49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman chatted with the media yesterday and discussed a broad range of topics related to the Ravens game and also preparing for the Rams game. He described the Rams defense as aggressive and diverse from a schematic standpoint:
From a coverage and pressure standpoint, I'd say when they first started developing this system, they were willing to take more what people would call risks in coverage than other teams. They would add a guy to the blitz, still play a version of zone coverage and basically burn a zone, as we say, vacate a zone to add another guy to the blitz. Basically, a lot of their blitzes just take the old playbooks and shred them when it comes to protections and rules.
Coach Roman did not reference their rush defense, and I'd imagine that has something to do with the fact that the Rams are not very good against the run. They rank second to last in yards per attempt and 23rd in adjusted line yards.
On the other hand, they rank fourth in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. The Ravens were all over the 49ers on the right side of the line, and one would suspect the Rams are going to take a page or two from the Ravens defensive play-calling. It's a copy-cat league, so I would imagine no matter who is at right guard for the 49ers, that right side of the line will be challenged all game long. Of course, if the 49ers can establish the run against the Rams questionable rush defense, right side pressure might not really matter.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - December 1, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
"First thing I'd like to do is just recognize Chester McGlockton and what a tragedy that was. I know [Head Coach] Jim [Harbaugh] mentioned it yesterday and he was very dear to all of us. I first met Chester at the Pro Bowl following the 1996 season. Working with him at Stanford, we grew to become great friends. We would text each other every week after our games. I'm going to miss him as all his friends will. He was a great man and he did tremendous things for young people. We're going to miss him. We are in the throws obviously of getting ready to play a very aggressive St. Louis defense. They probably, schematically, are as diverse as anybody in the NFL. That's no surprise. Their coach, Steve Spagnuolo, has been an innovator on the defensive side of the ball for awhile now, with the Giants, with the Eagles, with Jim Johnson. That defensive scheme, somewhere along the line, took a left turn where everybody else made a right turn or went straight. They kind of went their own way. It's very unique. A lot of different things our players have to be prepared for. We're looking forward to getting back out there on Sunday. Any questions?
What makes it so unique? What's the left turn?
"From a coverage and pressure standpoint, I'd say when they first started developing this system, they were willing to take more what people would call risks in coverage than other teams. They would add a guy to the blitz, still play a version of zone coverage and basically burn a zone, as we say, vacate a zone to add another guy to the blitz. Basically, a lot of their blitzes just take the old playbooks and shred them when it comes to protections and rules. They've done a tremendous job over the years of being innovative and basically taking offensive rules and violating them. You've got to be careful what you're coaching, may not work. You have to be able to evolve with them. They've done a phenomenal job."
After the Ravens game, QB Alex Smith was asked about the interception in the endzone. He said it was simply a play he hasn't run a whole lot, especially him and WR Braylon Edwards. It sort of seemed like he was saying it's still sort of a result of the lockout. He hadn't gotten a lot of repetitions running certain plays. Is that the case? Are you still sort of dealing with the ghost of the lockout?
"The four day week probably brought that to the light more so than any other time. I think we're settling in to a good rhythm on a seven day week of our preparation reaching a crescendo the morning before the game. With a four day week, that changes everything. We've got to do a better job as coaches. I've got to do certainly a better job of getting our guys ready better on short notice. I didn't hear Alex's comments, so I'm not going to comment on them but the bottom line is we have to execute. We have to do a better job of getting our players prepared."
Is that kind of play, a long pass play, you haven't had a lot of those big, chunk plays, is that sort of the last piece of the puzzle when you're putting an offense together? The hardest thing to accomplish?
"I don't think so. I think a lot of times it's one of the earlier pieces, depending on your scheme and what defenses try to do to defend you. Are they playing soft because they're worried about you going deep or are they all packed in there to stop the run? Timing, space and time, being at the right place at the right time, the ball is there as the receiver breaks, that's the last piece of the puzzle. Really, when you think about it, I'm going to throw this out to you guys. Where do you think that occurs last in an offense? I'll tell you. The redzone. Shorter field, defense defending width rather than depth, tighter windows, that is the last piece, really, of the puzzle: throwing the ball in the redzone. Guys are working hard. We are definitely improving. Thursday night it didn't show, that's for sure. We will correct that."
When you talk about being at the right place at the right time, in his short career, WR Brett Swain has sort of had that. You look at him as a receiver with a Super Bowl ring. What do you see from him? What is kind of your plan for him in this offense?
