SEPTEMBER 25, 2011
“The biggest thing today with the loss was third downs offensively. We are not making enough conversions and that’s making a huge difference in the game. We were able to control some field position in the first half, but in the third and fourth quarters, we are not converting the third downs or converting in the Red Zone, and we are not coming away with touchdowns. Right now that is our biggest deficiency. “In the kicking game we are still a work in progress. We are improving but we have to keep working. In the fourth quarter Andy (Dalton) did some things we (knew we) might go through at some point, but he will come back out of it and be fine. We have to be a little more accurate and be sure the route is on the right stem.”
You said (Dalton) did some things we might go through, what did you mean by that?
“Pressing a little bit. The main thing had been — knock on wood — he does not throw an interception, but it is unfortunate today. I thought we were going to live through that (first) one when we held them (49ers) to the field goal.”
Any loss is difficult, especially in the home opener when you are trying to make a first impression, does that factor in at all?
“I don’t know if that factors much. Your first statement was correct, any loss hurts regardless, particularly at home.”
When was the final decision to allow Jerome (Simpson) to play made?
“About 10:30 this morning.”
What’s the thought process that goes in to playing Jerome (Simpson) with the pending investigation?
“I’ve been advised not to speak about it, so I think it is best we just leave it at that, and whatever course of action is taken when the time comes will be dealt with accordingly.”
Do any of the off-field issues have anything to do with the performance today?
“No, it had nothing to do with it. I don’t think any of that can keep us from converting a third down.”
You go 76 yards on the first drive and it looks textbook, then after that you don’t get much of anything:
“We have got to take a hard look at making sure we continue to do the things that we feel good about doing at the start of the game, and not stray too far away from that. We have got to figure out a way to do a more efficient job on first and second downs so we are not looking at some these third and longer situations where the advantage goes back to the defense.”
What happened after a great first drive?
“We started fast; that’s what we came out to do. Once we get down there, we’ve got to score touchdowns. We can’t keep kicking field goals. We went flat after that. We weren’t able to do some things that we wanted to, but San Francisco played well.”
Can you break down both interceptions?
“The first one was a bad decision on my part. He (the defender) undercut the route and I should’ve never thrown it. The second one was a little miscommunication. We’ve got to get that fixed. There first one — I can’t do that. I can’t turn the ball loose, especially when we have a chance to go down and score and tie the game. It was a bad decision on my part and I’ve got to correct that.”
How do you fix the issues on third down efficiency?
“It’s tough when you’re in a third-and-long. We had some penalties and things like that. We’ve just got to get better at it. We’ve got to go in and execute what’s called. That’s all I can say. We have to go out there and do better.”
It seemed like the 49ers defense was planning for the short routes:
“Yeah they had a good game plan coming in. On the one time we had a shot deep, I missed it. That’s something I’ve got to hit. When A.J. (Green) has one-one-on, I’ve got to get him the ball and at least throw it to where he’s able to make a play. But, yeah, they did a good job of trying to keep everything underneath.”
Marvin suggested that you may have pressed a little bit in the fourth quarter:
“We had opportunities. On one of the drives in the fourth quarter, we had a good run, but then there was a holding call. We went back when we needed to keep going forward. We had an opportunity. That’s all we can say. If you tell me that we came out and had an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter, then we’ve done a good job. We’ve just got to finish and win in the fourth quarter.”
The defense held and held, and you just couldn’t hold them any more on that touchdown drive:
“That one last drive where they were able to get that touchdown really hurt us, considering the circumstances in the game.”
You’re a voice of experience on this team. What do you tell a couple of the young guys who are not used to losing a couple of games like this? This was a tough one:
“Yeah, this was a tough one. We prepared well for (the game). And for the most part, I think, we played well. We really just have to keep practicing, keep playing, and keep making plays throughout the game to help us win.”
The defense put pretty good pressure on 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, didn’t it?
“Yeah, a lot of people (were) getting pressure on him. Coach (Mike) Zimmer did a great job of switching up the calls and keeping them off balance.”
What is your big-picture feeling about this football team? You guys have played some good football, but at the end of the day, it’s still 1-2:
“Yeah. Like you said, at the end of the day, we’re 1-2, whether we played good or played bad. The fact is we’re 1-2. We just have to keep working, obviously look at the film, and try to keep building and getting out this two-game (losing streak). We have to get going and get back on the winning train.”
