49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh chatted with the media on Monday and had plenty of positive comments about the team's win over the Buffalo Bills. He answered a couple questions about the Giants, but for the most part this was a discussion of Sunday's dominant performance.
At one point, Harbaugh was asked about how different the 49ers offense was since last year's NFC Championship Game. Harbaugh described it as "different in some ways and similar in most of the ways." He acknowledged that the talent level has been upgraded, but focused in on the team's positive attitude.
Given the number of weapons in the arsenal, it can sometimes be difficult keeping everybody happy. Thus far, however, we have not heard any complaints. Being a Super Bowl favorite and winning ball games will do that. We don't know what some losses will do, but even last year when the team was struggling a little later in the regular season, things were generally fine from the attitude perspective.
In discussing the attitudes, Coach Harbaugh commented specifically on Delanie Walker and Randy Moss. Walker and Moss have not had as many big opportunities as the other skill position players, but they are both making important contributions that are moving the chains and getting points on the board. I'm going to take a more detailed look at Moss' contributions once the coaches film is available, as I would like to see how the secondary was treating him on Sunday. I did some reviewing of the film today, but without the All-22 view it is difficult to tell where the secondary is playing when Moss is on the field.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - October 8, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Just looking back on last night and yesterday's game, did things go pretty much to script how you guys wanted them to go?
"A lot of things went really well. Very, very good play, to highlight. Fortunate, had some good luck go our way. And, yeah, just consistently good play. Overcame some things. And able to control the game, that was the most encouraging thing."
Do you dissect game film less after a game like that and want to get started on a tough opponent in the middle of the New York Giants than maybe you normally would?
"I don't think any less or any more."
Have you started looking at the Giants yet?
"Yes. Yes. We're already seeing the obvious things. The outstanding team that they are. Explosive offense. Very balanced. Exceptionally balanced. They do everything well offensively. And defensively, the same. Great up front. Just all-around top team in the league."
We talked to offensive coordinator Greg Roman yesterday. He noted that it was obvious early on that QB Alex Smith was hot. That WR Michael Crabtree was hot. When you see that early on, do you then start to tailor the calls to fit the hot hands, so to speak?
"Yeah, and really great credit to Greg Roman. And just the game that he called, the plan that he had for our team. We all have just tremendous confidence in Greg. And he is a shining light. He is a real, real superstar. And the same for [defensive coordinator] Vic Fangio, [asst. head coach/special teams coordinator] Brad Seely. Great, great games for both their resumes. Exceptional, exceptional job by all those men. Alex definitely had a great game. Alex had a tremendous game. Playmakers, Michael Crabtree and [WR] Mario Manningham and [TE] Vernon Davis. All of our receivers, [WR] Kyle Williams, [WR] Randy Moss. Just outstanding performances by those men. Real shining stars on our offense. Also, [TE] Delanie Walker. There's a guy who had no catches in the game, but just does it all, ‘Mr. Do It All.' Outstanding game for him. And the one penalty that he got, wasn't a penalty, or it didn't seem like it was. That's really the only thing you could say about his performance. It was outstanding. Just multiple alignment, multiple assignment. Really well executed. A couple other guys, [T] Joe Staley and [T] Anthony Davis had tremendous games against very good players, very good pass rushers along the front. And really besides one hurry by [Anthony Davis] A.D. And again, I thought it was an outstanding block by Joe Staley that was flagged. Was a tremendous block on his part. So, really those two exceptional games as well. And the rest of our offensive line, again a great performance against a really solid unit."
On the hurry by Anthony Davis, you had talked about the one that Alex went to the ground on, hurt his hand. Any update on that? And is that a concern when your starting quarterback has an injured digit on his throwing hand?
"Yes. That's very much a concern if that happens. And we'll see how it is. Alex is well documented how tough he is. He talks about it not being a big deal. So, we'll see."
You've mentioned, last year you talked about the coordinators. Are you surprised after the season you had, the season they had, that they're back this season?
"No." (misunderstood the question at first)
Meaning that they didn't get a head coaching job somewhere else?
"I got you. Yeah, I think that will take care of itself as it goes forward. But, tremendous, tremendous coaches."
With 556 rushing yards in the last two games and averaging 6.1 yards per carry, has the addition of guys like Manningham and Moss help to open things up in the running game? I'm sure there are various reasons for that, but is that one of them?
"Yeah, I think that goes both ways. It helps open up the running game as [RB] Frank [Gore] noted. That's an obvious thing. Those guys are doing a great job. And then the running game helps the passing game as well. But, protection was really good. The route running was exceptional and throws were exceptional."
How tough is it for a quarterback to throw a pass that's not designed to be thrown the way it was, such as for the ball that Alex threw to Kyle Williams?
"Pretty tough, pretty exceptional. To make that kind of snap decision without the muscle memory of really practicing it on that particular play. That's something that's not the intent on that play. But, Kyle made an adjustment and a cool-headed decision by Alex. And they were both in sync and executed it flawlessly. So, I think that speaks volumes for both those guys."
What have you seen out of your pass defense that's allowing the second fewest yards in the league, and just how well they've played through five weeks?
