As Saints continued momentum, 49ers sharpened themselves


As Saints continued momentum, 49ers sharpened themselves

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers did not put on full pads during their two days of practices late last week, but the tempo was close to game speed.That's because there was pride at stake with the first-team offense going up against the starting defense."It's like a game-type of environment on the practice field," 49ers safety Dashon Goldson said. "It's like a real battle out there."
Before the New Orleans Saints could earn the right to face the 49ers, they had to get past the Detroit Lions. Before the 49ers begin this week in preparation for the Saints, they faced off a couple of times in practices against each other.And that has not been out of the ordinary in recent weeks. When the 49ers' offense sputtered during a six-game stretch in which they scored touchdowns on just 3 of 18 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line, coach Jim Harbaugh enacted a change in the practice schedule.The struggling 49ers' offense went against the team's first-team defense in red-zone drills. The offense seemed to benefit from the work, finishing the regular season with six touchdowns in their final nine trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line."Our scout team has been amazing, but it helps to get full-speed reps in the red zone," 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. "It was full-speed coverage, full-speed rushes and full-speed blitzes. Any time you get that, it's beneficial."RELATED: It's 49ers vs. 49ers in bye week practices in Santa Clara
Said tight end Justin Peelle, "It's faster out there. It's a faster look, and we didn't know what we'd be getting, so it forced us to adjust and that's something you need to be able to do. The coaches point was made that we weren't doing very well in the red zone. Then, we were able to start putting the ball in the end zone instead of kicking field goals."Typically, once the regular season begins the starting offense and defense works against the scout team -- comprised of backups and practice-squad players who are running the anticipated plays of the opposition."Obviously, the scout team guys do so much for us," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "But just getting that game-speed tempo, especially on Fridays when we're getting the work versus the ones -- getting realistic looks, not knowing what you're going against -- just going out there and reacting, I think is great for us."The 49ers did not start game-planning for any one opponent last week during their two days of practices. On Saturday evening, the coaching staff began finalizing the game plan to face the Saints, a 45-28 winner over the Detroit Lions in the first round of the NFC playoffs.The Saints kept their momentum going with their ninth consecutive victory. The 49ers believe they kept making strides toward becoming a better team, too."Iron sharpens iron," Goldson said. "We know there are going to be some tough teams we're going to face." As the 49ers begin on-field preparations Monday to face the Saints, the only player not expected to play Saturday is tight end Delanie Walker. He is out for the game after sustaining a fractured jaw on the left side of his face in two places Dec. 24.Defensive end Ray McDonald did not practice last week due to a right hamstring strain. He strained his left hamstring in November and missed one game. This hamstring strain to his other leg is not as bad, he said. Expect him to play Saturday.The biggest Saints injury is wide receiver Lance Moore, who missed the game against the Lions with a hamstring injury of his own. During the regular season, Moore caught 52 passes for 627 yards and eight touchdowns.

Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions


Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions

SANTA CLARA – While rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard is taking a micro view of his promotion, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is not shy about admitting he is looking at the big picture.

Shanahan said how Beathard performs after replacing Brian Hoyer as starting quarterback will have “a ton” of influence on how the 49ers proceed during the offseason.

After all, the 49ers know every position will come under tremendous scrutiny as the organization looks to add the pieces that will make the club competitive.

“That’s for every position. That’s for every player on our team. That’s for every coach on our team,” Shanahan said. “We’re 0-6, and that’s extremely tough. But I’m extremely excited about this place and excited about where we’re at and where we’re going. There’s not a moment that I don’t waste thinking about that stuff.”

Beathard will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.

Hoyer failed in his bid to earn consideration as the 49ers’ quarterback for the remainder of this season and beyond during his six starts. Hoyer completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 74.1.

Now, Beathard gets his chance. But he said he is not thinking about the big picture and what it might mean for the future.

“I’m really just trying to take it one day, one week at a time,” Beathard said. “I’m not looking that far ahead. Right now, my focus is on today’s practice and geared towards beating the Cowboys and doing the best we can to get better and improve.”

Beathard was pressed into action last week when Hoyer’s struggles continued at Washngton. Beathard stepped in and completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the first time, Beathard is getting the first-team practice snaps with a game plan that is designed specifically for him.

Said Beathard, “Getting those extra reps, reps with guys that you don’t usually throw to, in the huddle with the guys that are out there, I think it’ll help a lot.”

Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates


Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates

More than 35 players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl champion will be in attendance on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium to show support for Dwight Clark, who revealed in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Clark, 60, will have ample opportunity to reconnect with some of his old friends on Saturday evening and again on Sunday. At halftime, Joe Montana, surrounded by most of the 49ers' 1981 team, will introduce Clark before a video tribute.

Clark is also expected to make some remarks while situated in a suite for the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Montana and his wife, Jennifer, have remained in close contact with Clark and his wife, Kelly. The Clarks recently watched the Blue Angels in San Francisco with the Montanas during Fleet Week.

“He’s getting pretty inundated with everyone staying in touch with him at this point,” Montana said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“It’s fun for him. At one point, he was telling his wife, Kelly, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is what I want and what I miss, seeing the guys.’ So any of the guys reaching out to him, he surely appreciates it.”

Montana said Clark has not lost his positive outlook or his sense of humor, as evidenced by some not-fit-for-print words he recently had about his wheelchair. Montana said there are always some good laughs and stories any time Clark gets together with his friends.

“That’s the fun part," Montana said. “You just try to get him to forget what’s there, and that you’re there for him whenever. I think the support is the biggest thing right now. In that stage of ALS, it's got to be getting tough, where all of a sudden, things are becoming more and more difficult.”