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Jim Harbaugh talks 49ers offensive struggles, referee issues and more

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Monday afternoon and had plenty to discuss following the 49ers 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Wesley Hitt

Did you get to take a closer look at the LB Ahmad Brooks hit? And if you did, what are your thoughts on it today?

"I think the thoughts that everybody has with their own individual eyes. Do you need my opinion on it?"

Are you saying that own individual eyes that there can be a lot of different interpretations of it?

"Our interpretation was, when we grade a player, if he's got a penalty we give him a minus, but we did not assign a minus on that play. That's our interpretation."

Do you empathize with Brooks' statements about the thing is, it's hard to know where to tackle a guy anymore it seems, a quarterback?

"Yes. I empathize with him. I thought he made a great play. And, it didn't get the result."

Do we have an update on G Mike Iupati and CB Tarell Brown at all?

"No. No update there."

I remember hearing one of the players that in the preseason the officials come in and you're very specific and ask them to get as precise as possible about what is and what is not a penalty. Could you talk about that procedure, that back and forth with them and does it make something like what happened yesterday more frustrating?

"That's a process all the teams go through. They send an officiating crew in twice, once in the offseason, once in training camp. And, yeah, you have an opportunity to go through film-footage and ask questions, etcetera. Does that make it more frustrating, this particular play? No. The play occurred that occurred. I thought Ahmad hit at the right level, hit at the shoulder level. The quarterback kind of shrunk down and that's the official's call to make. I'm going to see it the way I see it and that's going to be a slanted view. I really don't know much more to say about that."

Can you maybe elaborate why you think it's a bad call?

"I said it's the official's call to make. I'm going to see it with my eyes and I'm explaining that maybe that's because it's through my eyes, my perspective, our perspective of this team. So, possibly that could explain."

You went through a similar line of questioning earlier this year with S Donte Whitner with a hit in the end zone. Does it seem like anytime there is a big hit, a violent hit, no matter whether it's legal or illegal, it's going to get called at this point in the stage of the NFL?

"Well, I mean, this isn't NASCAR. This isn't where the drivers and the owners after the game or the race get up there and start throwing punches at each other and questioning every call and everybody's in everybody's face heated, etcetera. Or the next day, talking about how the points went. We can't argue that. And you know that. You know I can't stand up here and make these comments. So, that's two different worlds. There's NASCAR and there's professional football. So, it's not our place as coaches to talk about that."

Have you spoken to the league?


How do you think CB Eric Wright played, played throughout the second half? How did he do in that role?

"Very good. I thought he had good eyes early in the game. Made a very nice tackle. His coverage was tight. I thought he did good. I thought he did a fine job for his first time out there."

RB Anthony Dixon tweeted he was frustrated he didn't get to run the ball more. What's your reaction to that?

"I'm attacking the day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Win or lose, that's the approach. Win, come back and make sure that you can contribute anything you can to the winning. If you lose, you want to come back and make sure that darn near never happens again. That's what I think."

Why did you have such difficulty running the ball yesterday in your estimation?

"It was a tight football game both ways. It came down to a couple plays and we didn't, it didn't go our way and we didn't end up making the play. There were some tough sledding running the ball. We popped a few. We didn't pop enough."

Did you go into the game thinking that you would do more passing than running, just because of how the Saints would attack your offense?

"Yes. That was part of the plan going in. I thought our guys, both offensively, defensively, special teams, executed the plan. And there was several positives that you build on. Adversity? Yes, we've got that. I always look at that as an opportunity to show the steel in the spine, so, that's what we're going to have to do. Look forward to that challenge."

Obviously you wouldn't like to have turnover at any particular position, but with receiver this year, you guys have undergone more there than anywhere else. With how much timing and chemistry is predicated on receivers' success, is that something that, is it harder to deal with turnover at that position specifically?

"I'm sure you could make that argument, yeah, definitely as it relates to the passing game. There's other positions that are equally as difficult. We've got some new guys coming back onto the roster and look forward to getting up to speed, getting that precision. That's what you're chasing there."

It seems like the offense hasn't produced to its normal standards the last couple weeks. How much of that is, you've obviously played two pretty good defenses, how much of it is that and how much of it is just you guys not playing as well as you have most of the season?

