The San Francisco 49ers travel to face the New Orleans Saints this weekend, and Wednesday was opposing team coach and player availability. Sean Payton and Drew Brees both chatted with 49ers media via conference call, and I've put together a transcript of their calls. Neither was all that long, so I combined them together below.
They both focused primarily on the 49ers defense, and discussed how this is a group that forces turnovers, but also avoids big plays. The Denver Broncos obviously had some big plays against them, but for the most part, the 49ers defense has done a good job keeping offenses in front of them. Sometimes that can lead to a bit more bend but don't break style of defense, but the 49ers are generally able to lock things down fairly well.
The 49ers are right around the middle of the pack in terms of takeaways, but avoiding giving up big plays that accompany an aggressive style of play boosts that. And it all makes sense given Vic Fangio's preference for four man pressure, as opposed to bringing blitzing linebackers or defensive backs. That is one reason the 49ers pass rush needs Aldon Smith back. When he is in there on nickel downs, he's like a pass rusher and a half on his own, and it allows the 49ers to leave one more defender back in coverage.
Sean Payton transcript
On Jonathan Goodwin playing this week:
Payton: We'll see, typically we would never, I never go through any injuries with the media, and so our guys don't even ask. He got some work today, was limited. He's obviously someone that is very familiar with what we do, and yet we feel like we've got depth at that position with not only himself, but also Tim Lelito.
On Junior Galette's development:
I think he's come in here, and to his credit he's worked hard, worked hard at certain deficiencies. I think that with this player, you've seen steps each season where he's gotten better. He's got good edge speed, he can transition it into power. I think the one thing also, is he plays with a real high energy and he's able to sustain that if the snap count gets a little high. To his credit though, it's the want to, he can play with low pads, and kind of bend on the corner. But he's really been a good story for us.
On mood swinging each week:
We've seen that really more in the last five years, that it's week-to-week. One of the important things as a head coach is being guarded one way or the other. I think it's real important that we pay attention to the things we've got to improve on, coming after a win. There's a lot of them. We had a win Thursday night, but when you look at the tape, there's a lot of things we need to clean up. That being said, we had a tough loss a few weeks back to Detroit, and there were a lot of good things in that film. And yet, we didn't finish the game, so I think understanding it's a long season. Right now we're literally at the halfway point. I think the key is finding a way for your team to improve week-to-week. Oftentimes you have to tune out when it swings heavy to the right or heavy to the left because really that's the only thing that sells in their world.
On Vic Fangio's work in spite of the injuries:
He's been outstanding. Those guys have done a great job of building a program, starting with Jim Harbaugh. I was going through some of the numbers, it's real impressive. They've been very consistent defensively. Each year, they're one of the top teams in the league in preventing big plays. They're one of the top teams in total defense, scoring defense. It's a very difficult front to play against both in the run and the passing game. But you see on film how well they're coached. Vic has done an outstanding job there.
On 49ers passing as much as they are:
The tape we're looking, we see a ton of rush offense. We see a team that's in the top half of the league, if not a little better than that in rushing. I think depending on the game, sometimes the situations can vary. I think that, we see the gap schemes, we see the power runs, we see Frank Gore, we see their offensive line. There's a lot of things that are very similar, and yet, understanding that you can get in a game where your throwing numbers go up, maybe not as you had planned. I think we'll get that balance that they strive for, and the same thing we look to accomplish each week when we play.
Drew Brees transcript
On 49ers defense playing well and seeing similarities to past units:
Yes I do. Very physical, very disciplined. What's most impressive is the fact that they're still very opportunistic. They're tops in the league in getting turnovers, and yet they don't take chances to do that. Most teams that are opportunistic, they play a lot of pressure, a lot of situations where they put themselves at risk of big plays. And so they'll be giving up a lot of big plays, and also getting turnovers. The 49ers are best in the league at limiting big plays. That's a great combination on defense, when you're not giving up big plays and you're taking the ball away. That's very impressive, even more so because there's some guys in there that are filling in place of guys like Bowman and Aldon Smith, and Patrick Willis who has been out a couple games. I know some guys in the secondary have been out as well. They're all playing very, very well together, which is something you would come to expect from the 49ers defense. The fact that we're now going to play them three years in a row, so you turn on the film, it's kind of the same MO. They play fast, they play physical, they're very disciplined. It's very impressive.
On whether or not it's vanilla, standard D:
I don't think they try to overly disguise anything. They just kind of play it as you see it. They've got guys who play with a lot of confidence. They've got pretty good ball skills on the back end. I think Bethea was a great addition. I played against him when he was with the Colts for a while. He's a great football player. Perrish Cox is having a great year, all the turnovers he's created, bunch of pass break-ups and everything else. They all play with a lot of confidence, they all play well together. They complement what's happening up front, too. That front seven is pretty formidable as well. All in all, it's just an extremely solid defense.
On hallmarks of a Vic Fangio defense:
You know that it's a 3-4 scheme, and I think that they're one of the few teams that plays, I don't know, sort of an old school 2-gap 3-4 defense. There's not many teams that do it anymore because you have to have the personnel for it. You just have to have a certain type of build up front. And they have it, with guys like McDonald and Justin Smith. Just big, physical guys. That and their linebacker group as a whole is extremely solid, both as tacklers and pass rushers. And then obviously, what you get in the secondary with guys with good ball skills, good range, that sort of thing. Their MO ever since I played them, they play a physical brand of football, they are great against the run, and they try to create turnovers, and they don't give up big plays. That's kind of been what the 49ers defense I've always played against have done.
On Aldon Smith:
Honestly, I really, obviously he's a phenomenal player, but you're not looking nine weeks down the road. The season starts, so I'm not looking at the San Francisco week saying, man I wonder if Aldon Smith is playing, or NaVorro Bowman is gonna be back. Maybe the thought crosses your mind, but you have so much else to worry about with the week that you're preparing for. It's not until this week, where you're like, ok, who's gonna be out there, who we going up against, how we gonna gameplan it. What are we doing, now let's go out and execute it.
On Aaron Lynch:
Honestly, when I'm watching tape, yes I'm looking at linebackers, yes I'm looking at fronts, but I'm really looking a lot at what's happening in the secondary, and that kind of thing. Really what I can say is, I think that they're playing very solid as a group.
On Ahmad Brooks play last year:
I mean it's so long ago, and to be honest with you, I haven't thought about it for about 360 days. Once it happened and it was over with, it was over with, and that's that. Obviously it was a big play in the game, no matter which side you were on. It is what it is. Like I said, I really don't think too much about it.
As one of the big hits in his career:
Well, I don't think he hit me as hard as he could have. He just kinda caught me just right. My momentum was going that way a little bit, but obviously it all happened really, really fast. I'm just glad we kept the ball and were able to get points, and then get another opportunity later on to win the game.
On the pictures of his neck looking elastic:
People had a lot of fun with photoshop after that, didn't they? I had the go-go gadget neck. I got a good laugh out of it, too. I go on Twitter, somebody shows me a picture, what people have photoshopped. Listen, after the fact, the fact that you're still alive and you win the game, it's all good.
On Eric Reid development:
If you kind of drew a picture of what you would want a starting free safety to look like in the league, you'd probably draw a picture of him. That dude is big and fast and physical, and has a nose for the football. He ended up being at the Pro Bowl this year, too. The funny thing is, he's from LSU, so I had a chance to kind of keep up with him a little bit while he was at LSU. And obviously he gets drafted to San Francisco, and you're going, oh man we have to play against this guy. He's a really good player and has a bright future.