49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke with the media after the game and he described the 49ers victory over the Cleveland Browns as a "bar fight." He said a bar fight was hard fought, evenly matched and it "tests a man's courage." I myself have never been a bar fight, but it probably would test my courage if I had some dude smashing bottles and coming after me.
As has been said over and over again, the 49ers game was not the prettiest thing in the world. However, the 49ers once again got physical and you could make the argument that Mike Singletary's ideal of "physical with an F" is sort of embodied in this team.
This goes beyond just knocking running backs out of the game. As the picture above shows, this 49ers team is going to knock the crap out of people. Dashon Goldson could very well face a fine for what was deemed a blow to the head. Whether he gets fined or not, at some point do opposing offensive players reconsider how readily they will go over the middle against this defense?
This is a much improved version of what Mike Singletary wanted from the 49ers, but there are some similarities in the intended style. While we were hearing all this talk about the west coast offense and Jim Harbaugh's QB knowledge, this team and its coaching staff were preparing to get as physical as necessary to get victories. And now we're seeing it on full display. There is a lot of football to be played, potentially against some very good opponents. But if this team continues building its confidence as it "punches opponents in the mouth", it could make for a fun little run.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - October 30, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cleveland Browns
With the second half, after taking a 17-3 lead into halftime. How do you feel about this game?
"Feel great. Wins are beautiful things. Our guys worked very hard for it, they earned it. A lot of winning football out there today. Feel great about the win. Cleveland played extremely well. It was a hard fought battle, they all are in this league. Not perfect, but beautiful."
Talking about the passes you threw to T Joe Staley and DT Isaac Sopoaga, was that just because the defense was giving them or was that something that you emphasized to get some of those guys the ball?
"We thought that we had a play there. We've been working on it. The one with Staley, we worked on this week. We thought we could get it. Saw something on film; [Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman did a great job coming up with that idea, as well as the play with Isaac. They were two big plays in the game, especially with the one there with Isaac at the end."
Any worries about going to a lineman on a big play like that?
"That's why you practice; you've got to troubleshoot that. Joe's very athletic, he was very good at it in practice. We feel if you're good at it in practice, you'll be good at it in the game."
Do you get lobbying from players? "Hey coach, get me the ball on Sunday." Do they lobby you to have that play included?
"Sometimes. That can happen."
Did these guys lobby?
Do you have plays like that that will fire up the team to see guys that don't normally catch the ball, get the ball and get pretty excited about it?
"Yes. I think you're the master of the obvious there. That does do that. That does fire them up. I think it's a great thing to get everybody involved. This was that kind of win, it was that kind of a team win. When you look up and down the roster, guys making plays, cool-headed decisions throughout. I thought our special teams did a great job containing [WR] Josh Cribbs, who is a dynamite football player. I love the way that guy plays football. We rose to that challenge. You can't shut him down, it's just impossible. I thought we played extremely well in that phase. Because he can beat you, and our guys didn't let that happen today. Defensively, I thought the effort that our guys play with is evident to me and to the guys on our team. [LB] Ahmad Brooks, down after down, he's just giving it everything he has. Same with [DT] Justin Smith. Looked up and down the defensive roster and you see them come off the field and they're just pouring everything out of their bucket, they're giving everything they've got. Great team victory. Consummate team players, again, when guys are giving everything they have like that."
You started out on fire and it looked like you guys were going to blow them out and then all of a sudden you guys kind of lost your charm, it was kind of back and forth and you really didn't get a big score.
"It was hard fought, that's the way these are. They're competitive. They're bar fights, start to finish."
In the second half offensively, you didn't quite, four or five times at least, was it being conservative to try to keep the clock or were you just not clicking there offensively?
"It's combination of things. Three three-and-outs in the second half. One, I didn't like our call with the reverse. We had a chance to hit [WR Michael] Crabtree down on the boundary. We're all going to look back on this, players and coaches, and have finger prints on that and the plays that we wish we would have gotten. We'll just keep continuing to see if we can improve in some of those areas. Lotta great things, didn't turn the ball over. Four of six on third downs. You guys can go through stats and you guys can pick out the positive ones or you can pick the negative ones. I'll leave that up to whatever you guys want to do. To us, we feel really good about winning this ball game and really proud of our players."
