Smith, 49ers WRs misfire against New York


Smith, 49ers WRs misfire against New York

SAN FRANCISCO -- Alex Smith threw 26 passes in the NFC Championship.Nine of them went to wideouts. One was completed. To Michael Crabtree. For three yards."You don't get that many opportunities, it's hard to talk, you know?" Crabtree ruminated in the 49ers locker room after their heartbreaking 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants on Sunday at Candlestick Park."(New York's) defense played great, man. Great defense, bro. Like, you can't say nothing about that. It's great. Great, man, just like, sometimes you just got to move the ball, man, you got to make plays. You've got to give people a chance to make plays."Crabtree was targeted five times by Smith, who also threw four balls Kyle Williams' way.

The lack of an outside threat obviously limited the 49ers' chances, despite tight end Vernon Davis catching three passes for 112 yards, including touchdowns from 73 and 28 yards, and running back Frank Gore catching a team-high six passes for 45 yards."They were good," Smith said of the Giants' defense. "They mixed it up a lot today, coverage-wise, mixed it up a lot. There wasn't one thing that jumps out at me. I got up, they pressed us. They played coverage. They played Cover-2. Mixed it up all throughout the game."We just weren't able to get into a rhythm, get any guys going outside, so it limited us."While the rain itself may not have been a factor, the fear of a wet ball slipping on throws outside might have weighed heavily on Smith's mind, right?"The wind was a little more of a factor," said Smith, who completed 12 of 26 passes for 196 yards with the two TDs and a 97.6 passer rating.And this from Crabtree: "Nah, it wasn't no weather. The other side of the ball was catching the ball. They could throw."Indeed, Eli Manning threw 58 passes, completing 32, for 316 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. And Victor Cruz was targeted 17 times, catching 10 passes for 142 yards and giving 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers the business all night.Be sure, though, Crabtree was not indignant. He seemed matter-of-fact about the whole thing, saying he was often double-teamed by the Giants."I mean, half the time you're not going to be open," he said. "That's why they call you a playmakerwhether or not they're rolling the safety, we've got to hit it."His lone reception came with less then six minutes left in regulation, getting the 49ers to the Giants' 7-yard line before David Akers' 25-yard field goal tied the game at 17-17 with 5:43 to play.So was Crabtree open more often than not?"I'm a receiver, man, I'm always going to feel like I'm open, even if there's somebody on me," he said. "Like I said, just give me a chance."

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.