Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - December 13, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
The New England Patriots, obviously the top rated offense in the league. Is this a daunting task for your defense?
"Obviously it is. They're not only the top rated offense in the league, they're way ahead of who's in second in all the important stats, too. It's not like they're just a little bit ahead of team two in a lot of the stats. So, they're very impressive and they have been for a long time with [QB Tom] Brady as the quarterback."
When you said important stats, which ones do you mean?
"Well, one, they lead the league in first downs and they're like 60 ahead of whosever in second. They just get a lot of plays. They make a lot of first downs. They move the ball. They keep it going. They're just really proficient in all areas."
Is it a dumb question when I ask how do you stop them? Or can you stop them?
"Well, I think anytime you're playing a quarterback of this caliber, the definition of a great quarterback, is there really is no one way to stop them. You can't do the same thing for four quarters and expect to slow him down. This is I believe his 12th year starting in this system. He knows how people try and defense this system, how they try and defense him. And there is no one way to defend Brady, which to me is the definition of a great quarterback. Do you want to pressure him some? Yeah. Do you want to cover him some? Yes. Do you want to rush three? Yes. Do you want to rush five, six? Yes. You've got to do a little bit of everything, man, zone, because he's really good."
For a defensive coordinator, is a game like this against a player like this, a lot of fun in a way that it really tests you like a chess match or war? Or is every game about the same as this particular one?
"Do you have a tendency to be sadistic at times? There's only one way to have fun, that's to win. But, every week in this league's a challenge. This week it's more of a challenge, obviously because of Brady and their offense and they do a great job. And they do a great job of running the ball, too. They're way up there in the running stats. They've handed the ball off well over 400 times. So, that tells you how much they've been running. They do a great job of pass protecting. I think [Patriots assistant head coach/ offensive line coach] Dante Scarnecchia, their offensive line coach, and our line coach [offensive line coach] Mike Solari are the two best line coaches in the league. And it's reflected in the way their line plays."
What kind of a challenge does their no huddle present?
"It presents challenges. I think the biggest thing defensively you just have to know that they're going to no huddle some. And they can do it at different tempos. And you've got to be ready. You just have to discipline yourself and focus yourself that you're not going to have the normal time lag in between plays when you're playing a team that runs the no huddle."
As far as substitutions, obviously if they substitute, you guys can substitute. But, is that an element of it? Do you seem them doing that? Not allowing teams to substitute defensively?
"I think that's a byproduct of what they do, but I don't think that's their major motive. You can still sub some when they're no huddling. You just have to know when and do it quickly."
Do they really try to dictate a team playing them with the dime package?
"Not really. Teams have tried various ways to play them. They've played them in nickel. They've played them in base. I'm talking about when they've had their two tight ends out there. I think you've got to do a little bit of everything."
Is there an advantage that you can stay in nickel and do a little bit of everything pretty well, very well, out of that nickel?
"Yeah, we're comfortable playing nickel against all personnel. And likewise, we're comfortable playing our base against all personnel. So, we may want to start a series in a certain personnel and hat and get stuck with it out there. But, we're OK with that."
RB Stevan Ridley's really kind of stabilized their running game. How have you seen him impact their offense this year?
"Yeah, well I just think their running game as a whole has really complemented their passing game and their overall offensive production. These guys have rushed for 20 touchdowns, I believe. And their running game is just really going well. And Ridley's been a great addition for them. When they get [RB Danny] Woodhead in there, he's a real threat coming out of the backfield. And in the handoff area he's counted for close to 600 yards in offense. They've got a stable of backs that they're using."
You guys haven't given up big runs to ball carriers, but you also haven't gotten forced fumbles out of these guys. Is that a concern?
"Yeah, well that's to me one of the amazing things they're doing well, too. They're a high-octane offense, yet they haven't turned the ball over hardly at all this year. So, when you put those two things together that's why they're a tough assignment."
How much do you guys rely on your own offense to keep your guys well rested?
"Well, that always is a great help. If Brady's on the sideline with the rest of the offense, that's a good way to defend them. But, everybody has that way. Our offense has got a job to do. They want to go out there, move the ball, make first downs, score points. That's part of any equation playing against anybody. But, obviously when you're playing a team that scores the way this team does, you're going to have to score some points."
With Brady running this system for 12 years, do you see Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's handprints on this, too?
