Jim Harbaugh met with the media Monday and had plenty of topics to discuss following a bizarre 24-24 tie. We'll have more in the coming days, but among other things, Coach Harbaugh discussed his feelings a day after the tie, who the 49ers emergency quarterback was on Sunday after Smith left, and the team's advance planning for the Bears. Give it a read.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - November 12, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Listen to Audio I Media Center
A day later, do you have any thoughts now on absorbing what happened yesterday as far as the tie goes?
"Yeah, it's a strange feeling, the fact that we don't win the game. But, you're proud of your players the way they fought and they hung in there. That game could have gone several different ways. To be in a position to have a chance to win the game and then we don't win the game, on one hand you're very proud of your players and we all take accountability that we didn't get the job done. The most important thing right now is for us to rally, reinvigorate ourselves, come back strong this week against a very formidable opponent and that's what we'll set our sights on."
One of your players, S Dashon Goldson, mentioned he didn't even know that you could have a tie. Is that an element? Did you guys try to inform the players what the rules are in overtime, is that important that he know that?
"Yeah, I think that's important for everybody to know, especially the situation we were in and that's why we called the prevent defense there at the very end, for that purpose."
What's the latest on QB Alex Smith? Did you talk to him today? How's he doing?
"Doing much better, he had a good night's sleep last night. Symptoms were positive today and he'll be visiting with the neurologist later this afternoon. That'd be the next step."
You watch that series and there's no way to tell that he's got a concussion there. A couple great throws at the end of that drive. Did he remark on that, that he wasn't feeling those symptoms when he was out there? It was only after he came back to the sideline that he started to have that blurred vision.
"Yeah, he said that he had the blurred vision after he got up from the quarterback sneak, which was maybe two possessions after the hit that you're referring to, and that was a good sized hit. Our doctors were good. They were very proactive on that hit. They watched it on the monitors and Alex had no symptoms after that hit. He was cleared to play. And then it appears that it was the quarterback sneak where he comes up and has blurred vision and that's when we brought in [QB] Colin [Kaepernick], immediately. So, I think our doctors handled it very well. There's no telling, did that earlier hit contribute? I don't know. I don't think Alex knows for sure either."
So he played those last six plays after the sneak, with blurred vision, threw a touchdown pass, with blurred vision?
When you were talking about the earlier hit, the one where he scrambled left to start that drive and turned his back at the last moment and took that helmet shot in the back, is that something where - obviously you want to see your quarterback go feet first into a slide but at the same time is that just that instincts are taking over at that point and there's nothing you can do to coach him to get him out of that position?
"I think there's a better way to protect yourself. You want to get as horizontal to the ground as you can so there's nothing sticking up, especially your head."
Do you want him to take himself out of the game if he's got blurred vision?
"Yeah. That's something that, you don't want him out there with blurred vision."
Have you told him that since?
"Yeah, we talked about it. What he expressed was he came out from the sneak and he had blurred vision. He felt that it would go away and then came over to the sideline and sat down and felt like it was something that would go away, but it didn't. Then he told me he had blurred vision and that's when we made the move."
Will Kaepernick get the bulk of the snaps in practice this week now that Alex is hurt?
"We'll see. It all depends really on when Alex is cleared to come to back to practice."
Do you reach a point of no return in the week when you've got the gameplan going, is in, you going to go with Kaepernick at some point? Or could Smith come back and does know the offense well enough without throwing, once he gets the clear to come back, and play that game?
"Rather than speculate, we'll let it play out and there's a progression and evaluations that have to be gone through before we really know anyways. Rather than speculate on it, we'll let it play out."
Some coaches think that if a guy can't practice at any point during the week before the game, then he's not going to play. Where do you come in on that?
"There's a couple different schools of thought. Rather than make a general statement, it's more dependent on the player."
Their styles are so different, but do you have to have to have two plans in place whether it's Alex at quarterback or Colin at quarterback?
"There could be some subtle differences, but I wouldn't call it two plans in place, no."
What did you learn about Colin yesterday? He's obviously played in spurts, but to play two and half quarters like that, what did you learn by his ability?
"I think there are a lot of positives. Coming into that situation which is a situation he's never come into in an NFL game, behind, come in and be asked to move the team, score points and contribute to winning the game. That was a new experience for him. I thought he handled himself very well."
What did you think about his decision making, that's obviously, a key playing quarterback? We know he has physical skills. When you reviewed the game, what do you think about his decisions?
"A lot of good ones, a lot of good ones. Some that like any quarterback, there's a couple that you'd like to have back. But overall I thought he had a solid performance."
Who was your number three quarterback yesterday?
"[WR] Kyle Williams."
Is that something - how much time have you spent preparing for that emergency type of situation?
Injury wise, G Mike Iupati and LB Aldon Smith said that they had some minor things happened during the game, but they went back in and finished the game. Nothing more serious on those guys?
"Some things, some bumps and bruises, some things that guys will be working through. But at this point, I don't think there's anything real serious."
The Rams really ran well against you yesterday. With your front seven, I'm not used to seeing that. Why were they able to run so well against you yesterday?
"I think, especially early, that was a factor in the first quarter. Thought we did a pretty good job defending the run after that. Give [Rams RB] Steven Jackson a lot of credit, he really came to play and was very effective and ran hard."
But do you still feel that you still defend the run as well as you did, say last year?
"Yeah I think we do a god job defending the run. Not as well in the first quarter of the game, the first couple of series of the game, but for the most part after that, yes."
The battle in the trenches early on the Rams were putting pressure on, what did you tell the offensive line in adjusting to the way the pressure was?
"What did we have to tell them? Like I said at the beginning, we've got to reinvigorate ourselves, we've got a formidable opponent. Fundamentals, techniques, things we have to continue to strive to improve and that's something that will be an emphasis this week, as it is every week."
