Super Bowl 47: Vic Fangio talks linebackers, Super Bowl, USFL

Thearon W. Henderson

We take a look at Vic Fangio's comments to the media as the 49ers begin their Super Bowl preparations

Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - January 23, 2013
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Can you go back to just the last game real quick. Those final two pass plays in which LB Ahmad Brooks batted down a pass and LB NaVorro batted one down, can you take us through those plays and how that defense played out?

"They played out very good. It was a tough down in distance. They only needed four yards and they had two downs to get it. And still plenty of time. It wasn't like they had to go in the end zone. But, they very easily could have. So, we played some tight coverage and rushed four guys. And they executed well. It was a big batted pass by Ahmad on the third down. It was a big play by him on the second down when he hit the quarterback. And then the other play there, too, going back to first down, it might have been the second down prior, [S] Dashon Goldson made a good tackle in the flat on the pass, which if he doesn't make that tackle, we wouldn't be talking about third and fourth down. But, we just played tight coverage and rushed four and it worked out."

How about Bowman's play?

"It was a real good play. He was in coverage on a receiver. The receiver ran a short route and good tight coverage, good legal coverage and cut the guy off and batted the ball down."

What kind of adjustments did you make at halftime?

"Not a lot. I think sometimes that's overplayed. We didn't give up any points I don't think the previous week either in the second half until that garbage touchdown at the end of the game. We called the game just a little bit different, but not a lot. Basically our guys just played better in the second half. We played better coverage, rushed a little better and just played a little better, and called it a little different, but not anything major."

And for the most part you just stuck to the game plan?

"Pretty much, pretty much. Called it a little different."

Did it concern you, obviously Falcons QB Matt Ryan almost putting up 300 yards in that first half and some guys have had success against your guys' defense in the playoffs over the last few years, is there a common element why they're strictly wanting to attack you guys through the air?

"Well, the common element is great quarterbacks, great receivers and they were just throwing and catching a little bit better than us. We were able to shut it down to some degree in the second half, not totally shut it down. I thought we played well the week before, and the Giants game last year in the postseason, we played well. And we played [Saints QB Drew] Brees and the Saints very well until the last two drives. So, it's just playing really great quarterbacks with good weapons."

The only time there was somebody running free was on their long touchdown. What happened on that play?

"That was a miscommunication there. We had one guy not playing what everybody else was playing. That's something we pride ourselves on. You guys who have been around here, you don't really see that very much with us. Guys complete passes and whatnot, but there's usually somebody right there with him competing. We usually don't do that."

Do you want the game plan to be in by the time you guys go to New Orleans? And have you decided who the starters are going to be as far as that goes?

"Pretty much. I think it's good to save something though for that week in New Orleans."

So, is this breakdown like a normal practice? Will there be two normal practice weeks?

"Pretty much. Pretty much, but we'll adjust it a little bit. Pretty much."

How familiar is the Ravens offense to you still and some of the players who were there from your time you spent there with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh?

"Well, there are a few players that are still there. Obviously the quarterback and the running back, [Ravens RB Ray] Rice and [Ravens QB Joe] Flacco. But, they've had a change in coordinators there. A couple of the offensive line are still there from when I was there. But, I don't think it's a big advantage."

What about the defense? Can you give insight to your offensive counterparts on this team about their defense?

"Well, again the defensive coordinator there right now is two guys removed from when I was there. So, probably not as much as you think."

From a personnel standpoint, just knowing where Ravens LB Ray Lewis is going, Ravens LB Terrell Suggs, those guys?

"Not really. A lot of that's overblown."

Can you comment on the health of the team?

"The health of the team?"

Yes.

"Our health is fine. [DT] Justin [Smith] has got his issue that he's dealing with fine. And otherwise we're in good shape."

You were I guess the defense assistant with the Philadelphia Stars and they moved to Baltimore. As I understand it, you guys weren't really based in Baltimore. Is that right?

"Correct. We were still based in Philadelphia, just went down to Baltimore to play the games."

OK.

"I was wondering if we could do that here. Base ourselves in Nevada and just come over here and play the games so we don't have to pay California State taxes. Do you think that could fly?"

From my research I thought you guys played in College Park?

"We did. We did."

OK. So you didn't really play in Baltimore? Is that right?

"No, but we were the Baltimore Stars."

The USFL, a lot of cool memories for a lot people of the USFL. What was your experience like?

"Oh, it was a great experience because the two years I was there we won the championship. And we had a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches. A lot of those coaches are still coaching in the NFL today. It was a lot of fun. It was a league I thought really could have made it if they had stuck to the original plan. But, some people got a little greedy. And as the old saying is pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered, and they got slaughtered. So, but I do think that league had a good place and purpose."

