San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman met with the media Thursday afternoon, and it should surprise nobody that he was asked about blame and the 49ers struggling passing attack. Roman accepted the blame, and discussed the need for improvement.
This isn't shocking information, but the question remains how the passing game will improve. We have seen a few questions about rolling Colin Kaepernick out and getting him more on the run. Roman and Jim Harbaugh have both acknowledged this is something to consider.
This weekend against the Saints it will be especially interesting to see how the 49ers handle the Saints strong pass rush. Football Outsiders ranks the Saints No. 1 in adjusted sack rate. The 49ers passing game struggled against the Panthers in multiple ways, and one significant area was in pass protection. Maybe the team will start to move Kap around a little more to keep the pass rush somewhat off balance.
"Sorry to keep you waiting. We've got a big game against the Saints. We know how hard it is to play down there in the dome. They've been very successful down there. Their defense is playing at a very high level right now. Ranked very high in a lot of different categories, but they play really good complimentary team football with their offense, an aggressive scheme. They're very interesting in a sense that they can play you as basic as they want to or they can get as exotic as they as want to. So, really just requires us to have a great week of preparation. There's a lot to look at, lot to study, lot to decipher and head on down to New Orleans. Get on the plane and go win a game. Any questions?"
You guys obviously have played them the last couple years. Last year they were among the worst defenses ever. What changes do you see in that defense from a year ago?
"Very good question. If you go back two years and look at what they were doing and who they were doing it with, their personnel hasn't changed a whole lot. I think they're back more to playing a style of defense similar to what they played two years ago. And that plus some, but they've been very opportunistic. They play hard. They're playing with a lot of confidence."
"Yeah, it's a totally different scheme than last year. Totally different. A little bit more similar to what they were doing the year before with [Tennessee Titans senior assistant defensive coach] Gregg Williams."
With the offenses use of two tight ends so often and the injuries that you had Sunday, are you looking to incorporate more three wide receiver packages to kind of expand the overall multiplicity of your personnel going forward?
"We're always looking to do that. I think when we had two tight ends go down the other day, based on that game plan, that was not ideal. But, you've got to deal with it. The things that we did in the game we practiced. I think we're always, as we keep getting receivers back, we'll probably be a little more of a two, three wide receiver unit. But bottom line is irregardless of circumstance, you've got to find a way to execute and get it done. And these are things we plan for, but that particular game it was a very high percentage of tight end oriented things. So, hope that answers your question."
You guys were the number 32 ranked passing team last week, but it really wasn't that big of a deal until you guys got 46 yards passing in a loss to the Panthers. How much of the blame should be on you for that?
"I think it starts with me and I think any time we don't have success, it definitely starts with me. And we've got to get it fixed. And it's something we're working hard to do, guys are working hard to do. And I don't think there's any question, any time we fall short, I'm looking at myself first and foremost and got to get things fixed."
Is that an easy fix?
"Yeah, I mean nothing in the NFL is easy, but if we work hard at it, focus on it, it will continue to improve. And at the same time, we want to look at that game in and of itself and see why things worked. Was it a good call? How do you make this call work? If a call doesn't work, how do you make it work? Or are you better off just having a different call?"
So after a game like that, do you come back and second guess yourself and look at the game plan, look at the plays and kind of file away, go this is how we can be better next time?
"Oh without question. I think win, lose or draw, you're going to look at every play in the game and decide was that a good play for this game for us relative to the opponent? Some yes, some no, some maybe. Some of them no, but they worked out. And you say, ‘Boy we got lucky on that one,' or, ‘This guy bailed us out on that one. Man he just made a play.' Some of them, ‘Hey that thing should have worked. Look at this, it should have worked. We've got to execute it better.' And that's why it always comes down to formulating an appropriate plan and working extremely hard on it trying to leave no stone unturned and going out and executing it on Sunday."
How's WR Michael Crabtree coming and might we see him on the field?
"Mike's coming along. He's day-to-day and it remains to be seen if he's going to play this week. But, he's looking really good."
Did he practice yesterday?
Did he practice yesterday?
"I mean he was out here."
But he didn't practice?
"I mean he was out at practice."
But he didn't practice?
"Do we want to keep going with this? He was out here."
You're more than halfway through the season and WR Jon Baldwin has received only a handful of snaps throughout the games played. Is there a reason maybe why he's not playing as much?
"No, he's doing a good job, Jon is. We'll continue to incorporate him into what we do. But, he's doing a very good job and just needs to stay on course. Comes in with a great attitude every day. Works real hard. Had a great practice yesterday."
With all the turnover that's gone on at receiver, I mean you go back to the offseason program and Miami Dolphins WR Marlon Moore, Kansas City Chiefs WR Kyle Williams, Kansas City Chiefs WR A.J. Jenkins was part of it, and now you have a different cast of receivers. How's that impacted the challenges of running this offense and calling plays?
