"Just got done with the walk-thru. Onto a division foe on the road and we're looking forward to it. So, Pittsburgh's in the rearview mirror and we're looking forward to Arizona."
Before we put it totally in the rearview mirror, so many passing yards late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. How do you view that as an offensive coordinator when you look at the overall performance of the offense?
"First off, every game is great because it exists on its own. So, the tone and the way that the Minnesota game played out felt different, was different and the outcome was a win. The tone and the temperature of the game, if you will, was much different and we didn't want to completely abandon the run, but when you get behind by more than one possession, the temptation is that you've got to catch up on the scoreboard. The good news was that we handled some of the pass game stuff well. To me, the most remarkable thing about Pittsburgh was 90 plays. You very rarely get that in a NFL game. It's pretty obvious that some of our things that we wanted to accomplish was to play keep away from their offense and at some level we did that. But, to have a 15-play drive, a 17-play drive and an 18-play drive, accomplishes the first task, but three points to show for that is not good. It's unacceptable. So, it was just a, it's what's great about the sport. Every game, including this one coming up, will play out slightly different than the one before."
Just curious, how many plays do you go into a game with on your call sheet?
"You know, not as much as what we've had in the past. We didn't run out of plays. I think what was going on during the course of the game was the contributions from a lot of young guys. So, we had two guys, [WR] DeAndrew White and [RB] Mike Davis, weren't even dressed up for the Minnesota game. Mike got his first carry and his first catch. DeAndrew got his first catch. [TE] Blake Bell, who played one snap offensively against Minnesota also got this first catch. So, you had ten different receivers catching the ball. And really, you don't want to say that plays are so specific that if a [RB] Carlos [Hyde] is out or someone else is out, the person responsible to be in can't execute it. But, you learn something about your team every time and you learn with some of those rookies, they did some really good things. They did some rookie things too, but they did some good things."
You mentioned the three points on those three long drives. How do you improve on that?
"First off, you look at our tempo in the red zone. At the end of long drives, you want to keep your tempo. So, we looked like we were in a boxing match down around the 11 or 12th round and we lost some steam and it was uncharacteristic of us and how we've practiced. So, you address that. You still want to run the ball down there. We were very successful running the ball in the red zone against Minnesota. Every team, you look at their goals, objectives in training camp is to establish the run in the red zone. I know that's been a point of emphasis for Arizona. They ‘ve done a nice job with that. So, every team wants to do that because you get nice balance. You get the threat of play action in addition to just throwing it on every down in the red zone. So, we were less efficient running it in the red zone which hurt us, and then we got behind the sticks on some. That first drive, you know, there's not a lot of great calls on third-and-27. So, that and then at the end, you'd feel better about ourselves, it might not have won the game if we catch the fourth down ball or if [QB Colin Kaepernick] Kap is ruled in at the very end. But, you win or you lose the game. So, it might have helped us statistically but it probably wouldn't have won the game for us."
Against Minnesota, obviously you guys had success running the ball and you tried to do that again early in that Steelers game. When it comes to game planning, how much are you still in a feeling-out process in terms of what's going to work for this offense?
"Yeah, you know, you learn something about your team every time you play and there was a moment there in the fourth quarter where we were down there in the low red zone, actually got to goal line for the first time and you learn something about what our strengths and weaknesses are. You have to learn and improve and move forward and so we'll do that. But, again, you're trying to score touchdowns. We knew we were in four-down territory. Kicking a field goal might have changed the points on the board but we knew we were in four-down territory. We took four downs. I think we were three-for-five on fourth down. But, that did extend some of our drives. But, it was just the nature of the game. You needed points because of the fine job that Pittsburgh was doing offensively."
You've had Colin, you've been with Colin for a while both as his position coach and now as his coordinator. Yesterday he made a comment, kind of strange, said that in the past he was being asked to do things out of his character. I'm not sure if you saw those comments or not, but what do you interpret those to mean?
"I didn't see his original comments. Having been around, the luxury of being around Kap for as long as I have, I think he is a consistent person. And so, I don't see swings in moods or in personality. He's a pretty consistent guy. He's a hard worker. He attacks everyday, up and at ‘em. So, in terms of maybe finding his groove, we talked about last time we talked, maybe how much he's improved from his rookie year, his 10th game in the Super Bowl, pretty amazing and now you look at this game as maturing. And I think that's part of being a quarterback is also handling, in reference to on the field, off the field, I don't know. He's a pretty consistent guy around me. And we're trying to build stuff around his strengths and those of you that have been around every day, I think that's been pretty apparent. So, like I said, I like being around him everyday and when he comes in here and does the press conferences, I'm sure he'll reveal a side of him that we probably already see, at least I feel like I've already seen it for the last five years."