When you go back to work, which ones are you going to pick out to talk to your team about?
"Offensively, you got the ball on the 50-yard line, heck yeah you want to punch it in right there and make it a three score game. You want to convert on the goal line, we'll all work to do better."
RB Frank Gore got another 100-yard game today...
"There's a positive! I knew I was forgetting one."
He's second now on the all-time career list for the 49ers. Can you give us a sense for people that don't play in the NFL how hard that is to do what he's done?
"These are hard. These are hard, competitive, evenly matched games. Frank's just got a will to keep going. He is a great competitor. Consummate team player and the guys up front feed off him, and he feeds off them. It's really each guy pushing each other higher. It's a great thing for our team."
What do you know about him now that you didn't know before you were his coach?
"I just know we won and feel great about it. I think I've known what I've known about him, I know him. I've shared that with you many times. I know who he is."
On the lighter side, did you see Mr. Soft anywhere in the building today? Freddy P. Soft, did you see him today at all?
"No, did not see him. Are you accusing us of playing soft? Where I come from, those are fighting words. I'm glad you've got a smile on your face. No, didn't see him."
You said these types of games are wire-to-wire, they're bar fights. No one is breaking windows or throwing chairs, tell me how you feel it's a bar fight.
"Just hard fought. Competitive, evenly matched. That's this league, you've got the world's greatest athletes playing against each other every single week. It's a long season. Every week you've got to bring your best. And it tests a man's courage if you haven't noticed out there. There are guys that are playing with a very high pain threshold on both sides of the ball and I admire that. To me, I think that makes you feel like a man and these guys play very courageously."
Have you ever been in a bar fight?
"Yes. I have."
When was the last one?
"None of your business. (jokingly)"
That hurts my feelings, Jim.
"So be it."
How do you feel about WR Braylon Edwards coming back from the knee injury?
"I thought he played great. Played strong, played hard."
Like a bar fight?
"Like a football player."
Like a Michigan man?
"Like a Michigan man. Like a 49er. He played like a Niner."
You had a little trouble running the ball in short yardage some places. Is that a concern or just credit to the Cleveland defense?
"It's a credit to them. They did a very good job. They overloaded at times to their credit. They stopped us, especially on the goal line. But then again, we picked up our share, too. There was some back and forth, forth and back."
No rushing touchdowns scored on the D again. What do you think is a result of that?
"Playing good defense, playing good team defense. I think that's where that comes from. What'd you say, no running touchdowns? Because there was a touchdown."
Do they take pride in that?
"They do, definitely."
When you challenged the Frank Gore non-touchdown, did you have definitive word from the people upstairs that they thought it was a touchdown or did you do that just to get another look at it? Did you here from people upstairs that they thought it was?
"Nothing definitive. Talking to Bill Levy, the referee, he didn't have a definitive look of where the ball was. Our guys upstairs didn't think Frank's knee was down. They thought Frank's knee came down on another player. They had the elbow, but they didn't have the ball. Frank thought he got in, so I was trusting Frank there too."
Did you watch the game last night, the Stanford-USC game and what was your take on it?
"Thought it was a great game. Phenomenal football game, both teams played really well. Great there's still magic at the Coliseum for the Stanford Cardinal. Really so happy for those guys and the way they competed, but they all did a great job. It was inspiring, too. It really was. Just the competing. It was inspiring to me."
Throwing the ball at the lineman and firing them up, is that partly a reason to do it as well as the fact that you might be able to exploit an opening?
"That's what you're trying to do - get a positive play, exploit an opening."
But also to get more people involved or is it strictly because of the other...
"It's to have a positive play. Probably a small percentage, there's not a lot. There is some firing them up, get people involved. Big thing is taking advantage of something Joe Staley does really well, he's a very athletic guy and we thought we could make a positive play there."
So you didn't have tryouts for that?
"No, that was a Joe Play."