San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media on Thursday. He had plenty to discuss in advance of SNF against the Broncos power house offense. He talked about Tramain Brock's toe, Chris Borland's matchup with Julius Thomas, and the general health of the defense. His most interesting topic might have been his discussion about sort of getting to know Peyton Manning when Manning was in high school down in Louisiana.
In defending Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas, how much, obviously the linebackers often will cover tight ends, but how much of that's going to fall on your safeties to help out in coverage there?
"Well, it'll be a mix. When you get a tight end like him, some people think you're crazy if you don't put a DB on him. Then the next guy will think you're crazy because of the size mismatch if you don't have a linebacker on him. That's what these good tight ends do. They cause you problems. So, it'll be a mix of who's on him for us."
Obviously, LB Chris Borland is 5-11 and doesn't have the longest arms in the world. Is that something that you can steer away from? Try to make it so that he's not in coverage on Julius Thomas or another tight end?
"You can a little bit but, ultimately, you got to play your package, you know? If you start tinkering here and there to cover up somebody's perceived deficiencies that just leads to problems other places, too. You got to be able to play."
How does he do in practice when he's against TE Vernon Davis or TE Vance McDonald and guys like that?
"He's done well in practice against Vance, for sure. I don't remember him a whole lot against Vernon. I can't remember that far back."
Your defense doubled its sack total last week. What do you think contributed to that?
"I don't know. It just happens sometimes. We had been playing pretty good defense and had very few sacks. And now, we got a game where we had five, could've had more. Had one taken away. I don't know. Guys just rushed a little better."
How did CB Tramaine Brock look in practice yesterday?
"He did fine. I think he'll be anxious to see how he does today. I think the day after, sometimes, is more telling than the first day, so, we'll see."
If he makes it through this week healthy, he'll be up?
"We haven't decided that yet. We'll have to see what his level of health is and then go from there."
Your other cornerbacks showed up on the injury report yesterday, too. Are you --
CB Perrish Cox, CB Chris Culliver, CB Chris Cook, DB Jimmie Ward. Everybody but CB Dontae Johnson. Nothing serious?
"Well, Ward's is the most serious of all those guys."
But in terms of the other guys, you're not too concerned about their --
"No. They're dinged but everybody's dinged to some point at this stage."
Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning said he enjoyed talking ball with you when you were in Indianapolis with him. What did you glean from that experience with him that we don't see from the outside?
"Well, I've known him since he was a teenager, a young guy back in New Orleans. His [former Saints quarterback Archie Manning] Dad was involved with the Saints and Peyton used to come around to our practices. Back in those days, there were no OTAs. If you had guys around, you maybe have a little skelly. And some of the times, he was a freshman and sophomore in high school, he came over and quarterbacked in those. So, I've known him a long time. And then when I got with him in Indianapolis, which was his second year in the league, he would spend a lot of time at the facility. I'm talking day and night. Many times, I'd walk by the film room where he was watching tape, he'd pull me in and ask me what the defense was doing here, why they're doing this or he'd come in my office and ask me. We would always have football conversations. He loves football. He really does. He's 38-years-old, I think, am I right when I say that? Thirty-eight and he still loves the game, loves playing, loves preparing. I'm sure he's studying just as he always has. He's a true football junkie."
When he was in high school, did you think that he would be an NFL quarterback?
"Well, you knew he had talent. To foresee NFL, Hall of Fame career that he's had, at that stage may be a little farfetched, but you knew the guy was talented. You knew he had the right makeup to be a special player. He did it throughout his high school career, college and has continued it to the pros."
You're saying he actually threw passes in sort of the spring drills that you guys had with the Saints?
So, he would run scout team-type offense?
"I said, now, there were no formal practices back then. OTAs did not exist. It might be 10, 15 guys hanging around. We'd have a little playground-type skelly. Not an OTA that you're thinking that we have."
What were your recollections of 17-year-old Peyton Manning?
"He was younger than that then but go ahead."
Well, how old was he?
"I'd say 14, 15. You just knew that he loved football. He was thrilled to be there with some other NFL players, but yet he was focused on the task at hand and he wanted to throw the ball good."
Since you've now game planned against him and his offenses, he's known for obviously having pretty good football intellect, is that a neat challenge for you more so than others?
"Well, it's always challenging when you go against him because he is very, very smart. He does a good job before the ball is snapped at figuring out what the defense is trying to do and it helps him play at a more efficient, faster level. And he's probably the best at that."
Did you go back and watch the Super Bowl to see what the Seattle Seahawks did and what --
"No. I didn't. I saw the Super Bowl in the offseason. That was just kind of one of those games."
What stands out about their run game?
"Well, they're committed to it. They will run the ball a fair amount of times. They're running the ball out of all their formations. Peyton enjoys calling running plays. If he thinks you're light, he likes to call the running play if he thinks you're playing too much to the pass. He'll do that freely and easily and enjoys doing it. If you're not good against the run, you'll get a steady dose of it. Last week, that really helped them turn their game around against the Jets. They started running the ball well."
The way the schedule worked out with the Monday Night road game followed by another road game, are you taking it a little easier in practice with the guys this week or doing anything differently just to get them off their feet?
"Well, yesterday's practice was significantly shorter than a normal Wednesday and the tempo was down a little bit. And todays' will be a little bit shorter. So, yeah, we're trying to grab a little extra rest time. And the guys that played a significant amount of plays in the gameon Monday night didn't practice as much yesterday, which was a good chance for the backups to get some good reps."
Did DT Ray McDonald have his best game of the season last week?
"He played good. He's played pretty good all year. Maybe he did. It'd be hard for me to answer that definitively, but he did play good."
Someone, I forget who, suggested recently that one of Manning's strengths is the way he uses the play clock. Do you agree with that? And what is he doing by kind of manipulating the play clock like he does?
"Well, they basically have their huddle at the line of scrimmage and they present a formation fairly early. Gives him more time to look at you and try and figure out what you're in."
How do you counter that?
"Don't show him what we're in."
"I'd say more similar to the Bills back in the day."
In that they're kind of huddling up at the --
"At the line. But the Bills would even be a little bit faster. But these guys have it in their repertoire to speed it up occasionally. Yeah, it's slow, it's slow, it's slow, but then they'll go fast a little bit if they think you're kind of getting into the groove to their tempo. So, you always got to be alert."
Is it possible to still substitute against that?
"Yes, but you got to know when and you got to be crisp with it."
Is there a common thread the last two games? The teams have scored early. Is there a common thread to those early drives? Is it them adjusting to you or maybe you guys not executing as well as you would like in the early going?
"Well, last week, we had a good first down. We had a good second down and then we badly misplayed the third-down play that got out of there for 39 yards. And then we had a sack, which would've created third-and-14 or 15, I believe, and we had a hands-to-the-face penalty. It was more our doing than them taking it to us, per say. It was kind of self-inflicted. And then they played good, too, the rest of the drive. You keep giving them those chances."
You said you can't show Peyton Manning what you're going to do pre-snap. How difficult is it to disguise coverage for someone's who's seen every disguise?
"It's difficult at times but you just have to be an emphasis not to give it to him."