49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh chatted with the media Friday afternoon and he discussed a broad range of topics during the press conference. He had some rather pointed comments about the officiating, indicating he would be sending some notes along to the NFL offices in New York. The most notable issue he mentioned, which I think most of us saw, was the physical nature of the Seahawks cornerbacks. Physicality is welcome in football, but there are limits to how physical the defense can get.
Coach Harbaugh also talked about Alex Smith's finger. Some of the poor throws seemed to be in situations where the finger might not be an issue. However, Coach Harbaugh seemed to leave the door open to the idea that the finger might be impacting things. He would not come right out and say out, but he went with a bit of a circuitous route to say something along those lines. Coach Harbaugh could be playing games with the media, he could be just trying to defend his QB, he could be doing a whole host of things.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - October 19, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Last night you talked about it being the most physical 30 minutes. RB Frank Gore was talking about playing through bruised ribs. Can you just talk about how well he played with that injury and what you saw out of him last night?
"Yeah, great game from Frank. Tough runs. Does what he does. Gets low and gets through holes. Got a lot of yards after contact. And then he had some big holes, too. Where they popped into the secondary. A lot of times you talk about teams that can run well between the tackles, I've never seen a team run better between the guards than our team showed last night in the running game. And that was to great credit to [C] Jonathan Goodwin and the two guards, [G] Mike Iupati and [G/T] Alex Boone had great games. Great games by them. Also, [T] Joe Staley and [T] Anthony Davis, tremendous performances. We gave a game ball to Joe Staley and to Jonathan Goodwin. We had physical blocking on the perimeter by our wide receivers. [FB] Bruce Miller had a tremendous game. [RB] Kendall Hunter had some really tough, physical runs in the ball game. So, from the offensive standpoint that was very tough. They were coming off the ball extremely well. And Mike Iupati, really how could you be more physical than he was in this game. And he really set a tone there. Defensively, [DT] Justin Smith got a game ball. Great against the run, great against the pass. [S] Dashon Goldson got a game ball. Played the deep ball very well. Got the interception. Had some tremendous tackles. Gritty, physical performance by our two inside linebackers, both [LB] NaVorro Bowman and [LB] Patrick Willis. Just gritty, that's the best word you could say for it. Tremendous play from both of those men. And there are other examples. Certainly the special teams needs to be highlighted. Everybody played good on our special teams. We got off blocks, we blocked. Guys were in good position and did a great job getting off of blocks. And a lot of guys contributed there. Even Dashon at the end of the game was cramping up. But, ran down on that important punt to the point where he couldn't continue the next series. Just left it all out there. Punter was magnificent. [K] David [Akers] had a heck of a game, Akers. [S] C.J. Spillman was leading it. So, other things to highlight but there's a few that contributed really to that most physical 30 minutes of football that I've seen our team play."
Did Frank let on that he was having a hard time? Did you know that he was having trouble breathing there in the second half?
"No. He didn't let on. And when you go back and look at the film, you see the play. I believe it was either in the drive in the third quarter, or late second quarter, that he got the hit."
He didn't say anything to anybody until he removed himself from the game?
"Right, to my knowledge."
Obviously, you don't want the penalty. But, just the way Dashon Goldson started the game with just a fire. And he and RB Marshawn Lynch looked like they, in your words, a football battle going on there. Did you like that kind of fire and that passion that Dashon was showing just short of the penalty?
"Well, two great front up tackles. The first one out in the open field there and the sideline. They both just locked up like two rams locking up. And it was a big, physical play. Marshawn jumped up and was right in Dashon's face. And then the next one was one of the best front up tackles I've ever seen, where Dashon made that tackle. And then got the penalty. I thought he was talking to Justin, who was also on the bottom of the pile and on top of Marshawn. So, there was no physical contact there. To me, he was just talking to Justin. But, anyway, referees didn't see it that way."
Speaking of referees, a lot of plays on the outside where your receivers were kind of locked up with cornerbacks. How did you see that confrontation throughout the game going?
"Well, I wouldn't use the words ‘locked up.' There's another word I would use. But, we'll take that up with the officials in New York, and get their view of it. That's the only position that we can be in."
Is it important to get that rectified? Obviously their known, their corners, for their physical play. Obviously, you're going to play those guys again. Is that something that obviously you feel needs to be addressed before you play them again?
"Yeah, I think that's just an important thing to address. I mean, what is this all being defined as? Is it physical play? Is it within the rules? I think that's the biggest question, is it within the rules what's happening. We have to ask that question. We have to know what the interpretation is."
Did you see that previously on film with them?
The passing game wasn't, there were some issues there. Not being able to get the ball to the wideouts and WR Vernon Davis as well. How big of a factor was that in your guys' inability to stretch the field a little bit?
"Well, first of all, talking about Vernon. Vernon had one of his best games as a blocker, his blocking was outstanding. And then secondly, the touchdown block highlights it. But, his blocking all day, he's blocking [DE] Red Bryant pretty consistently the entire game. And just did one heck of a job. And allowed our centers, our guards to work the tackles and up to the linebackers. Which created some huge holes in the middle. And we could not have gotten that done without Vernon Davis blocking their 350-pound defensive end. So, he was wearing the sombrero a big part of the game. And it led to some huge plays. And then the touchdown block was huge. And maybe one of the biggest plays that just without looking at the tape and noticing the real big plays he made during the game and the blocking schemes was the tackle after the interception. Which was huge for the game, huge for the field position, and a great hustle play by Vernon. So, when you talk about this was a physical game, a physical half of football, Vernon was one of the tips of the spears in that regard. Definitely he was targeted. We couldn't get him the ball in the passing game. And that occurs from time to time. But, it was still a great game by Vernon, for those reasons."
