In Week 11, the Niners will host the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. On display will be the 49ers ball-control offense versus the Bears attacking defense. It is a perfect clashing of philosophies and on a national stage no less.
San Francisco prides themselves on being able to take care of the football, while Chicago is all about taking it away.
When it comes to stripping the ball, jumping routes, punching it out and generally swarming to the ball, the Bears are first-rate. For the 49ers, moving the ball downfield against the Bears D should prove to be quite a challenge. They have to emphasize taking care of the football at all times.
The Bears are extremely aggressive and will continue to get after it.
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman spoke to the media on Friday, addressing this week's match-up. And to no surprise, a big theme in his presser was around ball-security. It seems his unit spent quite a bit of time going over the fundamentals, as to prevent a mugging by the Bears defenders.
If the 49ers go into this game with anything but ball-security on their mind, they will be dismantled.
49ers preparation for aggressive Bears D:
Well, I think the first thing you got to do is, and something we talk about around here a lot is ball security. And there have been times where we've been extremely good at that. So visually, I think when you look at what they've actually done and how they've created turnovers, I think that's been the most powerful tool...So we've shown them early in the week, lots of visual evidence, and there's lots of it. We didn't have time to show it all to them, so we showed them some of it.
They do a great job punching, stripping, raking - and their DB's, their corners are playing at a very, very high level right now, defending the pass and also after the catch. A lot of teams up till now have made plays against them, and then bam, balls out. So, tons of visual evidence.
Carrying the football:
You definitely teach ball security. There's a technique to carrying the football. Your wrist wants to be above the elbow, we call that the eagle claw; it wants to be over the tip of the ball. Your elbow wants to be tight to your ribcage. You do not want your elbow lifted up.
And there are three or four specific techniques defenses use to strip the ball. This punching technique, it's new - it's not typical, it's a little bit revolutionary, I might say. A lot of people try to lawnmower ya, pull this arm away from your body, a lot of people try to lift the elbow up or punch from behind.
It seems Roman has his guys well prepared, but we won't truly know until game time. It will come down to execution and nothing else. Each player will have to do his part to ensure San Francisco wins the turnover margin on Monday.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - November 17, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Listen to Audio I Media Center
"Sorry for the wait. Big game, obviously Monday night really good team with the Bears. They've got a really, really good defense, when it's all said and done. Hey, maybe they might be considered great. They're good against the run and pass. Statistically, you look at the statistics, they're really good and then you turn on the film and they're really good, nothing changed. Very disciplined defense with a lot of talent, well coached. Obviously, the first thing that jumps out to anybody that looks at the Bears defense is just the amount of turnovers they've caused. A lot of them, they've caused, it's not just a team giving the ball away, they're taking it. We've got a huge challenge in front us and looking forward to it. Any questions?"
So what do you tell the guys? Do you emphasize the fundamentals of carrying the ball? What are you harping on the guys this week, to make sure that doesn't happen to you and your offense?
"Well, I think the first thing you've got to do, it's something we talk a lot about around here, is ball security. There's been times when we've been extremely good at that. Visually when you look at what they've actually done and how they've created turnovers, I think that's the most powerful tool because as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words sometimes. We've shown them early in the week lots of visual evidence and there's lots of it. We didn't have time to show it all to them, so we should them some of it. They do a great job punching, stripping, raking. Their DB's, their corners are playing at a very, very high level right now, defending the pass. And also after the catch, a lot of teams up till now have made plays against them at times and then bam, the ball is out. Tons of visual evidence."
Do their corners play sides or does one guys shadow the other?
"Yeah, they'll match up. They'll match up quite a bit."
Is Bears CB Charles Tillman usually what they classify as the other team's top receiver?
"I think it's more of a skill-set thing. I think they probably decide who the best match up is and go with that. I can't answer that, but they will match up."
I have a question and a follow up, is QB Alex Smith going to play Monday night?
"Alex is going through the protocol right now and that's in the doctor's hands. When we know, you will probably know."
My follow up is, is part of the protocol, does he have to do anything on the field or is it just neurological tests?
"I'm not an expert on the protocol, but part of that process is physical."
Has he done that part yet?
"Not to my knowledge."
Would he have a chance to do it tomorrow?
"I believe that's part of the schedule. I think that is consistent with the schedule."
How has he looked on the field this week and what differentiates a non-contact drill from any other week for a quarterback?
"I don't know if I can answer the second one. I don't know if there is a real answer to that. I think, again, I'm not an expert on it, [director of football operations & sports medicine] Jeff Ferguson is however. I believe all players have to go through the same protocol regardless of position. But he's looked good, he's looked really sharp."
So he's done basically the same workload that he would in a normal work week.
But he hasn't been cleared to play yet?
"I think there's protocol that the league mandates a player must go through and that's a process. At the end of that, that decision is made."
Can you tell me what your other two quarterbacks or your second and third guys - do they give you a list of plays out of the game plan that they're most familiar with, most comfortable with?