"Constant hustle is what we see from Brett. Brett came in, obviously didn't have training camp with us, did a great job. I thought we worked out a group of guys, one of the best group of guys I've ever been around during an in-season workout. He won that workout really and earned his way on the team. He just hustles, hustles, hustles. He's very much into precision with his routes. He's smooth. He's got good hands. He's got good quickness. We'll be running the ball on the right sideline, he'll be on the left and he'll always end up in the picture. That jumps off the screen."
Even though there was a four day separation between games, do you feel like you only had two days to really prepare? You only had Monday and Tuesday really to contribute to the Thursday game.
"Really, we had four days. We didn't get it done. There are no excuses here. Credit really to the Ravens. They got it done. We'll learn from it, get better from it, and move on this week with the Rams. Can't wait to get back out there. I wish I could suit up."
Do you attribute the breakdown in protections mostly to that short week?
"I'm not going to make any excuses. You either block them or you don't. You catch the ball or you don't. We didn't block them, we didn't get it done. It was really an overall issue. You never really can say it was just one thing. It was a variety of things and it starts with me."
Why didn't you call some halfback screens to counteract the pressure of the Ravens?
"Why didn't you call me during the game and say that?"
It's a question a lot of fans are asking on my blog and I figured I'd ask you.
"I don't talk scheme. Halfback screens are definitely a weapon. Some teams are better at screen against than others. One thing we do every week is watch screens, how a defense defends them, and make the cost-benefit analysis from there, relative to where we are in our screen game. I'll just leave it at that. Good question though."
Until last week, your offense had been one of the better offenses in the league against the blitz. It doesn't seem like any team has blitzed you as aggressively as the Ravens have, especially overloading that right side. Is that something you see other teams doing in the future?
"You know what the Ravens did? They played really good football. Everything they did, we had seen. There was nothing new except maybe some subtle things. What they did, and you have to give them credit, is they played better than we did. They coached better than we did, all that stuff. There was nothing schematically that was... nothing we really hadn't practiced against or prepared for, or seen from other teams, I might add. So, the credit to them. When you beat blitz, when teams want to pressure you and you beat it, that leaves them with, ‘Okay, now what have we got?' feeling. That's something we've done a great job of the majority of the year, certainly not the other night. Blitzing really didn't have a lot to do with the protection issues."
They brought pressure a lot but how many times was it from a blitz?
"I don't have numbers. They were actually pretty calm when it came to pressure, relative to other teams we've played."
Do you expect to have G Adam Snyder back on Sunday to start or will that be game time?
"Certainly hope we have Adam. It's day-to-day. He's very important, as every player is, to our offense and the continuity we've been able to build up front. Take it day-to-day."
What kind of improvement have you seen from QB Colin Kaepernick in practice and where has he made his biggest leap?
"Colin has made leaps, really in every phase of his game. He needs to continue to do so. There's not one thing I can pinpoint. I will tell you this, he's definitely becoming more comfortable in a pro-style system. He's doing a really good job. There are certain things we knew he'd be really good at and he's getting even better at those. There are other things that we knew he was going to be at ground zero that he is marching up the ladder. It's a work in progress, but he's on the right path with the right approach."
Is there any temptation to give him more playing time just in case something were to happen at a critical juncture like the playoffs so that he has that under his belt?
"That's something that's definitely we would talk about. It's definitely something we would consider."
Do you notice anything different about RB Frank Gore this week, knowing he could take over the all-time rushing title?
"Frank is the same all the time. We love Frank. Frank's a stud. He never changes. Every day he comes in, he's all about football, all about the team. He likes it rough. He likes to run up in there and break tackles and run through tackles. He's got great vision, quickness. All those physical things we all know about him but Frank is very consistent. He's probably aware of it in the back of his mind but I think he, like everybody else, is more focused on the real task which is finding a way to beat the Rams."
Just going back to Chester for a minute. You talked about the text messages that he sent to you. were they more like words of encouragement or was he trying to tell you what other defenses were doing?
"This year? We would just say, ‘hey, great win' and I'd text back, ‘great win, tell such and such he's doing a nice job' one of the kids over there. He would text, ‘you really ran the ball great this week, they had no answer for this or that.' We would talk a lot of football. He was always coming into my office trying to pick my brain. We would exchange a lot of football ideas and whatnot. He was just a wonderful person and boy, I'm going to miss him."