49ers Vs. Lions: How Much Run Game Will We See?

Last week against the Packers, the 49ers attempted 32 rushes and 26 passes. Although the 49ers brought in several new weapons for Alex Smith, the team is still built around a powerful rushing attack that does in fact want to punch the other team in the face. Mike Singletary talked about physical with an F, but Coach Harbaugh's 49ers have fully implemented that philosophy with success thus far. I imagine they will pass plenty on Sunday, but I think the run game will be a focus once again.

Greg Roman chatted plenty about the challenge presented by the Detroit Lions defense (transcript after the jump), but I figured this was as good a time as any to bring in another part of my Q&A with Pride of Detroit. They posted my Q&A with them over there, so check it out when you get a minute.

Fooch: The 49ers had a lot of success on a "Wham" play that saw Delanie Walker block Ndamukong Suh, springing Frank Gore for some big runs. How do you think the Lions will look to defend the 49ers rushing attack in light of last year's 49ers success?

POD: One of the biggest positives to come out of the Rams game for the Lions was their run defense. St. Louis tried that very same "wham" play that worked so well for the 49ers and other teams last season against the Lions. Unlike last year, the Lions seemed ready for it and did not get burned for any big gains. In fact, they really shut down Steven Jackson, allowing him to rush for only 53 yards on 21 carries.

A big part of the Lions' success seemed to stem from the play of their defensive tackles. Ndamukong Suh did a much better job of containing Jackson and not completely ignoring the run game on his way to the quarterback. That will be key for the Lions on Sunday against the 49ers. They have to continue to play smart while trying to remain aggressive on the D-line.

Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - September 13, 2012
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Opening Statement:

"Getting ready for a good Detroit team, playoff team. The strength of their front, probably lies with their front four, they bring a lot of D-linemen to the game. They roll them through there to keep them fresh. There's times when they'll load up the front, it's no secret. Kind of an old school group, here we go. It's man coverage, let's play football. Tough, aggressive defense, attacking style. Pretty multiple relative to what they were when we played them a year ago. They've got a lot of different schemes now on defense. Got a one week lead in here, so we are sprinting to get ready for this game against a really good team. Any questions?"

What's your secret for playing turnover-free football?

"There is no secret. There is no secret to that. It's everything. We preach it, but we don't preach it to the point of suffocating people with it. Everybody understands what we're trying to get done. I think our guys understand and we've got great leadership with [RB] Frank Gore for example, in terms of being very secure with the ball. We emphasize ball security, how to hold a football, how the defense tries to strip the ball. We do all the different things to educate the players on what's coming at them, and then it's really smart play by the quarterback."

In this NFL era, how does a team go six games without committing a turnover? Especially your offense, when you're going in and out, it seems like that would increase the margin for error as far (Inaudible)

"It's every man's responsibility when he's on the field. Everybody's got a job to do. Anybody that handles the football understands that they've got the collective fate of the team in their hands. Whether they're in, they're out, they're in the whole game, that's of no consequence. If you're in the game and you have the ball it's your job to protect it. So, it's that simple. It's a credit to our players that have played in those six games. I'm not sure where that stands or ranks or what not, of playing that length without turning the football over. I don't understand where it ranks in the historical sense."

It would be an NFL record if you guys don't turn the ball over this game.

"Ok. Well, historic then. It's a credit to the players, it's a credit to the players."

What kind of role, if any, does your defense play in helping the offense in practices?

"It's a tremendous, tremendous role. As we said earlier, as iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another. Never truer words than on the football field. [LB] Patrick Willis, great at stripping the ball. He's gotten us a few times this camp. Our DB's, very good, always attacking the football. Huge, can't emphasize that enough. When it happens in training camp, as a coach you're almost a little bit happy because you can bring it to light, a little bit happy, not a lot, a little bit. But it's a great opportunity to emphasize how a defender is going to attack the football."

I know that the Lions, the defensive front is going to approach you the same, I mean, they are who they are, differently, but they are who they are. As you watch the film from the end of their last season, also their first game, how many wrinkles and changes are you seeing? How much more differently do you prepare for them than before?

"I think they've added a lot of different looks to their defense. It's something we've just got to prepare for. I think there's more to prepare for. There's no telling when they'll pull it out. They line their D-line up in different configurations. They pressure more, they'll blitz you more. Not a heavy blitz team, but at any point in time they'll dial up a blitz. So, you've got to be ready for it. I think it's really added to their profile. They don't blitz nearly as much as the last team we played, but they definitely give you a lot of different looks."

Regarding the same defensive front four, you talk about a number of things. Are they more of a pass rush or do you see them more as better at run stopping?

"I think they're good at both. I think they're scheme compliments - I mean they are rushing, they are attacking. They are trying to destroy blocks, destroy blocking schemes on the way to the quarterback. Just because you're in pass rush mode, doesn't mean you're not playing the run because you're getting penetration, you're freeing up, you're getting an offensive lineman's shoulders turned, you're freeing up linebackers. If you have four D-lineman that are screaming up the field, and then you've got four linebackers, or three linebackers and a safety sitting right in there behind them, that's a pretty darn good run defense. So, it's not just hey these guys are up the field, they're just playing the pass, not so fast. They do a great job of destroying blocking schemes, getting penetration and when they choose to play a bunch of eight-man fronts, there's always somebody sitting there, unblocked, to try to make the tackle."

