Alex Smith and Drew Brees each had a chance to talk to the Bay Area media yesterday with Alex speaking at his locker (transcript after the jump) and Brees chatting on a conference call. Quarterbacks are always compared, but we all know there are numerous differences in both the quarterbacks and what the offenses require of them.
As the media breaks down the matchup, it gives folks a chance to look at some of Drew Brees' weaknesses. During the regular season, as he romped past Dan Marino's single season passing yardage mark, the discussion surrounding Brees focused almost exclusively on how great a QB he was. Any mention of negatives might have been about being "short" and overcoming that, but for the most part, I don't recall ever actually seeing anything negative about him.
Now, analysts can focus more on how to beat a great team rather than how great they are. There are a couple of articles worth checking out looking at Brees from that angle. Jason Whitlock went with the more colorful analysis while KC Joyner broke it down a bit more analytically (Insider-protected).
The common refrain in both articles is that Drew Brees can have some issues with decision-making from time to time. It hasn't been a huge issue this year in part because he has gotten a ton of time behind his offensive line and he has all sorts of weapons at his disposal. If the 49ers can get at least some pressure with their front four and still drop guys back in coverage, it could provide some opportunities to take advantage of the turnover battle.
Brees has been more than willing to dump off to Sproles and others down low, but that's where Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman can hopefully utilize their athleticism. The 49ers have had done some great work defending swing passes, screens and other shorter plays thanks to their dynamic linebackers. I look forward to seeing what they can do against Drew Brees & Co.
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."