The 49ers left for Detroit yesterday afternoon after an early Friday practice in what I assume is an attempt to get used to the time change. The team likely got into Detroit early yesterday evening and hopefully is able to overcome any modest jet lag that might otherwise suffer.
After years of eastern time zone struggles, the 49ers have now won two straight games in the East. Can they make it three in a row? Given the team's recent success we really haven't heard many comments about making this move east again. I find myself a bit concerned that the 49ers could find themselves getting off to a slow start on Sunday. This is not a team against which the 49ers can afford to fall behind early. The 49ers bounced back against Philly a couple weeks back, but I'm not sure if the Lions would be quite so inclined to blow a sizable lead.
The good news for now is that at least the 49ers are practicing well. Coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media yesterday before the team left town and was pleased with the practices this week. Only so much can be taken from practice, but hopefully it gets them in the right mindset for Sunday. They got off to slow starts against both Cincinnati and Philadelphia on their last road trip. Let's hope for a better start this week.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - October 14, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
How would you gauge the pulse of the team a couple days before this game?
"Good week of practice. Locked, loaded, ready to leave fully loaded for Detroit."
A lot of people are calling this NFL's game of the week. Really, you can't have games with much more magnitude in October. Does that altar your approach at all since there's no reason to hold anything back? Play all your cards because there's no reason to keep anything close anymore, just let it all go, show everything that you have?
"We do that every week. Every single week, we go into these games with one intent and that's to do everything we can to prepare ourselves to win and go out and execute and win the football game. That's all that's ever on our mind."
Does the team take on a different mindset, do you try to foster a different mindset when you guys go on the road with the hostile environment and the odds against you? Is that something you try to get into your team's heads?
"I wouldn't say that's a big percentage of what we do. We go on the road, you deserve to win, if you've prepared yourself to win, then you put yourself in a better position to win. You win on the road because you deserve to."
A lot of guys spoke last week of practices leading up to the Buccaneers game, good practices led to a good game. Similar practices this week? How would you characterize them?
"I'd characterize them as very good, especially Wednesday. I thought we had our best Wednesday practice of the season. Guys are focused; they understand what's at stake."
When you say a team has a good practice, what is it about that practice that makes it good?
"Especially on Wednesday, you can hear it. When the pads are on, you can hear a good practice. Guys are fronting it up, they're banging, they're where they're supposed to be, they're fitting it correctly, bringing energy, and they have focus, a purpose. The execution is at a high level because Wednesday, that's the first day, sometimes there can be a learning curve of the week's assignments and alignments, plays, etcetera. I thought all those things were really good for us, that's what made Wednesday a really good practice."
After the first game you talked about coming home and watching and there weren't any 49ers highlights. Obviously there will be some highlights this week. Is there any difference of instilling in the team that everyone's going to be paying attention to this game?
"We want to play in big games. This is an opportunity, no question about it. The better you play, the more opportunities you have like this. It's where we want to be."
Coaches always say that they want to make the other team one-dimensional. With Detroit, if you had the choice of making it one-dimensional, would you have it be a running team with Lions RB Jahvid Best or would you try to figure you're going to stop Best and take your chances with Lions QB Matthew Stafford and Lions WR Calvin Johnson?
"That's not something that you could just sit up here and play the ‘what if,' hypothetical game. You have to go out and take something away if you can. They're solid in both, good in both, so therefore we have to defend the run, we have to defend the pass. We're going to have to play at our best."
Couple of your players and Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio had talked yesterday about challenging Calvin Johnson when the ball's in the air, which seems obvious, but that doesn't always happen. Wondering if you are on the same page with that. Is that just because of his size or his freakish ability that make people shrug away from that?
"I think you're darn sure going to do that at every position. A lot of units are going to be the challenge player in this game. We know our secondary will be challenged on a significant number of downs, and Calvin Johnson will be doing the challenging and we've got to respond and be up for the challenge."
How did CB Shawntae Spencer look this week in practice?
Will he be up and available for you on Sunday?
"Yeah just like last week."
But was he available last week?
He could have played?
"He could have."
So how do you-has CB Chris Culliver won that job then?
"Tune in on Sunday and find out."
Jim, is this game a gauge of where you guys really stand among the better teams in the league?
"I don't have any real thought on that. Haven't seen every elite team in the league. Haven't studied every team in the league. This is game six for us. We know we're playing against a very good football team. And what's important now is the Detroit Lions. And I feel like our team is up of the challenge, ready to go, and we'll go there with a mindset and attempt only one thing. So, can't comment on where that stacks us up with the rest of the league, and I don't know how relevant that is on game six."
WR Joshua Morgan had a reputation as being a very good downfield blocker, a real asset in the running game. How are your other receivers in that area, and have you liked what you've seen from WR Michael Crabtree downfield, and the things he does in that area?
"All you have to do is watch Michael and he was outstanding in the ballgame last week in terms of blocking. Very pleased with the way he's blocking downfield."
Is that something you saw from him last year was when you looked at the tape or was that something that he's embraced more this year with your philosophy.
"I think all our receivers have embraced it more, and are doing it. And doing it better this year."
Jim, with Joshua Morgan out and the trade deadline coming up at the end of this month, how interested would this team be in perhaps adding a starter-quality wide receiver that just came about via trade?
"Again, not speculating on potential guys that are out there. We're always looking and assessing the perils and merits of anything that can help our football team. So, everything always with one purpose, and that's to help make us a better football team. Not going to speculate on anything."