49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media on Thursday, and he had some interesting comments about Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The 49ers-Seahawks Week 16 matchup will feature two extremely mobile and dangerous quarterbacks. We talked extensively about that in yesterday's Google+ Hangout, and I'll have a few more comments in a brief 49ers-Seahawks preview video.
But there is no doubt Russell Wilson will be a guy on whom the 49ers pay plenty of attention on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers fairly athletic defense handles Wilson. We will see him moving in and out of the pocket quite a bit and it will be a test of the 49ers athleticism. With Justin Smith sitting as a big question mark for Sunday, Ricky Jean Francois and the rest of the defense could be in for a busy day.
Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - December 20, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
We ask you this from time to time, but after a game like Sunday's where the Patriots had something like 92, 93 plays, how is your defense in terms of freshness and needing rest and things like that?
"Well, there's no doubt they ended that game a little more tired than a normal game. We had, as you said, like 95 snaps in the game and 67 of them were in the second half. So, they were more tired than usual, particularly when you have that many passes thrown against you. Pass rush is very taxing on the big guys. But I feel like we're back to normal now. I think we were a little tired yesterday, but today, I think we're fine."
Did you cut down on reps yesterday?
"We did a little bit, not so much the number than we had some reps that were at a slower tempo than usual."
Obviously in the second half they're in comeback mode, but I think they had 407 yards, 26 first downs, 31 points. Did they just get things going? Were you doing anything different defensively? What happened in the second half?
"No, we didn't do anything differently, really. We played pretty much the same way the whole game, mixing things up. Basically what happened was he got hot, as you said, and we had our chances to get off the field and end some drives and we didn't do that. And when you do that with a quarterback that's hot, now you're out there longer. They had, I think, 16 or 17 series in the game, which is a very unusual high amount of series in a game. It was kind of the perfect storm there in the second half. We had about eight drives during that game on offense where we had four plays or less, so they kept getting it back, and in the second half we didn't stop them, and just kind of multiplied."
It seemed like, obviously, it coincided with DT Justin Smith not being on the field. He was on the field for that first drive, but then he was off the field. Is it as simple as pointing to that and saying that?
"I don't think so. Now, obviously anytime you lose a great player, it's going to have an effect on you. You'd have your head in the sand if you didn't admit that. But I think some of the issues we had, plays we could have stopped, didn't have any effect of him being out there."
We all saw him getting his elbow wrapped up on the sideline. It seemed like he was eager to get back out on the field. Was it you that held him back? Who decided not to put him back in?
"It was the medical people. I think he tried it and decided he couldn't do it and the medical people pulled him out."
So, is DT Ricky Jean Francois ready to step in and take over that role?
What did you see from him in playing so much in that second half?
"He played well. He had a critical sack there late in the fourth quarter when we finally got them stopped in the last two drives they had prior to us kicking a field goal, which were critical drives, obviously, in the game. He had a big sack on third down which forced them to punt and he played well."
What are the strengths of his game?
"He's got good strength. He's a good athlete for a big guy. He can play both the banging game and got a little bit of athleticism too, so he's a well-rounded player. He's the one guy on our front that can play all three spots and nothing will change with him in there."
What's been the key to the success on third downs for you guys, third-and-short specifically?
"I don't know. I don't have a great answer for you there. We've just played them well. We have good players. About all I can say."
Is Seahawks QB Russell Wilson much different now in recent games than when you played him?
"Well, the biggest difference they're doing since we last played them is they've installed the gun-read game into their offense and they're doing it a lot. They had shown it very sparingly prior to the last game. Now they're doing it a lot. I think they've done it over ten times in the last three games and that really has sparked their offense a little bit. And the quarterback's just gotten better and better, as you'd expect a rookie quarterback to do. He's no longer a rookie. This is his 15th pro start. So, he's really a good quarterback. He's very elusive, he's fast, got good command of their offense, throws the deep stuff well and he's been a great acquisition for them."
Ten times total in three games?
Ten times each game?
You've got your own quarterback that's good at the gun-read. Obviously, he's playing with the first team unit now. Is there a way to get any looks for your first team defense against QB Colin Kaepernick during the week?
"Not really. He's got his hands full running our offense right now."
What makes that kind of offense so hard to defend?
"It just becomes a numbers game. Your typical run, the quarterback hands off and its now their ten against your 11. Now when he's a potential runner, it's their 11 against your 11 and they're not even blocking one of the guys at the point of attack, so it actually becomes 11 against ten if they do it right. So, the numbers are flipped."
You've been around this league a while. We've seen a lot more of that this year. What has changed, the philosophy? Because they used to be afraid of getting their quarterbacks hurt. What do you think has changed?
"Well, I think part of is the NFL is a by-product of what the colleges feed us. The colleges are our minor leagues, and that's what the colleges are feeding us now. So, when you get a quarterback that has that ability, it behooves you to maybe have that as part of your offense."
You've talked about RB Marshawn Lynch before. He's had good success the last two times you guys have played. Is there any secret to stopping him? Have you guys not tackled as well or has it just been him playing particularly well?
"Well, we haven't tackled as well in some of those games. But, really the guy's just a hell of a back. He's very powerful, very shifty, gets you a little bit off-balance with his shiftiness and then he converts into his power. He's definitely, the last two years, the toughest back we've gone against and our guys have a lot of respect for him. But he's doing it against everybody. He's got almost 1,400 yards already."
Was that an illegal hit that S Dashon Goldson put on Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez?
"I don't think so."
"He wrapped the guy up, hit him right here in the chest area. I think what's happened, if it looks bad, the league has told the officials to err on the side of caution. So, obviously it ends up looking like the big hit and a lot of times, if they don't see it all and it's a bang-bang play, it's a hard play for them to see sometimes, they're going to err on the side of safety and throw the flag."
How difficult does that make your job?
Or defensive backs coach Ed Donatell's job? What do you guys teach those guys?
"We teach them what's legal and do what's legal. But unfortunately sometimes if you do what's legal, but it looks like it's not, you run the danger of getting the flag."
With Dashon, I mean he's so violent, plays so hard. Does it sort of work against him in that way?
"I think some of those penalties he's gotten on those hits, he hasn't been fined for. So, it tells you that the league's, they view it the same way. Some of them. Now some of them he has."
How do you know that the officials have been told to err on the side of safety? Is that what you've been told by the officials?
Speaking of Dashon, the last time you guys played the Seahawks, he was fined for, I guess, it was taunting Marshawn Lynch. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said he was merely exhorting Justin Smith. I know it's two months later, but what did you see on that play?
"To be honest with you, I didn't see it at the time because once I saw the tackle happen, I'm on to the next play. So, I didn't see it live and it really doesn't show on the tape much."
I don't know if you answered this already, but are there many similarities between Lynch and RB Frank Gore, the way they run?
"A little bit. A little bit. A little bit."
Anything specific at all?
"They're both shifty in the hole, which is hard. And then when it comes time to run with power, they both have some power. So, they get you a little off balance with their shiftiness and then, bam, they're in to their power. So, they're not just a one-way runner."