Kyle Shanahan spoke to reporters on Friday morning after the 49ers win over the Cardinals. This was before Kwon Alexander’s MRI results came back. Shanahan spoke about who will replace Alexander, the chemistry between Jimmy Garoppolo and Emmanuel Sanders, if he expects to see screen passes, and more.
Do you have a status update on LB Kwon Alexander?
“I don’t. We will later today. Kwon and [TE George] Kittle are both getting MRIs right now, but we’ll find out here probably in the next few hours and we’ll get that to you guys as soon as we do.”
CB Richard Sherman was a little bit salty after the defensive performance last night. What did you see from him in the game since watching the film?
“I understand that he sets an extremely high standard with how good they’ve played and this game wasn’t as good, but I think it was far from a bad game. Those guys played real well in the first half. They gave up that first drive and got out of the gap on that long run. We had a chance to get them off the field, but we had the horse collar. They held them pretty, they really shut them down the first half. I thought the second half, they came out, and I thought we got a little bit sloppy with tackling. They got a couple long ones which they shouldn’t have, I thought. I thought we just seemed a little tired, especially for a Thursday Night game. I think my history of Thursday Night games, usually the offenses do have the advantage. I do feel like the short rest affects defenses a little bit more and I felt like that kind of was the case a little bit with both teams last night.”
When you reviewed the film and were watching QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s passes, did that 22-yard throw to WR Emmanuel Sanders jump out at you and how long have you guys been working on that route where he could trust Emmanuel for being in that spot?
“Not very long. We put that play in, I think, on Tuesday. We just walked through this week, so that was our first full speed rep at it. That was pretty impressive by both of them. We didn’t know if that’s where the ball was going to go. That was the first option, but there were a few others on it. Emmanuel jetted to the corner and to the front pylon and Jimmy made a hell of a throw beating those guys there.”
Can you talk about the chemistry between Garoppolo and Sanders? It looks like they’ve been playing together for years just the way they have their timing down.
“No, it does. It’s been real cool to watch. Emmanuel’s fit in right away with everyone just on the field and off the field and you guys could see it last night even. He was great in the first week and he’s been great in practice, but you could even feel him pick up steam as the game went, just the confidence of those two together and I could feel it also. It was fun to have him on our team last night.”
Given how good your pass rush has been through the first half of this season, do you expect to see a heavy dose of screen passes like you did in the second half and kind of counteract that moving forward?
“Yeah, I do. That’s something that all teams are going to try, especially when you have the pass rush that we do. I think it depends on a week-to-week basis what kind of coverages we’re doing from a game-plan standpoint. Anytime you face a team with good rushers, you’re going to always try to slow them down with screens and they did a real good job of that, especially utilizing how much speed they have on their team.”
Looking back at these eight games, what are you most impressed with and what are the areas that you think you guys really need to work on coming into the second half here?
“I’ve been impressed the most with the resilience of our guys in the next man up type deal. We’ve had some guys go down in some key spots and the guys have come out there and stepped right in and just really done their job and no one’s made a big deal about it. We’ve still been finding ways to win. It’s been cool, each game has kind of been a little bit of a different story. To be able to do it a different way, I’ve been real proud of our guys and how locked in they’ve been every week and that they don’t let up at all whatever the situation is. They’ve found a way to do it eight games in a row, going to enjoy this rest here over the weekend and then get back and start over here on Tuesday.”
How much of your fourth down play calls when you threw it was influenced by the fact that the run was stuffed right before that timeout or right after that timeout?
“A lot. I definitely wanted to go for it there, I thought we needed to score. I’m glad that I got a second chance at it because I was not that encouraged after watching that first drive of the chance to getting it, so we went with the pass and thankfully it worked out.”
Your defense was dominating in the first half, did you factor in that they might get tired in the second half into making that decision?
“No, I just, we were inches away. I knew we were getting the ball there in the third quarter. I thought it was a chance to really lap them and try to get 14 points right there. I thought it could change the game big time. I was glad we did, we didn’t exactly do that in the third quarter like we were hoping, but that’s a big time in the game when you can score at the end of the second quarter and you get the ball in the third, sometimes you can finish teams that way and I thought we had an opportunity there and it worked out. Thankfully we got that second chance although we didn’t do it in the opening drive of the third quarter. That’s what allowed them to get back in it.”
With Kittle’s injury, is there a concern that there might be some other damage that you didn’t see and did he get an x-ray on the knee with the way the helmet hit it last night as well?
“I think he did last night, I’m not exactly sure. I know it was scary, but the fact that they felt good enough with him coming back in the game, just talking to everyone last night, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about Kittle. I know he played through a lot of stuff. It’s going to be tough on him this week, but I feel pretty good that it’s not going to be a longer-term thing and hopefully we’ll be able to get him back this week.”
On that goal line touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders, you had him lined up as the fullback. How do you make sure, what are the keys so the defense doesn’t know that a wide receiver’s in the backfield?
“We try to break the huddle fast. They’re a man coverage team so they’ve got to find all their guys. You put them in confusing spots so they’re just a little late on their eyes and where to pick guys up then you snap it and go. Sometimes you do that and they’re a little slower to know where he is and that’s why he scored. Sometimes it’s very obvious when a receiver is in the backfield so everyone chases that guy and it opens up other people. A little different stuff to do and maybe Emmanuel is so good as a fullback in the pass game that we’ve got to come up with some runs for him as the fullback. Just joking on that, he wouldn’t like that [laughter].”
If you guys are without Kwon Alexander for a while or the rest of the season, would you be looking at LB Dre Greenlaw to step in that spot and who else would you look at for that spot?
“Yeah, I mean Greenlaw would step in that spot. That would up [LB] Azeez [Al-Shaair] who’s been the fourth guy there on game day, and then we’ve got [LB] Elijah [Lee] on practice squad who played a lot for us here over the last couple of years, so he’d be the next man up also with that group. Kwon has been great for us this year on the field and as a leader. I’m a lot more nervous about that MRI coming back today. I’m hoping for the best, but a lot more nervous about that one.”
You talked about how he is, in terms of the production, it doesn’t really say anything but that whole overall positive energy is brought to that defense and the speed, right?
“Yeah, I mean you guys can feel it. I think everyone watching it can feel it and our team feels it. That’s how he is on game day, that’s how he is on the practice field. The speed he plays with, he’s been a great addition for us. It’s going to be a tough loss. Hopefully it’s not for the whole season, but if it is, we will deal with it. I’m really hoping it’s not because he’s been a hell of an addition for us.”