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Robert Saleh talks tackling, 49ers putting together complete effort

The 49ers defensive coordinator met with the media on Thursday. We’ve got a full transcript.

Robert Saleh Week 4 Media Availability

Robert Saleh and Richard Sherman address media ahead of #SFvsLAC.

Posted by San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, September 27, 2018

Where do things stand with your secondary just in terms of injured guys and whether they’ll practice today?

“They’re working through treatment, trying to progress through the week and we’ll know more as the week progresses.”

Was it those injuries that prompted you guys to inquire about Carolina Panthers S Eric Reid this week?

“Any time it’s the stance by [general manager] John [Lynch], [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan], [vice president of player personnel] Adam [Peters], [senior personnel executive] Martin [Mayhew], any time you have an opportunity to add a good football player when the opportunity presents itself, obviously, E-Reid is familiar with our system and we know him, are comfortable with him. Obviously, it didn’t work out, but any time you have the opportunity you explore it.”

Does it seem like S Jaquiski Tartt won’t play this week? Where is he in his recovery?

“Same thing. He’s working through treatment and trying to get himself up to speed, but he is obviously still in play.”

How did you think those other two did on Sunday in Kansas City with DB Antone Exum Jr. and DB D.J. Reed Jr. in particular?

“You know, for those two not having worked together and from a communications standpoint and grinding through the week and everything that the Chiefs present, I thought they did an admirable job, a good job, of playing their tails off and trying to do right. Pleased with the direction they’re going to. Obviously, they can get a lot better. All the way across the board we can, including myself. I like the direction they’re going in.”

What went wrong so often that first half in Kansas City?

“You know, 35 points in a half is unacceptable. It’s going to sound trivial and it’s going to sound very elementary, but it comes down to obviously, tackling, which needs to get better and needs to get better. It’s not very good, obviously. When you look at it, on that first drive, we had a third-and-15. They completed a screen pass to get it down to one, which they converted on the speed option which converted to a touchdown. The next series, we had a third-and-15 that we had the PI on. There’s two field goals that we could have held them to. Then, the very next drive, the third-and-five where [Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick] Mahomes does a very good job scrambling, makes a heck-of-a play. In my mind, I feel like we should get off the field right there and hold them to another field goal. Then, the two-minute drive, [Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis] Kelce makes that unbelievable catch on third-and-nine, which extends the drive and they score another touchdown. So, it comes down to tackling and third down. It is that simple because if we take care of those third-and-long situations, as a defensive unit, coaches included, I feel like there’s three field goals and a non-touchdown and the outlook is a completely different deal.”

Do you think guys are pressing, trying to make the big play, looking for the first interception, more fumbles?

“No. Overall, there’s some plays obviously form a communication standpoint, some stuff just did not look as clean as it was supposed to. I don’t think it’s an issue of people pressing. When you give an offense like the Chiefs opportunities, and that’s where tackling on third down, letting them have opportunities on extra plays, they’re going to do damage. They’re one of the best in the league. So, when you have an opportunity on third-and-15 twice, and third-and-10 during two-minute, third-and-goal from the five and you’ve got the quarterback running or you have him in the backfield with an opportunity to bring him down, you have to take advantage of those opportunities. If you do, then that high-octane offense looks very pedestrian. But, we didn’t, and they looked all-world.”

LB Fred Warner and LB Reuben Foster had the most missed tackles. Upon viewing the film, was it bad angles or did they have guys wrapped up they couldn’t finish?

“You know, the big emphasis, obviously always relentlessly trying to study it to give our guys the best chance to improve. It’s very clear when you turn on the tape that we’re actually lunging and ducking our heads at the point of attack. When you teach tackling, everything that we talk about is you’ve got to run your body through their body. Get a body on a body, step on their toes, wrap up, keep your feet moving, drive for five and get them to the ground. So, when you look at all our missed tackles, it’s more people lunging, head down, grasping and launching at feet trying to make arm tackles, and that’s not what we teach obviously. But, somewhere along the line there’s a disconnect. And so, as coaches, we’ve got to do a better job getting that message across. Again this week, trying to emphasize step on their toes, get your body on a body and wrap up. Hopefully, that translates into a better tackling performance on Sunday.”

How much of a challenge is it working on it given that you don’t get real physical during the practice week?