With so many young guys on the team, do you see him becoming more of a leader?
"It's a natural progression, right. You think back to quarterbacks that played a lot. I remember [former NFL QB] Brett Favre went through like about three roster changes up in Green Bay. Guys that were players with him end up being coaches while he was still in the locker room as a player. So, it is, at some element we are a young team with three guys playing, again, their first NFL receptions. Mike Davis, getting his first touches. Even guys like [C] Marcus Martin, who missed a lot of time last year. He's in that young category. We just want to keep improving. It was one game and this is a big game on the road, a division foe, we hope that we'll play better. What does that mean? Run better, throw better, score points and come away with a victory."
And consequently, do you as a coordinator and the coaching staff, when you see the roster composition change, do you give him more space to be a leader? Do you give him more direction to use your leadership skills and more accountability?
"I think he's done a great job because he is comfortable in the locker room because the new guys, when they come in, you're naturally a little uncomfortable until you make a play or contribute in some way. And so, I still see Kap as not that different. But, I think, to the new people that have come in, he's very welcoming. Again, the chance to be around him behind closed doors, I think he's a consistent, hard-working guy just trying to get better at playing quarterback. I think that draws the respect of the other players."
How did you address the offensive line issues from last game?
"You know, you watch the tape. We love that as coaches. We watch the tape, good and bad. We show windows and it takes all 11 to run the football well. We had great blocking on the perimeter by the receivers finishing on blocks. You know, the backs making the proper cuts and the proper reads off of that. And then moving the sticks, trying to string some first downs together. But, you start with the film. The film never lies and you want to do it in such a teaching way that you can improve when you go out against the Cardinals. The goal is to fix it and move on and get better."
Speaking of Kap and his comfort zone, did you guys go back to University of Nevada tape and what he was good at there and try to--?
"You know, you see him sitting there in the pistol formation. He as much authored that which has been adopted by a lot of football people. But, the thing I see in terms of growth from him, even though he's standing in the pistol, you know, he strung some completions together in the fourth quarter I think at one time. And again, their nature was to, what, take away the deep ball. As long as they're taking that away because of the scoreboard, we just wanted to concentrate on getting first downs and executing. And I thought we did that for the majority of the second half. Not just the big pass plays to [WR] Torrey [Smith] or [TE] Vernon [Davis], but just moving the chains. I think we ended up with 27 first downs and we didn't win. So, you try to build off of what you did well and you've got to correct what you didn't do well."
What stands out when you watch Arizona's defense on tape?
"First off, they're athletic and aggressive. They use multiple personnel groups. I think they're confident in what they're doing. There hasn't been as much change in their scheme. There's a lot of carryover with a new coordinator because a lot of their defensive coaches have stayed the same. So, they started off awful hot last year. I think they were at one time were 11-1 last year and I see a consistency, an optimism to how they play. So, it's incumbent upon us to meet that challenge."
WR Anquan Boldin had a drop in the red zone and there was another play that was reviewed that might have been a fumble. How has he responded this week in practice?
"Anquan's great. And again, it's frustrating when you don't execute a play and it's out in front of everybody, right? You're excited. You see the ball going towards Anquan. It was at midfield. The score was only 8-0. You don't want to assume anything, but you're figuring, hey, we've got a first down in positive territory, which was part of the game plan was to possess the ball and play keep away. Now all of a sudden, you're saying, ‘wow, I'm glad that wasn't a fumble.' But, Anquan's fine. He's been a pro. He's been around a long time. I've been around him a long time. So, we haven't changed one play just because that happened to play out in a game. Give Pittsburgh credit. They actually did a nice job of raking the ball there and you move on."
In terms of, particularly the quarterback being comfortable, did you feel like, last year for example, was the playbook too large?
"You know, a playbook is something that you build upon based on confidence. And I think that over the years with Kap, because he's handled things at such a young part of his career, you naturally add on to his contributions. And at some point in time you'd probably hit the reset button. You kind of clear it out and hit the reset button. So, this was a great opportunity. [Head coach Jim Tomsula] Jimmy T came to me with an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, let's maybe strip back and come back to some of the things that he's most comfortable with.' But, understanding that you're trying to get better everyday. And Kap has an appetite to get better everyday. And we've just gone down with a little bit of reset button hit here to maybe try to play back to Kap's strengths, wherever those strengths are, of which are many. We're willing to have him run the ball. You saw that Sunday. And I think that's a compliment to his unique skillset. We're not trying to make him anything other than Kap. And what he did, especially in the second half pass-game wise, was really encouraging and I think we can build off of that moving forward starting this Sunday."