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Jim Harbaugh talks red zone offense, fake punt, Brandon Lloyd, Jed York and more

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Monday afternoon. He had plenty to chat about following the 49ers win over the Chiefs. He talked about the red zone offense struggles, the fake punt, Jed York's comments and more. We have a transcript.

Thearon W. Henderson

Anything jump out at you after reviewing the film of that win?

"Yeah, lot of things. Where would you like to start?"

Let's start defensively. What did you think just of how well they're tackling and the way they made adjustments in the second half?

"Well, that would have been point number one would have been tackling. We've tackled well all year. That's been a positive for us, a big positive for us. When you're talking about football, tackling is always right there number one or number two. But, we're doing an excellent job tackling, leveraging. We only had the one explosive play of 26 yards and I thought once we got settled down after the first three possessions, thought we did a very good job stopping them, getting them off the field, limiting the first downs, accumulation of first downs on the drive. Got them off, three-and-out at critical times. Good on short yardage. Stopped the two third-and-shorts. Good again in the two-minute. That's great to see our defense line up. Offense has a chance to drive the ball and have it a one score game, one possession game, and win the game and to be able to thwart that is big."

Is the defensive line with NT Ian Williams, DT Justin Smith and DT Ray McDonald, is that where it all starts? We often look at the defensive line production from the sacks standpoint, but in terms of getting that run defense started, is that where they're excelling?

"Yeah, you can say that or it starts with all 11 playing together. Both are extremely important and happening. But, the way they leverage, the way they get off blocks and tackle, we're seeing good play, improved play, ascending play from several players. [S] Antoine Bethea again, another good game, another solid game. I think [LB] Ahmad Brooks' play is ascending. [LB] Aaron Lynch, ascending. Good things to talk about defensively."

How about the offensive line, particularly your tackles and what they were up against, going against Chiefs LB Tamba Hali and Chiefs LB Justin Houston?

"Well, I knew we we're going to have a big task, a big challenge ahead. Those are two great pass rushers. Special rushers. Our tackles did a really good job. Our offensive line played extremely well I thought. [T] Joe Staley again sucked it up, toughed it out against a great pass rusher. [T] Jonathan Martin, ascending player. He's not only getting the job done, but getting the job done well. [C] Daniel Kilgore really needs a special mention because he was playing against a special player. [Chiefs NT] Dontari Poe is a special football player and he was playing very well. This was a real positive game for Daniel Kilgore. All the things that a center has to do and then to have the physical challenge of playing against a player like Poe is daunting and he stood up to it and I was really, really pleased with the way he played. [G] Mike Iupati, thought he was playing his best football of the year and [G/T] Alex Boone had his best game, I thought, and also the leadership that he provides. There's a grittiness, a toughness, a mentality that he brings and as a group, they played extremely well."

In the past two games, seven trips to the redzone, but only two touchdowns out of that and speaking to some of the players, they're like, ‘Yeah, we need to get in the end zone.' When you look at it, what is it? Execution, play calling? What have been some of the reasons?

"Well, there was a couple there where I really thought we were going to knock it in. Starting from the last drive, I really felt we were going to knock that in and Tamba Hali made a great play. We were at the 9-yard line. Cut the fat, skimmed the edge, went straight to the running back and got [RB] Carlos Hyde at the line of scrimmage. Really, when you talk about pursuit, that was pursuit at the highest level. And then the next play call was mine. I really felt if he was going to pursue like that, then we could run the quarterback keep around the edge and Tamba played it different. So, that hurt us on that last attempt to really get the ball into the end zone. He played it different. [QB Colin Kaepernick] Kap made a spectacular effort of not losing too many yards, but I got outsmarted on that one. And then, I thought we made a really good throw and had a chance for the touchdown with [WR] Anquan [Boldin]. We were attacking. We were calling and executing the plays that we thought would get us in the end zone. Earlier, go back to the first drive of the game, we called the reverse pass and Anquan Boldin does everything great, I mean everything great, but there's a tendency when you're throwing a reverse pass or a halfback pass, for the back or the receiver to turn into ... they forget that it's a run-pass option. Wish I would have done a better job coaching that and alerting - don't forget to run if it's there. Do a better job of coaching that. Something happens to the mentality of football players when they're in that, if they're a receiver or running back and you call for the halfback pass, boy come Hell or high water, they're throwing a halfback pass. Call a reverse pass with a receiver, come Hell or high water, seems like they just throw it. Anyway, again, could have done a better job coaching there."