About the thing about the tie, you coached college with that tie-breaking rule. What are your feelings about the way the NFL handles this? Do you think you should keep playing till the end? Do you like this set up?
"I think it's a just, as a rule, not many games are going to end in a tie, the way it's set up. I think the rules are good, they're fair for both teams and it just happened that it ended up in a tie."
Does K David Akers have an issue right now with his confidence?
"No, not that I'm aware of."
Do you feel confident that he can snap out of this? And what have you sort of pinpointed for the reason that he doesn't seem to be kicking with as much consistency as a year ago?
"I'm not pinpointing any reason why."
Do you have-?
"No, I have no indication that he's not confident either."
Why in the beginning of the games, some of these games, has the team started out slowly? Specifically Minnesota and in this past game?
"Well, we're not going to point fingers, or come up with a reason just to come up with a reason. Thing is there have been a couple games where we haven't, we haven't started as quickly as we'd like. Executing as well as we would have liked. We can say as prepared as we would have liked. So, that's something that we've got to address, and we've got to think it through and see if there is any, a reason."
Is there any sense that it's as simple as the underdog vs. the favorite team? The underdog comes in with more passion than the team that's favored?
"Our team does not take the Rams lightly at all. We had a very tough ball game with them last year at the end of the season. And their quarterback was back playing. We were very aware that the Rams were a very good football team. As far as who the favorite is and who the underdog is, I don't think we really look at that in our preparation or our thought process."
But is there anything to the sense that now the 49ers after last season have sort of put yourself up there among the upper echelon of the NFC and teams are gearing for you?
"I think it's the NFL. And the enemy gets a vote as well as we do. And yeah, we want to start fast. We want to get ahead. We want to stay ahead. This game we didn't. We were 14 down and had to find a way. It took us darn near 60 minutes to get the lead back. And we weren't able to sustain it, to finish it and get the win. It's a very competitive league."
You referred to the Bears as a formidable opponent and they're obviously at this point one of the best teams in the NFC. How much of a barometer will this game be, especially for your offense given how good their defense is?
"As always, I think it's a big game. It's a huge game. I think everybody will be crowded in to watch it to see how we respond, see how the Bears respond. Football world will be watching this one and it's a big game because it's the next game. But, it's a big game. Feel that our team will respond well. And they did in this last game. There was a lot of fighti in our team. There was no quit by anybody. And you're proud of them. I'm proud of them for that."
Did you guys do advance work on Chicago in the bye week?
"We've been doing the work on the Bears, absolutely."
They're going through the same thing in terms of the quarterback with a concussion and all the procedures. The way the NFL has focused in on concussions over the last year or two, what are your thoughts on the protocol that is now set up for quarterbacks and any player, that they have to go through to be cleared?
"What do I think of the protocol?"
"I think it's a major point of emphasis and I don't have a medical degree. So, confident in the way that the doctors, especially our doctors, their understanding of it and their professional opinion. That's what we rely on."
Because obviously you were down to your last quarterback in effect last week, yesterday. Did you have to be at least be careful with the play calling with QB Colin Kaepernick as far as any runs? I guess, were you more conservative kind of making sure he stayed healthier that day?
"We didn't put any limiter on Kap, or restrictions on him. We were in the mode to try to win the game and give our team the best chance to do that."
On the fake punt later in the game, were you guys on alert that that was a definite possibility? Were you guys expecting it? You guys didn't have your defense on the field. What was your approach on that particular play?
"Well, it was an alert all week. We know the Rams are a fake team. They like to run fakes. They run them very well. Wish in hindsight we would have been in a better position to defend the fake and didn't anticipate that they would run a fake at that point. But, we're still alert. We're still coached for it. We could have put our guys in a better position, but we're in a position to defend it. We didn't get it done."
At the end of the first half, were you kind of putting the onus on the Rams to do exactly what they did?
"Yes. Yes, when you run the rush that we run. Yeah, you understand that they could do exactly what they did. And you don't expect them to. You're rolling the dice that they won't do it as far backed up as they are coming off their own eight-yard line."
Are you kind of hoping they do do it?
"Well, if they do do it, they could skip the ball. They could throw it over his head. And that's points for us if they do do that. But, no I wouldn't say that we were daring them into it. We just felt like we were playing the percentages and have a chance to rush and block the punt. And they executed as well as you can and made a great play."
You obviously played quarterback and have coached it for many years. How unique is Colin's skills at that position? Offensive coordinator Greg Roman earlier this year made a comment how he's a very unique athlete at that position given his length, long legs, long arms, long stride. I'm curious, your impressions of sort of what he brings to that position that may be unique?
"I think he's got some unique skill sets. Running ability, he's able to extend the play. Make yards with his feet. He's got a very strong throwing arm. Both those things showed up in the ball game yesterday and that was a positive. It was a positive the way Colin handled himself. He was confident. He was not scared at all. And I thought he acquitted himself very well."
When you played quarterback in college and in the pros, I'm sure you had concussions. How many did you have that you could remember?
"I don't know. I really don't. Some."
Some. OK. Follow up is, I know people weren't as aware at a certain time at how serious it was and what to do. Did you ever come back and feel that maybe your ability was maybe a little, in retrospect, a little limited because you were working through a concussion?
"Yeah, it's possible. I wouldn't say definitively. But, there's been advancements. And I think that's good for the people that play the game, the men that play the game."
No lingering effects from that? I know that's another issue as guys get older. Have you felt anything?
"No. There may be different, people may have a different opinion on that [laughs]. I'm sure. So, we'll get back to work and get ourselves re-energized, reinvigorated and come back with a great week of preparation and a very important game. And very much look forward to it. Thanks a lot."