Playoff week means extra media attention, which has led tot the 49ers providing more players to the media for organized press conferences. Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree were two of the players involved today and I've posted their transcripts after the jump. One of the highlight quotes comes from Crabtree who spoke about getting Coach Harbaugh a Jordan sweatsuit for his birthday.
The 49ers passing attack will not be looking to match the Saints yard for yard because that's simply not how they are built. Nonetheless, Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree will need to continue to build on the burgeoning chemistry. After a slow start following his foot injury, Crabtree has really been the most consistent receiving threat week in and week out. He is coming off his first two touchdown game and back-to-back 80+ yard performances.
The 49ers are getting Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams back, which will only help matters, but Crabtree will need to bring his A-game on Saturday. If he and Alex can connect consistently this Saturday, it puts the 49ers offense in a strong position to put some serious points on the board.
QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - January 10, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
What are your feelings going into your first playoff game?
"Excited. Obviously, this is why you play. You play to get into the postseason. Get your ticket to the dance. Excited to be hosting a home game. Looking forward to it. Can't wait to see what the stadium is like. Obviously, we've got a great challenge in front of us. I need to have a great week of preparation, so this is where it starts."
They obviously are known for blitzing a fair amount. It's high risk, high reward it seems. Do you see opportunities there to get some plays down the field?
"No question. That's kind of the nature of the game when teams pressure a lot. Obviously you've got some chances to make plays. They're good at it. They've been doing it so long. They know where they're vulnerable. I think the guys in the secondary do a great job with it. They know where they're vulnerable. They do a great job of trying to take away those big plays as much as possible. So, we're going to have to be on top of it, no question."
You've done really well, it seems like, passing particularly at home. Why do you think it's been better there?
"I don't know. It's a great question. Obviously crowd noise plays into that, especially on third down when you're trying to throw the ball on the road. Anywhere you go you're going to be dealing with crowd noise. So at home, to be able to use the cadence and be able to communicate a little easier, verbally obviously helps. I think that might play into it."
Talk about the line. How the line has been playing this year and specifically how C Jonathan Goodwin's addition has played into the improvement up front?
"Those guys have had a tough job with coming together in such a short amount of time, with no offseason and adding Goody into the mix. They've gelled quickly. I think especially all the different things we do. They've just really come together, run and pass. They really set the tone for us in both those areas. Really set the tone for us on offense. It all starts up front with those guys. They just continue to do a great job week in and week out preparing themselves for what they're going to face."
How much have you relied on Jonathan this week specifically knowing that he spent the last few years against Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams defense?
"Obviously there is a little bit of familiarity there. I've been able to pick his brain here and there on things. We still have to go out there and do it. It's something to help us, but it would be like someone asking me about our defense. I'd have a little bit to say, but really I'm so used to preparing for the other team's defense that I don't know it that well. I could tell you a lot more about our offense. One of those things."
How drastically different are these offenses? There's a lot being made about their high-powered offense and your offense has done just enough to get to this point.
"You can say what you want. A lot of different ways to win games in this league. Obviously offensively, they're doing a lot of great things right now. Record-setting offense. It's kind of what you aspire to get to, no question, offensively. To be able to put up those kinds of numbers, do what they're doing. They've been in it a long time. Doing it at a really high level, no question. It's kind of for you guys to write about, to talk about the differences and differences of style. Whatever you want to call it. It is what it is. It still comes down to scoring more points than the other team and that's what we're looking to do."
With that said, you don't want to get in a track meet with these guys or a shootout. You want to stay within your own offense.
"We're going to play our game. We're not going to be somebody we're not. We're going to continue to do what we do. We've done it all year."
Can you define what you do?
"I think that style is whatever it takes to win. I think we're going to be multiple in the run game and the pass game. We're going to do a lot of different things, personnel's. We're not going to make it easy for the defense to defend us in all facets of the game."
Given the amount of time they blitzed in the preseason game and how many hits you took, what adjustments have you made and what do you expect to see in terms of the blitz?
"Going back and watching the preseason game, it's obviously such a long time ago, but they brought heavy pressure and we didn't handle it very well. It was early on for us and obviously we've come a long way since then."
Are you expecting more of the same?
"There's a fair amount of pressure in every single team they've played this year. So, I think we're absolutely expecting it. How much, who knows, but you have to get ready for it."
What kind of background do you have with QB Drew Brees?
"I know Drew a little bit. We have the same agent. He lives down in San Diego now, stays part of the year down there and trains down there. I've worked out with him down there and have gotten to know him a little bit."
How much have your responsibilities at the line of scrimmage evolved, not just throughout this season, but over your career?
"It just depends. I'm not going to get into it too much, but it depends week-to-week. We do different things. It depends on who we play."
How much has WR Michael Crabtree progressed this season? What is your confidence level in him?
"I really think Michael's playing at a high level. I don't think he gets a ton of attention for all of the reasons you guys have explained. Defense obviously is playing lights-out this year and offense is a little bit flying under the radar. I think Michael is a prime example of that. I think he's playing at a really high level for us and it kind of goes unnoticed a little bit, but not around here. I think every guy appreciates what he does in the run game and the pass. He continues to make plays for us."
Have you seen more of a connection?
