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49ers Vs. Ravens: Dealing With The Baltimore Defensive Interior

The 49ers and Ravens released their injury reports yesterday and there were no changes. Bruce Miller remains a DNP and Ray Lewis remains limited in practice. For the 49ers offense both of these injuries raise some issues. The 49ers' run and pass blocking has been quite solid since Bruce Miller moved into the starting lineup. It is not all him, but he has stepped up big time in his first year as a fullback.

The Ray Lewis injury opens some doors for the 49ers on offense. During his pre-practice press conference yesterday, offensive coordinator Greg Roman discussed how the Ravens defense likes to funnel offenses inside to their powerful interior. They have a pair of strong outside linebackers in Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson that can help force teams inside.

Their interior takes a hit if Ray Lewis sits, but they still have quality interior talent. I'm wondering if the 49ers try and hit up the outside edges a bit more tomorrow, whether it be some more pitches or swing passes and routes out into the flat. The 49ers could potentially loosen up the interior with more outside work, thus setting up Frank Gore for a big run up the middle.

Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - November 22, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Opening Statement:

"Obviously playing a really tough team defensively. The front seven is extremely good, very well coached. You have [LB Terrell] Suggs on one side, [LB Jarret] Johnson on the other. Probably set the edge as good if not better than anybody in the NFL. You've got [DT Haloti] Ngata and the D-Linemen inside that are very stout. Obviously their linebackers are very good players. Ed Reid is arguably the best free safety to ever play the game. Their corners, I think there were a lot of question marks about them, but they stepped up. Very physical players, competitive. Just really well-coordinated defense. Very physical. It's an awesome, exciting challenge. We're deep in the throes of preparing for it." 

Facing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's defense in training camp, not looking at their defense, they seem to do more. They seem to move around a lot. Are there similarities?

"I think there are a lot of similarities. It's just what Vic chooses to do and what they choose to do probably splinter off in two different directions at different times depending on personnel. Vic's defense, and I'm sure their defense, really have the ability to look exactly the same if they want to. It's just what they choose to do, but there's a lot of similarities, yes." 

Do you prepare any differently if LB Ray Lewis is or is not in the game?

"Ray Lewis is a great player, was a great player. He'll go down as one of the best linebackers to ever play the game. You have to be aware of where he is. He's just such a smart, distinctive football player. He brings so much to the team. The people that have been stepping up for him played great last week against Cincinnati. We have to be ready for anybody. There's a lot of respect there." 

Is there sort of defensive philosophy to funnel everything to the middle to Lewis, to Reid, to Ngata?

"That's it in a nutshell, depending on what defense they're playing. Suggs is probably one of the best run players in the league. He probably doesn't get much credit for it. Johnson is as well. They're really, really good at it. Really good at it. Probably not publicly acclaimed for it, but I can tell you. We watched every one of their games obviously. They are playing at a high level." 

With such a short turnaround, did you even look at last week's game plan as this would be applicable next week against the Ravens as well?

"Not really. Two different styles, two different schemes, different personnel. You like to have as much carryover as you can. Some things may fit against this defense, some might not. Definitely don't want to overburden the players with too much information in this time frame. I think you start that process when you originally teach what you're teaching in a conceptual fashion so that they can apply principles and not have to learn everything on a short amount of time. Players did a great job of that during the game last week. They did something different so we started running things we hadn't even practiced or talked about practicing. That's when you feel good about where you're going because now you can make adjustments that work, not adjustments that don't work." 

So you ran stuff last week that wasn't even in the game plan?



"Yes. That's credit to the players. They did a phenomenal job of picking that up." 

When the schedule came out and you guys were in the middle of the lockout and you obviously knew that you would have a short week this week, would you say that you guys did the most work on the Ravens during the lockout? How much offseason work did you do on that?

"We did plenty but there was a coordinator change. You can really notice some overt and some subtle difference in their schemes and what they do. But yes, we definitely looked at really the entire NFL, everybody we were playing, during the lockout and during the bye week." 

How did you evaluate how WR Michael Crabtree did last week?

"Oh he was phenomenal. Did a great job just catching the ball, run after catch, playing physical, exerting his will. Very inspiring to us all. It was great that he was able to get those opportunities playing hard and playing fast. Looking forward to that continuing to build." 

Has he kind of found a groove these last few weeks? Maybe since Detroit?

"I don't know about that but he continues to improve. He missed a great deal of training camp so the expectation is that he will improve and he has done so." 

How's FB Bruce Miller doing?

"Bruce is doing well." 

Do you expect him to play Thursday?

"We'll have to wait and see." 

Is FB Moran Norris ready to play if Bruce can't go?

"I hope so, yes. I believe he is. We'll have to wait and see." 

How much was WR Kyle Williams involved in the offense last year, those changes you talked about with practice?

"Kyle was a little bit involved in some of those. Kyle brings a great attitude to work every day. He brings a lot of energy to our group and he's really starting to develop as a player and it's very exciting to see." 

With a short week, they seem like they rotate their line a lot kind of like the Giants do. Does that present problems because your offensive line have to look at a number of people I would imagine?

"The more good players a team has and funnels in there, the more it makes it hard on you as an offense. This is definitely a team with no shortage of very good defensive players, nor has it been for quite awhile."