WR Michael Crabtree was open though, wasn't he?

"He was. He was open for a quarterback that's into the game, loosened up that'll make that throw on the run, but a receiver or a running back, I don't think he was open like he's open for a receiver or a running back that would make that throw. That's just something I've noticed back to peewee football. Whether it's peewee or high school or college or even pro football, come Hell or high water, they try to drop it in there on a dime. Anyway, I take responsibility."

WR Stevie Johnson is the one that caught the red zone touchdown passes each of the last two games, but he hasn't seen a lot of time. Was he limited this week also by the bug that he had last week?

"There was just a little bit more [WR] Brandon Lloyd in the game plan in those situations. But, the options that are presented are really paying off for us. I think Kap hit eight different receivers, maybe it was nine, could have been seven, but different guys. That speaks, one to the volume of guys that he can go to and also to the fact that he's going through his progressions and is getting to the open guy. And, I thought both of those things were evident. I thought Kap played extremely well in the football game yet again. I also wanted to mention [TE] Derek Carrier who's very much an ascending player at this point. Made a great grab on the naked rollout and then got his shoulders squared up field and got us critical yards on the sideline. Played good physical pound on the sideline was good to see. His blocking has improved a lot. He is a trusted agent out there. Special teams wise, [LB] Chris Borland had three tackles on the kickoff. He is an ascending player, played very well on the teams yesterday. [WR] Kassim Osgood, again, he's our best player on special teams, especially on the coverage units he's doing a great job. [S] Craig Dahl from Mankato High School in Mankato, Minnesota, a great play picking up the 4th down conversion. Don't know if you know this or not, but he had 57 touchdowns as a high school football player. He was a good running back."

Was that taken into account when that fake was dialed up?


That was good coaching right there.

"Great coaching. [Assistant head coach and special teams coordinator] Brad Seely does a tremendous job. We have so much coaching talent, and I exclude myself from that coaching talent pool. These guys, our coaches, do a tremendous job and the coaching talent is there on our football team and evidenced yet again. That fake was dialed up, worked on and was suggested and pulled off. Players executed it and coaches coached it. It was a big play in the game."

Who suggested that play, was that Brad?

"Oh yeah, that's Brad. Brad suggested that."

If that doesn't work, it was at the 29-yard line, instead of brilliant, you look really stupid. Any trepidation about doing that or did you just trust that that was dialed up correctly and it would?

"Yeah, seen it practiced and felt good about it. Yeah, can't play scared, refuse to coach scared."

Only two penalties yesterday I believe for 10 yards. What finally clicked for the team as far as just kind of getting the penalty situation under control?

"It was good emphasis by our players. They take it upon themselves to play a style of football that is good. They want to play good football. They know that that was hurting us. You could see where some of those penalties, the pre-snap penalties on both sides of the ball, but defensive pre-snap penalties and post-snap penalties were costing us. And, we had one pre-snap penalty yesterday on defense, I believe, no post-snap penalties and players have taken that upon themselves to get that corrected."

The punt coverage team gave up a long return to Chiefs RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas. It seemed to happen around the same part of the field that you gave up a touchdown last week to Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles. What are you seeing from the punt coverage team?

"Well, we've got to do a better job. We've got to do a better job of covering those punts. Need a little more hang time. And, that's always been our best unit. We've set records around here on the punt team. [P] Andy [Lee] does an incredible job punting the football. Right? We've set a record there I'm sure of it. I think going back to 1938 in the punt coverage, in the net punt. So, we're extremely capable and I know we'll get it done."