“You guys will see it out there today. We have tackling circuits every padded practice. Have been for the last year-and-a-half. Yesterday was the first time that we had the tackling circuit without pads, just to bring emphasis to tracking and stepping on toes, all the different things that we’re trying to emphasize. Today will be about running our body through people, thudding, wrapping up, keeping our feet moving through contact, not getting dead-legged. So, again, going through that tackling circuit and then transferring it over to team run and team pass when we do have pads on to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prepare to tackle on Sunday.”

What did you make of Reuben’s game and what were his missed tackles? I know you just touched on that, but was he over pursuing?

“Under pursuing. That goes back to what I explained. We’re actually breaking down and slowing down and lunging way too soon. We need to run through contact, put our body through people. We’re trying to drive and wrap at legs rather than run through tacklers and we need to understand that we are a fast defense and we have to trust our speed and step on their toes. When you go back and look at that tape, we’re not stepping on toes. We’re lunging at the point of attack and that’s what’s leading to all of those arm tackles and missed tackles. So, hopefully we’ve got a good beat on it. It was very evident last week versus the Chiefs and we’ll get it taught and hopefully have good results.”

Reuben obviously has shown that he’s a good tackler, particularly in space. Do you maybe attribute some of that to the fact that he did miss two games and had an elongated break?

“I would love to give him that leeway. Reuben will not take it. When you step on the field and you’re in between the white, as a professional, you’re expected to do your job and you’re expected to do it at the highest level possible. If you ask Reuben if he was rusty, he’ll look you right in the eye and say no, he’s got to make the play and it’s the same thing that I would tell him. So, obviously he’ll be much better this week and there’s no excuses.”

Over your career, have you found missed tackles or good tackling to be contagious? Something that if it falls in line a couple of times early in the game, it could go that way or if it falls out of line, it could go bad?

“Yeah, you could look at it that way. Offense starts getting confidence and defense starts losing confidence. Now we start guessing and you just abort mission when things don’t seem to work. But, stick to the plan, stick to the fundamentals, stick to what you practice. As far as a contagious thing, I guess, but that’d be more mental than physical.”

In Minnesota you guys played well after halftime. Against Detroit, you played pretty well the first three quarters and then you played well after halftime in KC. What’s the key to putting together a full 60-minute performance, particularly on the road?

“Shoot, I’ll roll through them all really quick. Minnesota, we were not very good on third down in the first half and we were not tackling very well. Then, we come back in the second half and we play very well on third down, had one poor third down which led to a 34-yarder that led to the touchdown. But overall, third down was good in the second half. Detroit, we were playing very well in the first half, tackling and third down, the whole Detroit game can be summed up into that third-and-17, 66-yarder to [Detroit Lions WR] Golden Tate, in my opinion. When you give [Detroit Lions QB] Matt Stafford an opportunity, he’s one of the best comeback quarterbacks in all of football, active quarterbacks anyway. You give him opportunities and he’s going to take advantage of it. Right there, we’ve got to put them to bed. And then of course last week, the inability to get off the field on third-and-15 and hold them to field goals on those first two drives where instead of 14-0, it’s 6-0 and that would completely change the entire outlook of the entire game. We get into the second half, our tackling was much better, third down was much better and it started with one, it started with them dropping a pass. It just snowballed into us being able to execute, gaining confidence and you could say they eased up off the breaks or whatever, but I promise you, if [Kansas City Chiefs head coach] Andy [Reid] had a chance, he was going to put up 60. He was trying to take shots. They were trying to throw the ball in the air and our guys did a great job of executing in the second half.”

Kyle talked about maybe before Richard got hurt Sunday, how you all changed his practice schedule to give him some more rest. Is that something with his leg, with his left leg in particular, he might just have to deal with and monitor throughout the season?

“For sure. [T] Joe [Staley] gets his vet days. It’s the same thing. When you’re dealing with a man like Richard Sherman who’s tested, who’s tried, who’s got all of the experience in the world that he has, obviously you try to take care of him to get him through the entire 16-game season so he can be healthy and ready to roll on Sundays.”

What level of concern is there, the fact that he had those procedures in the offseason and now it’s Week 3 and in Week 3 he gets hurt?

“Not ready to push the panic button. Sherm is a fighter. If he can go this week, I promise you he’ll go this week. Sherm will play through pain. He’s played through a torn hamstring, I’ve witnessed it, back in his younger days. He’s not always 100-percent, so when he can reach that pain tolerance, and it’s an unbelievable pain tolerance he’s got, he’ll get out there. So, I’m not ready to push the panic button on him yet, not even close.”