"We work together on that. We'll work together. We have a pretty good grasp of that. But we'll talk through them individually and then we'll kind of highlight certain plays for certain guys, yes."
When is that done?
"Usually a day before the game, yeah. Day before the game, sometimes a little bit ahead of time. Some plays you put in for one guy in mind, some plays the other guy. But we definitely prioritize for each guy."
If Alex plays do you expect QB Scott Tolzien to be activated?
"That's a good question. An hour and a half before the game we'll make that decision, but that's possible."
More of a chance of that this week than any other week?
"I think there's a lot of different scenarios this week and it's fluid and we've talked through them. It will change according to how the big picture changes and obviously the quarterback position is a huge piece of that."
Would you say the reps have been pretty much the same as it would be in a normal week?
"Not quite as much for Alex, but I think he's gotten plenty of practice time."
And then obviously, if you would think that QB Colin Kaepernick were to start you would want Colin to have all the reps this week?
"I mean shoot, that's kind of like, is there anything else I can wish for? It's just one of those situations when you don't know, you don't know. So, you try to allocate your resources accordingly, and time on task accordingly. But at the beginning of the week you could say hey, I don't think this is going to happen, I think he's going to be fine, let's give him all of the reps, let's split them, let's do this, let's do that. But in the end you really don't know, that's my point. You've just got to try to make the best decision you can and be ready to adjust."
You mentioned their ability to punch and rake the ball.
"Yeah, it's outstanding."
Charles Tillman specifically, is a Hall of Fame talent doing that?
"I've never seen anybody do it better, so that's pretty good. And every time he does it, it seems he might not get it out, but he's definitely close to getting it out or the person carrying the ball is extremely aware of his presence. There's some really great examples of some guys when he just happened to be around, that other hand goes over that fifth point of pressure covers the ball up. I definitely think when you watch film you can tell who was from a fundamental and technique standpoint more prepared for that than others."
How would you grade Kaepernick's performance against the Rams? Were there any plays you'd like to have back and if so which ones?
"I'm not going to get into which ones, but I thought he did a very good job of coming in to the game and moving the team. There's definitely some plays in there that he could have played better on, he knows it. There's some really good plays that he made, off the cuff, that you can't coach. He did a good job, I thought he was very poised, he was very prepared mentally, physically and emotionally. I think there was a couple plays here and there that we could do a little bit better, but that's not just Kap that's everybody."
How much more do you need to see from him before you make him your starter?
"That's really not a relevant question, but, Kap's a guy that's improving all the time, really like his mindset. He's always one play away from being the starter, and as far as I was concerned, when he was in the game playing, he was the starter. Now how that moves forward when Alex comes back, Alex is our starter and Kap's ready to come in at any time."
Going back to Tillman, is there something that you see that makes him better at doing this than other based on...
"Okay, yeah, that's an interesting question. And here's how I'd answer that: I think he's an extremely disciplined corner. When I watch him play, I think the coaches probably love him because he does everything exactly right. He is by-the-book and he's a technician. And then when it comes to stripping the ball and punching it out, he is just so far ahead of everybody, it's not even funny, everybody else. Every play, he's got a plan on how he's going to approach a tackle. That's very rare. I can't say I've seen anybody do it with that kind of precision. So, it's very impressive. They've got a great defense. We've got our hands full and we're really looking forward to it."
Do you stress ball security? I've heard that a lot last year with the Bears success. How do you teach that and have you talked about it more this week and watched more of the film going against this opponent?
"You definitely teach ball security. I mean, there's a technique to carrying a football. Your wrist wants to be above the elbow. We call that the eagle claw. It wants to be over the tip of the ball. You want your elbow tight to your rib cage. You do not want your elbow lifted up. And then there's three or four specific techniques defenses use to strip the ball. The one, this punching technique, it's new. It's not typical. It's a little bit revolutionary, I might say. A lot of people try to what-you-call lawnmower you, pull this arm away from your body. A lot of people try to lift the elbow up or punch from behind. That's why you want your elbow tucked. There's other ways that guys do it and there's techniques to defend it. When you're running behind the defense, in front of the defense, somebody's coming at an angle as you're going to the ground, that's when a lot of fumbles take place. But, those are all things we emphasize all the time and we better be on it against this team."
Watching film against teams that have played the Bears, is there one team you hold as a shining example of, ‘That's the team that handled the Bears well?'
"In different phases, yes, in different phases. I think from a ball security standpoint, there's one team that jumped out to me. I'm not going to say who it was, but I thought they did a great job of playing fundamental, good football as far as carrying the football."
We didn't talk last Monday. We were just talking to Vic and he was saying how similar Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell were and how that makes it easier for the Bears if the starter goes down. I would imagine that your first and second quarterbacks are very different. Does that make it difficult in a week like this to, like you were saying, allocated enough reps to both guys?
"Makes it exciting. I'm excited and no matter who plays, I'm excited, chomping at the bit, can't wait to get out there and watch our guys play. We've got one more day of preparation, can't wait."