"Most definitely. When he started, it was Brady was the quarterback with [former Patriots offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis and Bill was the head coach. Then it went to [Patriots offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks coach Josh] McDaniels and Bill's the head coach to [former Patriots offensive coordinator] Bill O'Brien and Bill's the head coach back to Josh McDaniels. And it's the same offense all the way from start to finish. And Bill's definitely got a hand. That's how he runs his program there."
Have you noticed, do they make just dramatic changes from week to week?
"I wouldn't call them dramatic. They run their same schemes and concepts from week to week. They'll do it out of different formations, maybe out of different personnel groups. But, they have their concepts that they like to run. They just will do it out of different formations from week to week, formations that they feel they can tailor to you."
Have you ever talked defense with Belichick?
"One time, a few years ago. But, that was it."
You've got no TE/DT Demarcus Dobbs in case this does become your defense on the field quite a bit. Who's going to be coming in at defensive end with him out?
"Well, we've got [DT] Ricky [Jean Francois] that can play any of the three spots inside. We'll have [FB/DT] Will [Tukuafu] available. He can play any of the three spots inside. Those will be our guys right now for sure."
Going back to the nickel, how much does it help to have such athletes like LB NaVorro Bowman and LB Patrick Willis to just handle all those responsibilities?
"It helps. Obviously any time you've got good players it helps. But, they'll be stressed. They've got good tight ends, good backs. This #39, Woodhead's an excellent back out of the backfield. Great speed and quickness. And you know what [TE Aaron] Hernandez is. So, they'll have their hands full."
You mentioned the purpose of the no huddle wasn't necessarily about substitutions. What do you see as the main purpose of going to that?
"I think just to make you a little uncomfortable on defense. Get you adjusted. Make you spend more time at the line of scrimmage. Give Brady a longer look at how you're aligning to their formations. And then they'll try and speed it up. Try and get you confused to where a play will be over and bam, they'll try and get the next play run immediately. So, it's just to keep you on edge. Keep you on your heels a little bit."
Are you going to treat Hernandez as a tight end or a receiver?
"Both. We just play our calls and we'll play it out accordingly."
We haven't seen a whole lot of CB Perrish Cox since those first two games when he saw a lot of playing time. Is this the kind of game where he needs to be ready to go?
"He needs to be ready to go all the time. But, yeah it could be."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - December 13, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
"Good afternoon. Got a great challenge this week, going to play the New England Patriots. As you look at them on defense, they're as physical a defense as we've seen since we've been here, as fundamentally sound a defense as we've seen. And they present you just a multitude of things to prepare for, both from a personnel and schematic standpoint. Their front seven is as stout as I've seen and it starts with the big guy [Patriots DT Vince] Wilfork, who's a tremendous athlete for his size. I think everybody got to see him on display last week against the Texans. And then the line backing crew, they're just big, physical, athletic guys that complement their down linemen. [Patriots LB Rob] Ninkovich is a very unique player, in that he plays a multitude of roles at a very high level, always seems to understand what's going on and is a very good football player. Secondary is very physical as well, physical in coverage, they give you a multitude of looks and it's a lot to prepare for. We're excited about it. Any questions?"
Do they just, just like you said, give you a lot of looks? Is it more than other teams you've faced, most teams that you've faced this season?
"I'd say yes in a different way. Their front seven, they play a 5-2, a 4-3, a 6-1, a 6-2, even seen them play an 8-2 in a four-minute type of situation. They can move around, they'll move and switch where they're leveraging a gap, where they're leveraging a player throughout the pre-snap, so you're not quite sure what they're doing until right before the ball snaps. So, those seven pieces can move around and really fit in anywhere. And then from a coverage standpoint, really good disguise team, good players, good scheme. So, we've got a lot to get ready for."
Last week you guys had some difficulty getting the play off in time, four timeouts used on offense. How does the onus fall on [QB Colin] Kaepernick with that offense to make the Patriots kind of show their cards, show their hand before the snap of the ball?
"That's a hard thing to do with the Patriots. The onus falls on all of us as an offense to be more efficient. It's a case-by-case situation. A couple of them were, I'd say, wise timeouts relative to what we wanted to do and what we actually did. The Patriots are a smart, heady, physical, productive defense that, it's all about just getting things executed once the ball is snapped consistently and trying to get into a rhythm."
I don't remember you guys practicing the Pistol too much during training camp. Is that something that you've really started doing over the last month now that Kap's been in?
"We've done some Pistol in training camp. We did it at Stanford some. It's just another formation and it's really all it is, just another formation."