"Again, for the second week in a row I think you can really say that everybody played well defensively. Nobody played bad. And everybody played good. Pass defense has been outstanding and some guys to highlight would be [LB] Ahmad Brooks. Basically, they all stopped the first two drives of the second half, but Ahmad was the shining star on both those stops. Gets the big sack on the first drive and then the second drive caused the pressure and the errant throw that [CB Chris] Culliver intercepted. [LB] Patrick Willis had an outstanding game again. Causing the turnover before the half, which was a huge play for us. And [LB] Aldon Smith is playing really well. The times that he did drop in coverage, he's doing really good. And it wasn't many because we really only had 40 significant snaps on defense, not counting the ones at the end when the starters weren't in there. Only five of those were base, where Aldon was in drop situations. But, the other thing about Aldon is that the strength he has in his hands. When he's making those tackles at the ankles and the thighs with his long arms he is able to cover a lot of ground. But the torque that he's able to generate and the strength that he has in his hands, those are significant hits. And he's able to get guys on the ground with that torque and those strong hands. [LB NaVorro] Bowman played extremely well and everybody in the back-end played really good."
Maybe neither of the teams you've played is a Super Bowl contender, but to hold two NFL teams combined to three points in two games must mean something. Obviously, everybody in the NFL is pretty good and they score once in awhile, how do you judge that, just fantastic defense by your club?
"Yes, yes. There's talent and skill of the players, outstanding scheme by Vic and really good coaching by our defensive coaches. They're playing really well together."
In terms of the personnel that you guys have now and just the way you've been able to evolve the playbook in your second year, how different is this offense than the one that ended last season in the NFC Championship game?
"Different in some ways and similar in most of the ways. They've been consistently good with their attitude, their approach. Talent level I think has been upgraded and guys are playing really well. Playing really well together. Again, talk about just a good attitude amongst the offensive players. Whatever they can do to help the team move and score points and pick up first downs, etcetera, they're doing it very much as a group and as a team. And to a man, you could highlight every one of them. Delanie Walker, again, everything that he does for our offense, without the statistics that most people look at. Randy Moss has been just great. A lot of people talk about the past or whatever, I've seen nothing other than a guy that just works hard and wants to contribute and practices, just says and does all the right things. If there was something in the past it'd be like that etch-a-sketch you have a as a kid and you lift that piece of paper up. It's been nothing but great, nothing but good. Same with Alex Smith. To a man, our line, everybody."
How is Randy on the field, on Sundays? What's been great about his play?
"Assignment, route-running, speed's been there. Just a matter of time before you get the big catch day that everybody seems to only pin their evaluation on. But, he's been excellent."
I know there's a lot of talk about how smart he is about the game of football. Does he communicate with you, or some of the assistants during the game, as far as what he sees out there?
"If not daily it's weekly. Most days, Randy's got an enthusiastic suggestion for what we can do or try. The neat thing about it is, it's never a self-centered thing. It's never how to get him more balls. It's how it would help the team or help the group or the unit."
You have said before that talent is often underrated. With the talent that you have on this offense, how much flexibility does it give you and Greg to bring novel plays to this plan, this year's offense that maybe you didn't consider last year? What kind of flexibility does that give you as coaches?
"Well, that's where the greatest share lies, in the talent and skill of the players. We have a lot of guys that are proven and proving that they are playmakers. So it does, it gives you a lot of flexibility."
Getting back to Randy, he seems to be the single wide receiver in a lot of times when you have your running personnel out there. Is that because defenses need to respect him and he's taking two guys away from what could be a running play?
"Yeah, in some cases that's definitely been happening."
And the long play to - I forget the yardage, to Vernon Davis, I think it was 53 yards. It seemed like Randy was part and parcel with that is that right?
"Yeah. It definitely can - and I wouldn't say just Randy. There are a lot of players that are proving that you've got to respect their presence, their ability. Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams, Randy Moss, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Frank Gore, [RB] Kendall Hunter, [QB] Colin Kaepernick. We feel very confident in all those guys making plays and doing their assignment and doing it to the best of their God-given ability every play."
It was about 2 years ago where Alex Smith had the game where the fans were screaming for QB David Carr...Did you have some kind of similar experience in Chicago? Sometimes you had some rough years in Chicago. Can you relate to that experience you went through, of a low point in your career?
"I just would say this. Can't tell you how much respect I have for him. That he has played so well, handles himself, does all the things that kind of look back and say, ‘man I wish I would have done as good a job as he has done.' On and off the field, in everything that he does and his approach to the game, I think it's a real, real example."
The similarities, you saw in the 1993 season and then last year with Alex. The way he's playing with his confidence, are there any parallels to you in 1995?
Why do you say that?
"He just is. He's a better player."
How's DT Will Tukuafu been progressing as a two-way player? How's he grown as a fullback?
"He's carved out a real niche for himself on this ball club. A physical presence, both offensively and defensively and special teams. He is a guy that we know we can count on. He's a count on me guy. To be filling as many roles as he is, it's really impressive. I think first and foremost, the physical presence that he brings. He's big and strong and athletic. Big man that's very physical. He's a big man who's fast. It's been positive for us."
RB Brandon Jacobs was inactive yesterday and for the whole week of practice. Why didn't he dress yesterday?
"Once we went through the whole week, he's still not quite there."
When you look at your division, week in and week out, NFC West teams are winning, and winning records. In your time here how has this division gotten better, it was one of the worst a couple of years ago in the league and now it seems to be getting better?
"As I look at the other teams? Winning games. Better football, redoubled their efforts, better."
Does it help your team at all to keep the eye on the prize and focus? Whereas last year you guys were running away with this division and this year it seems to look like it's going to be a tight race.
"Yeah, it is going to be. It helps. It's every team you play, everybody's strong, everybody wants to play their best and yeah it keeps us on our toes, keeps us playing strong."
Will LB Clark Haggans be put back on the active roster today?
"Today or tomorrow we'll make that decision. By one o'clock tomorrow."