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49ers set franchise yards record, beat Bills 45-3

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49ers set franchise yards record, beat Bills 45-3

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Joe Montana never did it. Neither did Steve Young or Y.A. Tittle. Even the architect of the West Coast offense, Bill Walsh, could only imagine such a massive mark.

Of all the Hall of Fame quarterbacks and coaches in the history of the San Francisco 49ers, leave it to Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh to set a new standard.

Smith threw for a season-high 303 yards and three touchdowns, Frank Gore ran for 106 yards and a score, and the 49ers amassed a franchise-record 621 yards in blowing by the Buffalo Bills 45-3 on Sunday.

San Francisco also became the first team in NFL history with 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing.

``Very cool,'' Smith said. ``When you think of the 49ers, you think of great offense.''

Michael Crabtree (seven catches for 113 yards) and Vernon Davis (seven catches for 106 yards) each eclipsed the century mark to pull San Francisco (4-1) into a tie with Arizona for the NFC West lead. Even Randy Moss, rarely targeted in his comeback, caught a pass for 11 yards.

Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall pick out of Utah, threw TD passes of 43, 28 and 10 yards and surpassed 300 yards passing for only the third time in his career - and first in a victory. The last time came when he had 309 yards in a loss at Philadelphia two years ago - ``a completely different world,'' he said - in former coach Mike Singletary's final season.

``Quarterback was near perfect,'' Harbaugh said.

The Bills again found themselves on the wrong side of a 49ers record - and quite a few others, too.

Rian Lindell kicked a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter before the 49ers scored the final 42 points to hand Buffalo (2-3) its second straight embarrassing loss. San Francisco's previous best was 598 yards in a 34-31 loss to the Bills on Sept. 13, 1992, which also was Buffalo's worst.

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 126 yards and an interception, and the Bills rushed for only 89 yards, most with the game well out of hand once again.

``They flat-out dominated the game from end to end,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``We just got beat bad by a better team today. There was no fancy stuff. They are who they are and they just played better.''

Far better.

The Bills allowed 45 second-half points and 580 total yards in a humiliating 52-28 home loss to New England last week. Beginning a two-week road trip, Buffalo's baggage also traveled to the West Coast.

Since taking a 21-7 lead against the Patriots, Buffalo has been outscored 90-10. The Patriots and 49ers combined to gain 1,201 yards. And with the 49ers shredding the New York Jets last week, they've outscored opponents 79-3 in their last two games.

The Bills became the first team to give up at least 550 yards in consecutive games in the same season since the 1950 New York Yanks.

``I have no answers and no excuses,'' beleaguered Bills coach Chan Gailey said. ``I don't have the answers and I have to find the answers. That's my job.''

With the Bills unable to slow anybody down on defense, San Francisco abandoned its usually conservative game plan to deliver a scintillating show in the air.

Smith, who sprained his middle finger in the fourth quarter, completed 18 of 24 passes. He also had a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the first half, when he threw for 237 yards - a career best for a half.

The longest completion Smith had in the first four weeks was for 29 yards. In the first half alone, he completed a 53-yarder to Davis that set up a field goal by David Akers, a 43-yard touchdown to Kyle Williams and hooked up with Crabtree for 36 yards.

Williams took the back-shoulder pass from Smith, spun away from a defender and ran the final 10 yards free into the end zone. Williams fell to his knees, raised his arms and nodded to the sun-splashed crowd at Candlestick Park after giving the 49ers a 10-3 lead.

Every time the Bills blew an opportunity - and they blew plenty - the 49ers capitalized.

Backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who ran for 39 yards on four carries, fumbled on an end-around and Buffalo took over at its own 17. Two plays later, Patrick Willis stripped Scott Chandler, San Francisco recovered and Smith floated a 28-yard touchdown to Crabtree to put the 49ers in front 17-3 with 24 seconds to go before the half.

``Everything about today was just amazing,'' Crabtree said.

A holding penalty on Buffalo's Jairus Byrd wiped out a punt return Leodis McKelvin took for a touchdown in the first quarter. The offense failed to score any points after McKelvin returned a kickoff 59 yards. And after a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took nearly 6 minutes stalled in the second quarter, Lindell kicked a field goal for Buffalo's only score.

Smith led another touchdown drive that featured Kaepernick gaining 15 yards on a sweep and ended one play later when Gore dove over the pile for a TD that extended San Francisco's lead to 24-3.

Chris Culliver intercepted an underthrown pass by Fitzpatrick just shy of the goal line to end Buffalo's best chance to reach the end zone all afternoon.

Smith also tossed a 10-yard TD pass to Mario Manningham, Kaepernick ran 16 yards for a score and Anthony Dixon added a 3-yard run for the final touchdown.

``I'm not a big statistical guy, don't get caught up in it,'' 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. ``But at the same time, just in the normal course of events to be able to throw up that kind of production, obviously we're doing something right.''

NOTES: Buffalo allowed 500 yards in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. ... Bills DE Mario Williams wore a small stabilizer on his left wrist instead of the brace he had the first four weeks. He appeared to grimace after a few plays. ``It's good one day, and bad the next day,'' said Williams, who had two tackles and no sacks. ... Byrd injured a chest muscle, and Bills OL Chad Rinehart hurt his calf in the second half and did not return. Both are day to day.

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

It all starts Monday!

The Vegas Golden Knights will host the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as both teams look to take early control of the series.