"And, two defenses that have played us very different styles two weeks in a row. But, the mindset is, you don't win the game you're not going to feel great, and you don't feel good. I know that as a coach. And if you want to feel better, coach better. That's what I tell myself. So, do the next right thing. We've got to do the next right thing and that's attacking today and getting ready for the Washington Redskins."

When you say that, where do you see that you need to coach better?

"Well, I feel like if you don't feel good, then coach better. So, trying to find every way to do that."

How do you evaluate yourself when you're trying to coach better?

"Win games. Put the players in positions to be successful."

Obviously when you make a challenge, you feel like teams are, you feel like the play went a different way. But, when you ran out of challenges yesterday, did you feel like maybe afterwards that maybe I should have saved one of those?

"Yeah. Yeah, sure did. I was kind of biting my nails on that. With no challenges left and two and almost a half quarters left in the game, you're hoping that doesn't come back and bite you. And, fortunately it didn't, but I don't want to put our team in that position again, no. And that was, one, didn't have the video evidence on was on the scramble by [Saints QB Drew] Brees. The second one, we had the video evidence. We knew he was in bounds. We knew that the ball got juggled, but were hoping that it would be reversed. Probably hoping against what we thought would happen. But, no, you don't want to put yourself in that position."

How do you think RB LaMichael James has done as a punt returner? And beyond him, what do you look for in a punt returner? What's the biggest skill you think to make a good punt returner?

"Being able to track the ball. To handle it and catch it. Then get the ball up field. Make a first down. That's what you're looking for. Return the punt and get a first down for your offense."

And you're happy with the way he's been doing that?

"I think he's been coming along good, yeah. I think he's doing a fine job."

Why did WR Mario Manningham have a more reduced role in this game than the week prior?

"Did he have a reduced role?"

His snaps were a little bit--.

"What were they? Significant? Didn't seem like a--."

Did it have anything to do with a knee issue or anything like that?


You referenced getting some of the new faces up to speed. How's WR Michael Crabtree? Do you think Crabtree will be ready byMonday night?

"We'll see. A lot of it's going to depend on getting out there every day, practicing, and how much of a load he can do."

What did you see from him in practice last week? Do you think he's close?

"We'll see. I think so. I think he's close."

Looking ahead to December, speaking of Mario and Crab, is the hope that when they come back, life just gets easier all the way around for the offense, yards come more easily? It just seems like it's a grind right now for you guys to get first downs. Is that reason for optimism and hope?

"Yes, I think that's reason for optimism and hope. I think that's well said, yes."

How's LS Kevin McDermott done at this stage of the season as a rookie to come in and earn that job?

"He's done well. That there aren't weekly questions about Kevin McDermott and his snapping, that's a real positive. When the snapper's not, when you're not talking about the snapper, then he's doing well. And he has done well. Been a lot of pressure snaps and done a real fine job and it's good to point that out."

How did you feel QB Colin Kaepernick played yesterday under the circumstances of the noise and people missing and not being able to run?

"I thought he did some incredible things. Played with great poise. Thought he threw the ball, made some great throws. Talked about the throw to Jon Baldwin. That was a great throw and a great catch. Some real good throws to [WR] Anquan [Boldin] and Anquan did a great job. He was really playing strong and really playing well. The play he made on the interception was a tremendous hustle play. He's operating good and we'll continue to give him more help."

You guys are in a different situation this year than you've been in the previous two in terms of the playoffs and the division. You were defending first place in the NFC West the last two, now you're going after it. The hunted versus the hunter. Is there part of you that sort of likes this role that you're in? Six games to go, you need to win a good chunk of those just to make the playoffs. Is that something that you like, that situation?

"It's the situation that we're in and for us, it's always the next game. That's the most important game and that's the must-win game. And, that's how we look at every game no matter what position we're in and doing the next right thing. As I said, there's some adversity with the club and I have always liked that, and saw that as an opportunity to show the mettle of your team."

This is the second straight game where the pass protection has somewhat struggled. Do you feel that defenses have really adjusted to this or kind of exposed this offensive line?

"We've taken some sacks. I understand your point. The defenses are always adjusting. But to answer your question, like I've said, they've played us two different defenses the last two weeks. So, not a great answer there, I understand."