The 49ers travel east to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday looking to improve to 4-0 in eastern time zone games. There has been much discussion in recent years about the perils of west coast teams traveling east to play in 10:00am PT games. Prior to this season the 49ers were fairly abysmal at it. This season, part of the team's turnaround has been due to strong play on the road.
Coach Harbaugh briefly addressed the travels east in his Friday press conference before the team departed for DC. One thing he was not asked was about the unique aspect of this week's road trip. The 49ers get an extra hour of sleep Saturday night thanks to Daylight Savings Time. Consider this a Niners Nation reminder to set your clocks back an hour to get that free hour of sleep before Sunday's game.
This might be a slightly ridiculous question, but could the 49ers benefit a bit from Daylight Savings Time given the early start time? I'd be curious to see if there has ever been a study of the impact of that extra hour of sleep for football teams traveling east. My guess is that it is not that big a deal, but you never know. Teams are looking for every advantage they can get, so why not that extra hour of sleep?
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - November 4, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
Is there any update on DT Ray McDonald's status?
"No. No update."
Is it a game-time decision?
"He'll be listed as doubtful for the game."
This is going to be your guys' fourth game on the Eastern time zone now. Do you feel like it's kind of an old hat almost, is there a comfort level now going back there?
"Wouldn't call it a comfort level. We really don't want to be comfortable with ourselves. We want to stay sharp, take no short cuts, don't want to let our guard down."
Do you kind of feel like you've found the right formula to go on the road to those east coast games as far as this structure you guys have playing on the road and everything during those road trips?
"I think the plan is in place and it's the way our guys prepare. I have a lot more confidence now than we did the first time that we got together, even the first time we went on an East coast road trip. And that really comes from the way the players are going about their business and preparing, their training. So, yes there's that, which is big."
There's been a pretty dramatic difference from the first three games to the last four here, the running game. Talking to some of your players, they've talked about just understanding angles a lot better as far as the run game and blocking. If you had to put your finger on one thing, is understanding technique maybe a reason why the run game has improved so much?
"Again, not putting our finger on anything. We're not answering things."
You don't want to peel the onion back on the offense a little bit?
"No, we're asking more questions than we are attempting to put our finger on one thing."
In terms of that run game, what kind of strides has FB Bruce Miller made in these past four or five games playing fullback?
"Growing in his confidence. Growing in his understanding of what his job is, and how to execute his assignments. And that's come with playing, but it's also come with his study habits."
He also says RB Frank Gore has been real helpful communicating stuff when they get up to the line of scrimmage, do you see that interaction?
"I do see that interaction, yes."
Going back to if Ray McDonald can't play, just the job that DT Ricky Jean Francois has done stepping in in his absence, and having him available to do that, what does he bring?
"He brings a lot. He brings a talented, blue collar, hardworking football player that everybody in the room has great confidence in. Everybody on the team has great confidence in him. A consummate team player. We'd sure like to have Ray, we hope to have Ray, but feel good with Ricky. Feel better with both, but..."
What is the Redskins' biggest threat I guess offensively that you're concerned with?
"There's a lot of areas with this team that you just cannot let your guard down. And we go into it that way. That kind of mentality that we're going to have to play our best football in this football game. It's going to be a fight, an athletic fight. I think football is that sport that combines athleticism, that struggle, that boxing mentality, if you will. When I was a kid boxing was just a lot more popular. So, sometimes you get boxing analogies from me. So, I think that's going to be a heavyweight fight."
Bill Walsh used to use boxing analogies. Did you pick any of that up from him watching your old tapes of Bill Walsh?
"Yeah, I noticed that. Come from that generation. Boxing was more prevalent then in the culture."
Also, at the beginning of training camp you said that you wanted to take whoever were the best five for the starting O-line, with the starting O-line you have now, is that the best five you guys have?
"Still look at it as those seven guys that we dress and play. And we treat really all seven of those guys as starters, and they've been outstanding. The five that start the game, and then [T Alex] Boone and [T/G] Chilo [Rachal], they do a great job on the steps. They're in there in their preparation. Those two guys have been consummate team players."
You've gotten all seven of them in on a couple of plays haven't you?
"Yeah sometimes five, sometimes six, sometimes seven."
Was C/G Adam Snyder lined up in the backfield on that play to DT Isaac Sopoaga?
"He was in a wing position."