"Well, I think every team probably has their own set of circumstances and you need to deal with them and make it work. Certainly you lose continuity, but that's our job to get continuity and get it done."
You guys weren't very good on third down on Sunday, probably because you had a lot of third and longs. Is there any one thing you can point to as execution and play calling that led to all those third and longs?
"Negative plays in that game. It was very uncharacteristic, but it was a very unique set of circumstances throughout the game that led us to have some negative plays and we've got to be better in the third and short situations. We've been really, really good at it this year up until last week and we need to be better there. But, any time you're in 3rd and 10-plus, it's not where you want to be."
How does Colin cope with a loss when he's with you, in terms of studying tape or in his meetings?
"I think, I mean, he breaks it down step by step. He looks at everything and is very methodical about studying it. Much like a coach would."
Not getting into WR Michael Crabtree's participation yesterday, but given his injury and the time frame, do you guys just have to be very careful about bringing him along slowly so he doesn't have a setback?
"With Michael and with anybody that's injured, it really goes through our medical staff. Once they clear them, we'll always be in real close contact with [vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Fergie, the medical staff, and the doctors on what he can do, when he can do it and that really goes for anybody."
He hasn't had any setbacks?
"None that I know of. He's progressing nicely."
TE Vernon Davis said he'll go through contact tomorrow. Is that an encouraging step if you're going to do that or is that just a test to make sure that he can play on Sunday?
"It's part of the protocol. We certainly look forward to having Vernon Davis back there, out there on the field. He's one of the best tight ends in the National Football League."
Now that RB LaMichael is going to be active all these games, does that enable you to kind of focus more on also getting him involved in the offense knowing that he's going to be in uniform every game now?
"LaMichael's a very important part of the offense. I think he brings a different dynamic to what we do. He gives us the opportunity to implement him in different ways. There's some real similarities with he and [RB] Frank [Gore] as well in terms of inside vision and whatnot, but again, every running back's unique and they all bring a little bit of a different style. LaMichael brings a unique style, so I'm glad he's one of us."
I think on Sunday Colin started his 16th game, so basically one full season for him. Is that the stage where you start to see defenses kind of figuring out what he's good and what he's not good at and sort of countering that, at that point that the quarterback has to make the necessary adjustments to overcome that hurdle? Is that where he is in his development right now?
"Colin's progressing very nicely. And, there's still an element of I'm seeing where somebody shows something for the first time. Obviously, there was a lot of that last year and very similar this year. I definitely think there is a punch-counterpunch thing, as there always is."
When you say he's progressing nicely, and head coach Jim Harbaugh said the same thing, the fans can't see that and the stats don't necessarily support that. What are you seeing that makes you say that?
"I get to see him every day. I know what we're trying to do and I know how he's, what he's supposed to do and how he approaches his job. So, looking at it as just I'm looking at the number or the result or the stat, that's a little bit in the category of don't have all the information. We all know it's a results oriented and takes 11 guys on the field doing their job to get it right and really it starts with me when we fall short."
Your offense is toward the bottom of the league in sack rate. Do you think you should be rolling Kaepernick out by design more often or is that not the case?
"Well, it's something we talk about every week. It's an interesting question in the sense that, yes, there are opportunities to do that. But, do you want to roll him out into an overload blitz over here? Do you want to roll him out into an overload blitz over there? But, it's something he's good at, throwing on the move."
So many teams take Tuesdays as their off day. How do you think it benefits the 49ers with guys being able to come in on their ownMonday after a game and get treatment and so on before regrouping on Tuesday?
"I think it's a great schedule. I would never do it any differently. I'm not going to get into the why's, but it's the best schedule I've ever been around and I would never do it differently, unless somebody held me down and made me."
Why do you think more teams don't do it your way?
"I don't know. That's for them to answer."
WR Mario Manningham was limited yesterday and last week he wasn't limited at all. Did he take a step back at all?
"No, he's doing fine. He's doing fine. I was just talking with him about 15 minutes ago. He's doing fine."
Another Kaepernick thing. In your three losses, it seems like his performance from a stats rating standpoint subpar. Is it natural for him to be experiencing growing pains given his experience?
"I think every quarterback in the league is going to have days where their stats aren't great. I think it's important to remember though that it's not just a quarterback. It's 11 guys on the field. It's also bringing forth a great plan and that's something that in those occasions, I need to do a better job of. So, I think it's, and I think Kap understands that's how the quarterback is. He's the lightning rod. But, we all have to do a better job around him to help him be successful."
C Jonathan Goodwin mentioned the word technique again yesterday for the offensive line. Are there some just basic fundamental things that'll get those guys right back on track?
"Yeah. Our offensive line, I wouldn't take any other group. They're always looking to improve. So, there was some great instances in the past game where they played great. But, it doesn't matter. It's all about getting better, and those guys are fully committed to it to a man. I think we have a great group of guys there that work hard and are true blue-collar kind of guys."