"Over the course of the year, no question. It was a new system at the beginning of the season and he was still down with an injury at the start. I think just looking to continue to grow each week."
How much are you enjoying this week and being in the playoffs?
"It's obviously new territory for a lot of us, me included, to still be playing football right now. It was fun watching games last weekend knowing that we had a game coming up and we're still rolling. It's exciting and I'm obviously not reflecting on it, but enjoying still playing football."
What do you think the chances are of you out-throwing Drew Brees?
"I have no idea. I don't care. I really don't care. I'm looking to out-score him. He can throw for however many yards he wants to."
WR Michael Crabtree
Press Conference - January 10, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Is there a different feel in the building a few days before the first playoff game as opposed to a regular season game?
"Not really. Coach Harbaugh really preaches, ‘Don't overcook it.' Really just take it as another game we're playing in. Guys are hyped, though. You can feel the tension. Guys are hyped."
Could you raise the microphone?
"Can you hear me now?"
How difficult is it not to overcook it and not to put a lot more emphasis on a game that means so much?
"It's difficult. Especially in the position we're in. We've never been in a playoff before. It should be big for us."
Can you describe, in as simple terms as possible, how your foot feels now compared to how it was feeling at the beginning of the year?
"I was struggling earlier. Right now, I feel like I'm 100%. I've got my feet back. Making a couple moves. Trying to get that YAC, you know?"
What kind of pain were you feeling?
Yeah, what kind of pain?
"It was just pain. It wasn't too hard. It wasn't too much pain. I played through it."
It seems like you and QB Alex Smith have built a better off-field chemistry. Do you feel that way and why do you think it's developed that way?
"I've been with Alex for three years now. We've had that chemistry. It's just us putting it on the field, putting it on film. Really doing it on Sundays. In this case, it would be Saturday."
You study a lot of defenses. What sticks out to you most about the Saints secondary?
"Guys flying around. Speed. They've got a lot of speed. I really focus on the D-Line, too. That's a big part of what I do. If guys are getting pressure, then it's giving me less time to run my routes. The defense as a whole is a good defense."
So you tend to set your timing off of the D-Line first?
Is it encouraging at all to see the last playoff game the Saints had against Detroit and see a guy like Lions WR Calvin Johnson make the plays he did against them?
"You always watch the last game and see what success those receivers had against those guys. At the same time, we still have to stick to what we're doing and really try to execute our plays."
With so much talk on the Saints passing game and how well QB Drew Brees is doing, do you guys on offense want to show what you have, too?
"You do that every week. But, playing against those guys like Drew Brees, all those receivers they have, it's a challenge. You want to bring your A-game. Even though you do that every week, it's like a bigger stage right now."
With the continuity that you and Alex now have of spending some time together, how has that changed your communication on the field? The unspoken things you need to know about each other?
"Like I said, we've been together for a long time. His locker is right next to me. We talk all the time. That's probably a good thing. It's just us connecting on game day. We connect all day at practice, which is good. It builds confidence and momentum going into the game. But once we get in the game, we've just got to do what we do."
What do you learn about a guy when your locker is next to them?
"All types of stuff. Off the field, on the field. Talk about your families. Just get to know a guy."
Did you give Coach Harbaugh a new sweat suit? Did you feel like he might need a new outfit in his rotation?
"That was his birthday gift. It was his birthday, so I gave him a Jordan sweat suit. All the receivers were walking around in our hoodies and he was looking at me one day and he was like ‘Man, you need to get me a hoodie.' So it took me like four or five weeks, but I got him one."
What's your best Harbaugh story from this year?
"Harbaugh? I don't even want to go to the stories. There's a story every day."
Not even one?
"Not even one."
Were you aware that he praises you to us (the media) almost as much as any player on this team, maybe more?
"I wasn't aware of that."
What do you think him coming here has done for your game throughout the year?
"It's done a lot for everybody. Not just me. He's a good motivator. Like I said, the guy is a realist. Everything he says is black and white. There's no gray area. You know what he's saying. If he's got a problem, he's going to direct it to you. There's no behind the scenes or anything like that. He's a good guy."
What things does he say to you that maybe no other coach has said before?
"Like I said, he's just a realist to everybody on the team. He's a good guy. A good guy that you want to listen to. Straight to the point. That's what you need in football, a guy that's going to be straight to the point. You really know what he's saying. You don't have to guess and that type of stuff you do with a lot of other coaches. He's a good guy."
What do you think has changed in the last few games in the red zone? Seems like you guys are scoring a lot more touchdowns.
"I was joking with K-Dub [WR Kyle Williams] I was like ‘Man, we're just going to have to take it from the 50 and go all the way in.' Obviously, we need to do better in the red zone. This practice, every day is going to help us."
But you have been. The last three games you've scored more. Is there a reason for it, you think?
"We really have been doing extra work in the red zone. Like any other team, if they have a flaw they're going to practice it. Try to get the most out of practice and try to duplicate that in the game."
How would you critique K David Akers as a passer?
"He's great. He got me a touchdown. He's the man."
You use music as motivation a lot. What's at the top of your playlist this week?
"Might have some Future. Might have Drake in there a little bit. Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, and might end it off with Sade."