When QB Colin Kaepernick went in and he took off running and got hit in the head -the league rule says that he's a runner at that point. Are you ok with that rule, that he has established himself as a runner, so it makes that an ok hit?
"Yes. I think that's football. At that point the quarterback is a runner with the ball. I do also believe that's for any quarterback, any quarterback that is out of the pocket and running the football. There should be no asterisk put on it or tag put on it, ‘oh this is a known running quarterback' or ‘a known option quarterback,' compared to a ‘known drop-back quarterback.' It's the position, it's the intent that they're in when they're out of the pocket, running the football. But yeah, I believe that they're football players and they have the ability to be running the football at that time and a defender has to get them stopped."
He didn't get dinged up from that hit? He was ok afterwards?
"Not that I know of."
You had the third and seven late in the game, you had the quarterback draw. Was that call influenced by the interception Alex had on the other third and seven?
When you put together an offensive gameplan, is it offensive coordinator Greg Roman's sole vision or is it a collaborative effort?
"Like we've always said, we've defined it pretty well, this is Greg Roman's offense. The greatest share is Greg Roman. There are times when we have suggestions and collaborate, but this is Greg's offense."
Does tight ends coach Reggie Davis draw up and suggest passing plays to the tight ends in redzone, nickel situations during the week or is it mostly Greg?
"Can't say it any other way, Greg's the greatest share."
Why didn't those plays come into the gameplan against the Seahawks?
"They were there. They were there. There were plays there, I just said it. We had plays designed, targeting our tight ends. One of them we hit and the others we didn't get completions or even the ball thrown in some occasions. So there's your answer."
I've noticed you haven't been calling plays like stick and nod and the y-stick lookie, like you did at Stanford and University of San Diego. Are those still a staple of your west coast offense?
"Yes. And you noticed incorrectly. We did call the stick in this game and the lookie. Not the nod, but the lookie. You're getting familiar with terms, that's good, now we can talk."
The trap plays obviously were very effective. Was that something where you had the trap in the gameplan? When it was effective you kept going back to it until they could prove that they could stop it?
Was that something you thought you would do as much as you did going into this week? It was a short week and the Seahawks might not be able to gameplan for everything?
"No, not necessarily. There are a lot of things that you go into a gameplan with and you want to have some volume for the things that are working. That doesn't mean that there's not volume for other situations. But there's always a tendency to repeat good plays."
They really dedicated their linebackers to stopping the deep passes. Is that sort of a pick your poison? That if you do that as a defense, you can get those trap plays and you can get those nice dump offs to Frank Gore and RB Kendall Hunter?
"Yeah, there were some real good situations to check the ball down to the halfback. It's not something that we've been majoring in over the first six games. Until this game everything had been more, shot down the field or the intermediate throws. So I think that's how we were being played, and Alex did a good job of taking what was there. We did have a couple shots down field in the game, especially early. We probed that. We had a couple good looks and we didn't hit them, but that also can help set up some of those underneath throws."
Not committing a turnover has been a big emphasis for this team and QB Alex Smith after being stellar in that last year, four interceptions in the last two games. What do you most attribute that to?
"Well, we had one game that was out of our character, out of his character. It was just a bad run there in that game, led to three of them. But, it's all on us. It's a team thing as well. The situation that you're in. We all take responsibility for that. So, it's not attributable to one thing. I think there are several things that you can attribute that to. But, I believe it was a one-time thing. And you never say that in football because anything can happen. But, for the most part our offense was moving last night. We were gaining the field position advantage. Got it early. We gained it late. But, we were in a better situation in this particular game, in terms of field position, than we were in the previous game. And there were a couple drives where we stalled and got a three and out. But, especially when we had the good field position after the big punt return by [WR] Ted Ginn [Jr.]. We had the ball at mid-field and before the half we would have liked to have converted that for some points. One of the throws ... it's not impossible to throw the ball when you're helmet is turned and you're looking out the side of the ear hole. But it makes it a lot harder. And it was amazing that that ball wasn't intercepted, because that's hard to do. Not insurmountable, not insurmountable. But it's very hard. That's a little win though."
Would that make its way in your notes to the league?
I've asked this before, you said no. But, his interceptions have coincided or come after his finger injury. Is that affecting him in any way? His accuracy? His velocity?
"I can't say for sure. He's not the kind of guy that would ever say it. And none of us are, that would publicly make any excuse or rationalization. So, I know him and I wouldn't disgrace him by saying it was, publicly. I know the kind of guy he is and the kind of competitor he is."
You've had that conversation with him privately?
"A lot of conversations, yeah, privately. Definitely. But, it's good. It's good. It's getting better and I think we'll have a pretty strong and healthy team coming out of this weekend and going into the game Monday night. I think we'll be really, really in a good place physically with our team."
If that finger was an issue you feel like this layoff obviously will give him a chance to completely heal up?
"I think it's going to help our whole team. First, just getting rest. And just let the bodies come back. That was a tough, physical game on a very short amount of time to play it in. So, I think our whole team needs some rest. And before we start preparing for the Monday night game. I know our coaches do. And I really tip my hat to all of our coaches. After we played our game against the Giants, it wasn't but two or three hours after the game that every coach made it into the office and worked, in some guys' case, until 5 in the morning the next morning. Caught a couple hours sleep and did the exact same thing the next night. The players lounge was full of coaches for a couple hours, sleeping from 5 to 7 a.m. But, it was a great effort on their part."
Is offensive coordinator Greg Roman's eye clearing up? He said his red eye he attributed to a lack of sleep?
"Yeah, I noticed it was much better today. Winning helps all those eyes, fingers, ribs."
Will you be here this weekend or are you taking some time off?
"I'll spend a little time with my family. And probably make it in some point."