How much does G Leonard Davis change when he comes in, obviously we saw him block on that right end a lot as an extra tight end, how much flexibility does he give you when you face this defense?

"Well Leonard's a big, physical, -just he's big and physical. He's a big, massive, powerful man. And when you get him in there, he gives you an opportunity to maybe get a size matchup on somebody, and take a really great offensive lineman like Leonard and get him into the game. Get him participating, getting him having a role towards us winning. Leonard is a very important part of the team and he's a massive guy that's played a lot of snaps of football in the NFL. It's great to be able to get him involved in the winning effort."

Obviously you bring in a lot of extra linemen, did you pick that up from someone, just kind of loading and loading your line with huge people?

"It started at the high school level, yeah. Just said, hmm, what would happen if we did this? It worked pretty good. We did it in college. It's also a great tool to develop young linemen, especially in college. At Stanford we did. We'd get the younger guys that were promising, give them a chance to get game experience and start their development so the first time they're out on the filed it's not, whoa. It's a really great step in the development of a lineman."

Was that back in New Jersey?

"Yes."

Is there something to be said for getting everybody involved in a game? Kind of increases the camaraderie in the sense that everybody contributed to the victory?

"I think you could make the case for that, for sure. But the reality is, is everybody that's involved in the game, is in there for a reason and we feel they can do what we're asking them to do. We're not going to put guys in positions they're not the best at, or we really feel good about. I think the net effect of that is, now everybody has a role, everybody has a chance to contribute, everybody's excited about the week of practice. Getting ready for their role, and supporting roles, in case somebody else had to get out of the game. I think it just adds to the, like you said, I thought you put it well, adds to the camaraderie and how everybody has a role in helping the team win. Thankfully we've got a lot of really good players that we can do that with."

What makes RB Frank Gore so effective, because he's not flashy? Why is he so effective?

"I'll tell you what, Frank is an unbelievable running back, unbelievable football player. He's one of the most unique guys I've ever been around, in terms of, it gets thrown around a lot, but throwback, old school. Frank, we could go anywhere, chalk up a football field, pads, no pads, how you want to play it, let's go. Frank's going to play and he's going to compete. He's an unbelievably tough, passionate, competitive [player]. He's got an incredible will to win that he wears on his sleeve. There's only one Frank Gore. His running style is very unique, can't say that I've quite seen anybody quite like him, with his size, weight and then what you see on the field, he's just so unique. He's got so much quickness, power, and just short area of vision. He's just got one of the strongest wills to succeed that you'll find. So, I think that's the best I can do quickly to sum up Frank. He's a special guy. Really, we all feel really glad to have the opportunity work with him."

Short area of vision, you mean seeing it right away?

"Right away, quick decisions. He just has a feel. His brain and his feet work in tandem. I'm not a scientist or a neurologist, but his brain, those pulses get quickly to his feet."

Is that why you ran the ball with Frank against Detroit last year? Has that been the template for the way you want to run the ball against everybody and is that kind of the option he gave you for guys? Anything you want to do against them?

"Every week's different. You're always going to try to run what your running back's good at, what you feel your offensive line can block. And it comes down to, guys' scheme is so overrated. It's all about guys knowing what to do, how to do it and having the want to to get it done. And that's what we hang our hat on, is executive and want to. And scheme is way overrated. I don't care what play you call. It doesn't matter. Ultimately the players make it work."

Can you go back to Frank Gore for a second and talk about how did it look on film, that touchdown run, how did that work other than spinning around on the sideline?

"It was really good job, on that particular play, [G] Daniel Kilgore, [G] Leonard Davis sealing off the edge. [FB]Bruce Miller came around with [G] Mike Iupati, did a great job of sealing. Bruce Miller did a great job. He forced [Packers CB Charles] Woodson to basically hurdle him, which freed up Frank. And then Frank just made a guy miss and spun in the end zone. Wasn't perfect, but it was a great run. A lot of good things happened on it. We loved the end result."

There was a lot of talk in the offseason about whether Alex Boone would be playing guard. How did he do in his first regular season game?

"He did some things that were great. We were all thrilled to see some instinctive things he did. Played physical, played to his personality, which is aggressive, passionate, old school, nasty. He had a lot of fun out there. Boone loves playing football. He's a beauty. But he played really well, really, really well and did some really outstanding things in that game. So it was a good start for Alex and got a big challenge this week with this front four coming in."

Not to harp on this subject, but QB Alex Smith has the team record now, having 185 passes without an interception. How extraordinary is that and how does it be a part of your guy's mantra?

"It's huge and it's a credit to Alex. Alex is a guy with a very, very strong, he's a high, high character person. He is not the person who is going to get led off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings. He understands the purpose of his job is to distribute the ball, execute the offense and help the team win. He's got an innate feel for risk management on the fly. But as well, when I say that I mean, he knows when to be aggressive, when to let it rip, and when to make a certain throw. It might be a little bit high and away, low and away, away from the defender. There's been a lot of very, very small instances over the course of the time you talk about where he's had just really, really, really good ball placement, relative to the defenders leverage. A lot of that goes unseen, but it's all calculated by him. It's really a credit to him. He's a winner. And done an incredible job, historic, let's keep it up, let's keep that going."

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