

Foles replaced the injured Wentz in Game 13 and finished off a rise from last place to first in the NFC East. There were plenty of doubters entering the playoffs, but the former starter in Philadelphia (15-3) under another regime has been brilliant.

His best work might have come against Minnesota (14-4) and its vaunted defense that was torn apart in every manner. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise, escapability and moxie in going 26 for 33.

In doing so - helped greatly by the Eagles' domination on defense and a spectacular weaving 50-yard interception return TD by Patrick Robinson - Foles ruined the Vikings' hopes of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium

Instead, the Eagles will seek their first Super Bowl crown in Minnesota on Feb. 4; their last championship came in 1960.

OVER AT HALFTIME: Minnesota made it look easy at the outset, driving 75 yards on nine plays, each of which gained yardage. The payoff was a 25-yard throw from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph well behind linebacker Najee Goode as Philadelphia's defense looked confused on the play.

That didn't happen again for Philly.

Defensive end Chris Long had a huge hand in Robinson's 50-yard interception return. Long burst in from the left side and got his arm on Keenum to disrupt the throw for Adam Thielen. The ball went directly to Robinson, who sped down the left side, then made a sharp cut to the right and got a superb block from Ronald Darby to reach the end zone.

Inspired, Philly's D forced a three-and-out, the Foles led the Eagles on a 12-play, 75-yard masterpiece of a drive. LeGarrette Blount showed all his power and escapability on an 11-yard surge up the middle for a 14-7 lead.

Turnovers, something Minnesota rarely committed with an NFC-low 14 during the season, hurt again and not only ended a solid drive, but set up more Philly points. On third down from the Eagles 15, Keenum was blindsided by rookie Derek Barnett, and the ball bounced directly to Long.

It was only the second strip-sack the Vikings have been victimized by all season.

A blown coverage - another rarity for Minnesota - on third-and-10 allowed Alshon Jeffery to get wide open for a 53-yard TD, and Philadelphia tacked on Elliott's 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.

DANCING IN THE LINC: Fifty seconds into the final quarter, with the score 38-7, Eagles players on the sideline and waiting to kick off on the field were dancing up a storm and fans were chanting "We want Brady."

They get Tom Brady and company in two weeks.

BACK TO THE BIG GAME: Long won the Super Bowl last year with the Patriots, as did Blount. Now they return on the other side.

QUICK DRIVE: Philadelphia got the ball with 29 seconds remaining in the first half at its 20. Foles hit passes of 11 yards to Jay Ajayi, 36 to Ertz and 13 to Ajayi before Elliott's field goal to end the half.

THIRD DOWNS: Minnesota was the league's best team defending third downs and was third in converting them. Yet Philadelphia went 10 for 14.

NEXT UP: Minnesota returns home to watch two other teams play at its stadium for the Lombardi Trophy.

With the entire stadium singing "Fly Eagles Fly" during the NFC trophy ceremony, Philadelphia can look forward to facing New England in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4