Can the Caps steal one on the road to start? Here are four keys to winning Game 1.

Win the first period

The Golden Knights have not played a game since May 20. While rest can benefit a team at this time of the year, there is such a thing as too much rest and over a week would certainly qualify. If there is absolutely any rust in Vegas’ game to start, the Caps need to take advantage.

T-Mobile Arena and the Vegas crowd have already built a reputation in year one. The atmosphere is going to be electric, but the Caps can combat that with a good start to the game and by scoring first.

Vegas is 10-1 when scoring first this postseason. If they are able to come in and get on the board right off the bat in the first period after seven full days between games, that does not bode well for the Caps’ chances.

Don’t allow Marc-Andre Fleury to pick up where he left off

Fleury is having a postseason for the ages, but it’s hard to believe momentum is simply going to carry over to a new series after such a lengthy break. Players are not simply going to pick up where they left off and play as if there’s no rust to shake off. The need to get to Fleury as early as possible.

What that means is getting traffic in front of the net, making him move, contesting rebounds, making him feel uncomfortable as much as possible and generating quality offensive chances.

The Caps can do is starting flinging pucks at the net and giving him easy saves. Getting 12 shots in the first period would be great, but not if they are all perimeter shots for easy saves that help bring Fleury's confidence back to where it was in the Western Conference Final.

Limit the turnovers

Turnovers are blood in the water for Vegas. The high-effort, high-speed style of play of the Golden Knights has caught several players off guard at points this postseason. No one can afford to be casual with the puck at any point in this game because Vegas has a knack for turning those turnovers into goals.

Winning Game 1 on the road will be hard enough without giving the Golden Knights at any help.

Shut down the top line

Only three players have reached double digits in points for the Golden Knights in the playoffs: Jonathan Marchessault (18), Reilly Smith (16) and William Karlsson (13). What do these three have in common? They all play on Vegas’ top line. To compare, the Caps have seven players in double digits.

Much has been made of Vegas’ offensive depth and their ability to roll four lines, but the play of Fleury in net has really masked how much this team relies on its top line for offense. The Caps need to get Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against them and focus on shutting them down. Force the Golden Knights to win with their other three lines and see if they can.

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MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

LAS VEGAS—One of the more intriguing storylines of this year’s Stanley Cup Final centers on a couple of men who make their living behind the scenes: Brian MacLellan of the Caps and his counterpart with the Golden Knights, George McPhee.

They’ve known each other for 40-plus years, dating back to their time as bantam teammates in Canada. And, starting Monday, they’ll be on opposing sides, with hockey’s Holy Grail at stake.  

Caps fans, of course, are familiar with McPhee’s work. He served as GM in Washington from 1997-2014 and drafted 13 players who are currently on the Caps’ roster. McPhee was also the Caps’ rookie GM the last time the franchise appeared in the Final 20 years ago.

But here’s what Caps fans might not know about the connection that MacLellan and McPhee share:

  • They were born in a few months apart in 1958 in Ontario.
  • They captured the Canadian Jr. A championship as members of the 1977-78 Guelph Platers.
  • Both were on scholarship at Bowling Green from 1978-1982.
  • They played together with the New York Rangers in 1985-86.
  • And, finally, they worked side-by-side in Washington from 2000-2014. After working his way up from the scouting ranks, MacLellan replaced his managerial mentor, who had been let go following a disappointing season.

 

“It's kind of a weird experience,” MacLellan said. “We kind of have been texting back and forth how strange it feels to have this line up the way it has. It's a little awkward, but it's going to be a fun experience, I hope.”

At one point, MacLellan got choked up when talking about his relationship with McPhee, who’ll become the first GM in the expansion era to face a former team of which he served as GM.

“We played junior together and then we both went to Bowling Green on scholarships, so we lived together,” he said, fighting back tears. “It was fun.”

MacLellan also acknowledged that the two weren’t as tight—for a time, at least—after he replaced McPhee four years ago. McPhee also hinted at some strain, though he said the two men had dinner at the most recent GM’s meetings.

“Not as close, I don't think,” MacLellan said of his relationship with McPhee following McPhee’s dismissal. “A little bit of communication here and there. But I think it just took a little time for things to evolve. I think he needed a break from the game, needed a break from how it went down for him here and it just took time.”

When the two negotiated during last year’s expansion draft, which saw McPhee pluck promising you blueliner Nate Schmidt from Washington’s roster, MacLellan said the two old friends keep things “businesslike.”

“He was all business,” MacLellan said. “He wasn’t giving in on anything.”

Although McPhee drafted most of the core players who delivered the Caps to this year’s Final, MacLellan also deserves credit for getting this team over the second round hump. Among his first acquisitions were defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, a pair of vets that helped shore up a shaky defense. MacLellan also added forwards T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller via trade in recent seasons and, this year, added defenseman Michal Kempny, a particularly shrewd move that bolstered a blue line that needed a little tightening.

As weird as the next few days will be for MacLellan as he faces his old friend, it figures to even more strange for McPhee, who will look down from the GM’s suite on Monday and see not one, but two teams that he built on the ice. McPhee also pilfered a handful of current and former front office employees from Caps, including Goalie Coach Dave Prior, while building the Golden Knights.

Indeed, the history between MacLellan and McPhee runs deep. But for the next couple of weeks, they’ll put aside their decades-old friendship as their clubs battle for the NHL’s ultimate prize.
 

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