For the most part I am happy when the 49ers can just get a win and move on to the next opponent. A comfortable margin of victory is nice, but if the 49ers can just continue pulling out victories, I'll be perfectly content for the most part.
This week, I would like more than that, please. The 49ers' offensive philosophy is not to routinely throw the ball 30-40 times a game. Rather it is a power rushing attack that will mix in a fair amount of passes to keep the opposition off balance. If the opponent wants to sell out against the run, the passing game has shown an ability to step up and cover for the rush.
This week, I'd like to see passing for passing's sake. I'd like to see the team up three touchdowns and still passing. Why? Because Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton decided to get lippy about the 49ers offense. He was asked about the plays where the 49ers have a tight end making a fairly abrupt move in motion. It has resulted in two offsides calls against opponents and one false start against the 49ers. Horton had his own thoughts on the play design:
"It's a cute play," Horton said, "and the league has said it's a cute play also, a legal cute play. So kudos to them for having cute plays in."
Cardinals players are coached to watch the ball "so if they do what we say, it's not a big deal," Horton said. "I understand it's third and one, fourth and one, crunch game and all of a sudden a big man moves...cute."
I'll be perfectly content with a victory to improve to 9-1. But it would be fun to see the 49ers absolutely roll the Cardinals on Sunday. The "any given Sunday" mantra does apply and it is entirely possible the Cardinals could spring the upset. I don't like getting too confident about anything, but that doesn't mean I can't hope for a significant butt-whuppin', right?
Head after the jump to check out Coach Harbaugh's press conference transcript from earlier today.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - November 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
Good week of practice?
"Good week, good week. Always excited about this game."
Jim, if you had to pick a name, who would you say is the go-to receiver on your team?
"They all are, that's how we look at it. Probably going off the last game, [WR Michael] Crabtree was targeted the most. [TE] Delanie [Walker] had the most catches, but on every play everybody's running, everybody's alert, everybody's involved on every pass play."
You have had five different leading receivers in nine games, how does that help on offense? Teams don't really know where it's going to be going. That you are able to spread it around so much to different receivers, eight different receivers in this last game.
"It helps a lot, helps a lot."
In what ways?
"In all the ways you can think of. You got talented players in multiple positions and multiple players that know how to get open. Know how to catch the rock and know what to do with it after they catch it."
Do you find that most successful offenses have a lot of receiving outlets and are able to develop those?
"I don't know that I've really researched it. Have you done the research on that?"
One more question on that. You know [TE] Vernon [Davis] has talked about being double covered so much this year, a lot more than in the past. How much do you think that has kind of helped other areas or has that contributed to a lot of the different targets?
"I think that's a factor. He's gotten a lot of attention this year, no question about it. He's done a great job running every route crisp. Blocking, making plays when the ball comes to him. Been a consummate team player all the way through."
Considering you guys have to go to Baltimore a few days from now, do you have to take into consideration playing time in this game in terms of shortening some guys playing time, perhaps?
"No, we're not taking that into considerations. This is the most important game of the season. We're not leaving anything for the swim back, that's how we're going about it."
Does that go for even [RB] Frank Gore the rest of the season for him? [RB] Kendall Hunter played that entire second half, or most of the second half, and showed that he can hold up. Would you want to integrate him more regardless of how Frank is feeling health wise?
"We'll do what we have to do to win these games, first and foremost. Frank's health, not going to speculate, don't have a crystal ball, Frank is ready, Kendall is ready. [RB] Anthony Dixon did a nice job with the plays that he was in, in the ball game the other day. Feel good about our backs."
Would you leave Tuesday of next week?
What have you seen from the offensive line, specifically over the last six games, their improvement?
"Good play. I think they've been doing a great job of improving, their communication, their overall play in all phases. Pad level, pass protection, finish. You can highlight really the young guys [G] Mike Iupati and [T] Anthony Davis, probably made even more improvement than the others on the offensive line. It all bodes well for us. We're pleased with how those guys are playing."
Is there some switch when you put [T/G] Adam Snyder in there against Cincinnati and the line seemed to steady ever since then. Is that a big part of it?
"Snyder is doing a really good job, but I don't think there's any correlation there really. I think we're a doing a good job. It's been kind of a steady, steady progress for our offensive line."
Have you seen that throughout the league, Cardinals seem to be playing their new 3-4 defense better the last few weeks than they did at the start of the year. Do you see teams starting to adjust after the lockout to new coordinators, new systems, now after getting through the middle part of the season?
"I see that, in the sense of the question specifically to Arizona's defense, definitely. This is a good team, an improving team on the defensive side of the ball. A top-notch defense that we'll be facing this week. Very good scheme. They look very confident in it. They have outstanding players playing in the scheme. I said it earlier, you see three and six and you kind of turn on the film and you see a really good football team that has played against some top-notch NFL caliber teams and acquitted themselves very well. Some of those teams were lucky to beat the Cardinals.
I know [QB] Alex [Smith] recently bought nice chairs for the offensive line for the meeting room. Can you tell us maybe a nice gift that you ever got for your o-line through the years or the best one you ever got for your guys?
"Nicer than chairs, they were well taken care of, yes. It's very important. Alex Smith bought those chairs, is that right? I thought that...that's good. I did not know that." (Note: T Alex Boone and T Joe Staley actually purchased the chairs.)
Anything in particular that you got that you want to share?
"No, no. Good stuff (laughing)."
Jim, I don't know the tone in which [Cardinals defensive coordinator] Ray Horton said this, but he was asked about your shifting and he said "It's a cute play and the league has said it's a legal cute play, so kudos to them for having cute plays in." What's your reaction hear a team that you're going to face talking about your shifts that way?
"I don't have a reaction to that...He's watching the film at least."
You're doing the speakers again. This is a home game. Do you feel like because now the team is doing real well, the crowd is getting louder, do you think that's going to be a disadvantage because they're getting loud when your teams trying to run the offense? Is that why you pumped up the crow noise?
"We're pumping the crowd noise when the defense is practicing because the home crowd is louder when the opposing offense has it. Defense has communication that they have to make and we've been practicing that since Week 1."
[Defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio] seemed most impressed with Skelton's arm strength and that generally jumped out to him. What's your assessment of Skelton's and what you've seen from his arm strength?
"He's very talented. He's got a lot of arm talent. I wouldn't just say just arm strength, arm talent. He's got a tight circle, gets it out quick, accurate with a lot of velocity. He's a polished passer."
Can you tell us a little about the visitors that were out at practice today?
"That was my very good friend Tyler Schilhabel. It was an honor to introduce him to the team. Got to know Tyler last year. He had an operation at Stanford Hospital. He had some adversity. He was a high school quarterback who had gotten into an accident with some of the ATV vehicles and damaged his spinal cord. Just been a huge inspiration to me and the other quarterbacks at Stanford, Andrew [Luck], Robby Picazo, Josh Nunes and also Steve Wisniewski, we've all became very good friends with Tyler. Been a big fan of ours. Texts me all the time, follows the team. The thing Tyler did was, the doctors told him what he could and couldn't do, pretty much from that accident on. He did exactly what the doctors told him to do and then set out to prove them wrong. He's just attacked it every day with his rehab and done more and done extra. His goal is to walk at his graduation next summer. He's done a phenomenal job and he's already crawling and they said he wouldn't do that. Just forever proud to call him my friend."
How did you meet him?
"Tyler's uncle called over to the football office (at Stanford) and told us what happened to Tyler. A football player and asked if we could come over to meet him and cheer him up. Just the opposite happened. He inspired us and cheered us up."