How much time did you spend with University of Nevada head coach Chris Ault, talking about it?
"Yeah, did spend some time with Chris. About three years ago, made the trek to Nevada and visited with him and his staff. That was very valuable time spent. He was very accommodating and it was very interesting as a coach to go really learn something totally new. And he's a very good football coach that was very accommodating. So, it was good."
So you're watching the film, watching you're quarterback now, back then.
"I was, yeah, matter of fact, yeah."
Your impressions then of him?
"That's a long time ago. Productive."
One of the storylines will be Patriots head coach Bill Belichick scheming against the young quarterback, who knows what he's going to throw out there. Is that overblown, is there an element of you don't know what the Patriots could throw out there? It could be a real challenge for Kaepernick.
"Yeah, I mean over the course of time as you go back and watch the Patriots, they're going to, appears at least from an offensive perspective, that they're going to do what they think it takes to win the game or win the situation. That might be something you haven't seen, it might be off of something you've seen when they change the picture on you at the last second, that type of thing. It's a challenge, everything's a challenge. Kap, the whole group is having a good week of preparation and that's what it's going to take."
When you see this game on the schedule in April, do you start to do some work ahead of time against the Patriots?
"We try to work on all of our opponents in the offseason, not just our division opponents, but we try to work on the AFC East, for example we're playing this year. So, we definitely have some time scheduled out to start our studies, yes."
Are you saying that, they had a Thursday game last month and Brady took the time after that game to do some research on the 49ers. Have you guys done any extra research in the last month or so on Brady and the Patriots?
"We've been working hard to get ready for our next opponent. Now, after the Seattle Thursday night game, which I can't even remember when that was, we spent some time on an upcoming opponent. But, every week's a challenge and these guys present a lot of them."
What are the common elements defenses are doing to take away TE Vernon Davis? Three catches the last three games total, so what's going on?
"I'm not going to get into the X's and O's of things, but every team's different, every situation's different. I'd say that they're paying a lot of attention to him at times. On [QB Colin Kaepernick] Kap's 50-yard run a couple of weeks ago, there was 10 guys. Vernon ran that way and there was 10 guys on that side of the field. So, I think that kind of paints a picture."
Was that an exaggeration?
"No exaggeration. [RB] Frank [Gore] cut the last guy."
How much responsibility does your offense have in helping defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and the defense keep Brady and that offense in check?
"I think when you look at their team, we've seen their offense a lot as scouting upcoming opponents. They've played a lot of teams before we have, and we're very impressed with their offense and what the production they've been able to create. So, we're well aware that we've got to play at our best this week against a very good team. You saw what they did to Houston on Monday night, and Houston's a heck of a football team. As [head] coach [Jim] Harbaugh would say, it's going to take all three phases to play our best. So, I think it's definitely, there's an equation there and we all work together."
"I believe the Panthers. I have seen the Panthers get in that formation, yeah. But the Redskins probably do it more than anybody. It's just another formation. There's a lot different ways you can build formations and rebuild formations. But, it's just another formation. I think the Redskins definitely do it more than anybody and we're just kind of starting to tap into it now."
Do you call it the Pistol when you have the three guys in the backfield or do you call it something else internally?
"We don't call it the Pistol, no. It's two syllables. We just use one syllable. It's a ‘Q' formation."
Have you talked to Chris Ault at all on Nevada just to pick your brain?
"A couple of years ago. Yeah, probably three years ago, three or four years ago, leading into the, what was it, before the 2010 season."
What can you gather by talking to a guy face-to-face as opposed to just watching the film?
"Oh gosh, I think you can gain a lot if they're willing to tell you. You can gain a lot with an upside, the downside , what other teams do to try to stop it. When they do that, what do you do? Every little nuance, it's just so much in terms of how you might sequence things, the downside, the upside. And definitely what people have tried to do to combat it or defend it, and then the next logical step for them. So, great information."
Were you surprised to see the Patriots stifle Houston as well as they did so early in the game? Houston couldn't do much of anything at all. How did they do it and were you surprised that they did it so well so quickly?
"Every game, you never know what's going to happen, you really don't. When that game started, nobody really knew what was going to happen, and it unfolded the way it did. The Patriots played great, and they're playing at a high level. So, they probably were a little more specific in what they did to Houston than Houston thought. And if you asked Houston, they probably said, ‘Hey, we left some opportunities out there.' But nothing really surprises you. You just go out, you compete and whoever plays better for those three hours is the winner."