The players have tomorrow off. Are you going to take a personal day or do you come in and work still tomorrow?

"Yeah, we're onto the Rams. We spent the day, spent the morning so far getting onto the Rams. Big game."

It seems like each game, a different wide receiver has a big game. Is that predetermined going into the game or does that sort of happen based on the defense? Do you have an idea of whose going to have a big game as you're heading into Sunday?

"You really want everybody running, everybody alert on every passing play, and our guys do a great job of that. You don't see our receivers taking a play off. There are intents in pass plays. They know what the intent is, or the second read or the third read. On all routes, everybody running, everybody alert, anybody could get the ball. That's the mentality that you want your offense to have."

WR Brandon Lloyd has a history of being a good leaper, but I'm wondering if during the evaluation process when you guys were looking at him if you guys had him do any vertical jumping tests or anything like that?

"No, we didn't. [Offensive coordinator] Greg Roman put together a great tape of Brandon Lloyd. It was about maybe 80-90 plays. And what showed up continuously was how good he was outside the numbers, contorting his body, making plays wherever he had played. He's special with the way he can keep his feet in bounds or, like you said, contort his body. I've seen some really good ones. Can't recall seeing one better than the one he made in the ball game, the way he gained the leveraged back and made that reception. Kap threw a heck of a ball to him. That was special."

Was it former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann-like? Is that a fair comparison?

"That's a fair comparison."

Do you remember that?

"I do. That's good, [San Francisco Chronicle beat writer] Eric [Branch]. Nicely done. Some football reference. 1977? 1978?"

Super Bowl X --

"Cowboys. Yeah, I can picture it down the right sideline."

CEO Jed York talked to NFL Network host Rich Eisen today. It was very overall positive about the situation with you. He said you can rub some people the wrong way, which he's kind of fine with. Are you aware of that, that your personality can, perhaps, bruise some feelings inside the building?

"No. Not so much. But Jed stopped by today. We had a real good talk. Moving forward, moving onto the Rams. Everybody in the organization is doing their job. Everybody is working hard at the craft of helping us be the best we can possibly be as a football team and that's all you can ask of anybody. They're doing their best. Nobody appreciates that like I do. I know that's what Jed appreciates. We work at the pleasure of the York family and the San Francisco 49ers organization and that's our job. Do the best we possibly can and I see everybody doing that."

Was that just a typical meeting you would have with him or was that in response to all the noise?

"Oh, yeah, it was typical. Sometimes in my office or his office or the cafeteria. Good. Everybody's doing their darndest right now, and that's all you ask."

I heard some of the camaraderie from the post-game comments from Colin saying that he would go to war with you at all times, to a couple of other players. How does that make you feel as far as a head coach knowing that your guys have some camaraderie and have your back?

"I think you know how I feel about our team. It's an enjoyable team to be around. The way they play, the way they fight, the way they play together. [Jack Harbaugh] Dad mentioned it when he was here for two weeks. The feeling he had for our team and how they interact. But the evidence is how they play. This is a team that plays. Also want to complement [head strength and conditioning coach] Mark Uyeyama, our training staff, [assistant strength & conditioning coach] Kevin Tolbert, our strength and conditioning staff. That was a hot game out there on Sunday. Guys looked like they were strong and getting stronger, in great condition and we appreciate that. That's a lot of hard work that goes into that." 

But I had a sense like they were, felt like they were protecting you. They had some pride with you and their relationship. Do you feel that way?

"Yeah it feels good. But I want to make the point I made yesterday. Please don't ask them. That's not their job to protect the head coach. That's not their job to defend the head coach. Their job is to do their jobs - to play football, have each other backs, and that's what I've always seen out of them. Love each other, that's their job as well. So, hopefully, you can let them do that."