How do you feel about your pass rush after this game and LB Aldon Smith hasn't had a sack in a while?

"He hasn't had a sack in five games and we've won four of them. I thought our rush was fine on Sunday. There was a couple plays, the first, third and nine or 10 that they converted. Our rush wasn't good enough that play. There was a couple others that weren't good enough. But, by and large our rush was fine."

You, head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have been together for three years now. What makes that dynamic work?

"I don't know. I don't know that there's any magical answer to that question. Other than I'd like to think that we're all three good coaches. We respect each other. And we do our jobs. Our jobs are clearly defined. Jim and Greg work hard on the offense. Myself and the other defensive coaches work hard on the defense. And we're in it together."

You helped oversee some very good linebacking corps in the past. At Carolina, you had really good ones and everybody I think thinks back to that New Orleans group that you had. The linebackers that you have now, your starters, are they as good as either one of those or perhaps even better?

"As the guys locally here know, I've ducked answering that question yet. These guys have been together two years, and only one year as a fulltime starting unit because Aldon didn't start last year. But, I do think, eventually, if they stay humble and hungry, I will have a positive answer to that question in due time."

I'm sure individually it would be hard to compare any of those players and groups. But, as a unit are there similarities between this group and that New Orleans group, just in terms of how they play together or approach the game?

"There are similarities. We had two really good inside linebackers there in [former Saints ILB] Sam Mills and [former Saints ILB] Vaughn Johnson. They're both very athletic, as our guys are. They're both very tough, as our guys are. And we had two good outside linebackers in [former Saints OLB] Rickey Jackson and [former Saints OLB] Pat Swilling. And our guys are good here. But, like I said, I think the sky's the limit with our guys. We had those starting linebackers in New Orleans for seven straight seasons together. And hopefully we can achieve that here."

Instead of looking at the whole body of work, how about just this season? Is this season about as good as a 3-4 linebacker corps can play together?

"Well, I think these guys are capable of playing better. But, when you put it in that perspective, I think they've played very well together. And I think it'd be pretty hard if we compare it to the other 3-4 teams in the league to find a better unit."

For your linebackers, is the matchup with Baltimore, they've dominated some games. Is the matchup with Baltimore much more physical than other teams you guys have played?
"Yes, could be. They've got a really good blocking fullback in [Ravens FB Vonta] Leach. And he's dominated some linebackers around the league, inside linebackers in particular. And we've better be ready to take him on."

Does Flacco look improved a lot since you last faced him on Thanksgiving, or what do you see about their passing offense?

"I've always liked Joe Flacco. I was there when he was drafted and his first two seasons in the league. And I remember during the first mini-camp, or the first OTA sessions we had with him as a rookie, I said to John Harbaugh, I said you've got your horse here to ride for 10 years at least. I really felt that he could be a really good quarterback in the NFL. And I felt that from that day and I still feel that way. He's got a big arm. He throws the ball effortlessly. The game isn't too big for him. He's calm. He's confident. And he's capable of making all the throws."

Do you ever pinch yourself about the linebacker crew that you have? How they feed of each other. They're friends. They're intense and talented. Do you ever have to remind yourself?

"Well, I'm very appreciative to have them on the team that I happen to be with. And it's always good to have good players. I had some stretches in between that New Orleans group and this group that weren't so good. So, it's always good to have good players. And I really enjoy working with them. That's the thing that I hope nobody loses in talking about them. These guys are good people. And they're fun to be around. I enjoy coaching them. They like to be coached. They want to play good. They have pride in their performance. And they're a good group."

Is there something in your time with John that you still kind of incorporate in your coaching today that you still take with you?

"From John Harbaugh?"

Yeah, because he was new. It was kind of an unusual hire. The two years that you worked with him?

"Nothing that comes to mind immediately."

When you got this long between games, you're trying to figure out your game plan. How do you know when you're done? Is there a danger of over planning?

"I guess there might be, but I haven't ever been around that yet. I think we as coaches have to keep it interesting for them and how we present the stuff. It's very similar, a lot of times in your last preseason game, you don't practice for that last preseason game. You take that week and start on your opener. So, you end up with two weeks to prepare for your opener. And you have it during the regular season when you have a bye somewhere. But, I don't think so. We're going to practice this week and we'll have two days off, traveling, the media day, etc. And then we'll start back up again. I think it will fit good for the players with, kind of, their body clock that Wednesday is a normal Wednesday once we get there. They'll be in their routine."

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