As a guy that’s been in this league for several years, you know how hard it is to win in this league. Two weeks in a row when you don’t win after you’ve put yourself in a position to win ... is it hard to swallow when you realize you could be 3-0?
“At first it is, but you know, in this league, it’s all pretty close. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to dig deep and make an interception or a completion, or whatever it is. We just have to do it. We just have to keep working.”
What’s the emotion? Is it disappointment at this point? What do you guys feel in this locker room?
“I think we’re a little disappointed, but we know we have what it takes (to win) in this locker room. At the same time, we can still build off the film or tape we’ve put out there already.”
It was a difficult game out there today. Talk about what this team is going to have to do to beat Buffalo next week?
“We have to keep ourselves out of third-and-long, and we have to keep our focus. We have to run the ball and catch the ball.”
What were some of the breakdowns that happened out there today?
“In the red zone, basically, I had two false starts (due to) a lack of focus out there. I blame myself for those. And, we just have to execute on third down.”
Things went so well on that first drive, and after that, they didn’t. What changed?
“It’s football. We have a rookie quarterback and a lot of young guys, so we have to step up. I made two mistakes on the false starts, and that really set us back. We have to capitalize on our opportunities when they present themselves. We have to capitalize down in the red zone when the opportunity presents itself. We have to make plays.”
There’s a lot of talk about third downs. That seems hard to fix. How do you go about trying to fix converting on third downs?
“We have to have focus, man. Know your assignments, get open. If it’s man-to-man coverage, you have to beat that man. We’re a young team and we have to gel. We have to get better each week.”
There tends to be some growing pains with a young team. Is this something that should be expected from a young team?
“We don’t want it to happen, but it’s going to happen anyway. We’re all (learning) a new offense, (we have) a rookie quarterback, rookie receivers and first-year receivers playing, so we’re going to have some growing pains. We just have to fight through them and not shoot ourselves in the foot.”
We saw how explosive this team can be in Denver in the second half last week. Can you put your finger what was different in the second half this week?
“Yeah. I just give credit to the 49ers defense. They had us down and we couldn’t go deep on them that much because they were playing a lot of two-hot (coverage). I give credit to them.”
Do you guys feel like you missed some opportunities in these last two weeks? You guys could be 3-0:
“Definitely. That’s why we’re so mad. We’re this close to getting over that hump, and now we’re just 1-2.”
You fought all day long and it just kind of got you in the end, didn’t it?
“Yeah, you just have to keep the pressure on them. We got 'em real good the first time and we have to play the whole game like that.”
You did seem to get good pressure on Smith all day long. You made him hurry and it was a team effort:
“We had a lot of sacks today. I got my (quarterback) pressures and sacks, and we just have to keep (the other team) from scoring. If they can’t score, they can’t win.”
Did the defense get tired? You guys were on the field a lot:
“We played a lot, but we’re built Ford tough, so in those situations, I feel like we win the best of those situations. They got the best of us on one play, and that’s all it takes for a team to win. So all we have to do is stop the big plays and go from there.”
You’ve played three close games and you’re 1-2. Do you feel like you should be better than this?
“The fact they were close games against really good teams ... we know what we’re capable of. We just have to go out and play like it and win those close games.”
Was that big play on the 49ers touchdown drive play the back-breaker?
“We pretty much held them the whole game, you know. We shut them down in the running game and the passing game, but they kind of tricked us on that last tight end delay, I guess. Overall, I think we played pretty well, but there’s still room for improvement. We have an AFC opponent next week coming in here — Buffalo — and they have (quarterback Ryan) Fitzpatrick, and he’s been doing his thing. So we just have to focus on him and learn from our mistakes.”
You’re the type of guy who is always optimistic about this sort of thing, but it’s a bottom-line league and you’re 1-2. What’s your take after three games being 1-2?
“You know, we just have to play better as a unit across the board. Today, I think we played pretty well on defense, but we have to score some points. In order to win games, you’ve got to score some points, and across the board, everyone’s got to get better. We have to look forward to next week. We have an AFC opponent and we’re at home again — that’s a plus — so we have to get this win next week. We can’t get two down (at home in the loss column).”
The offense — there are a lot of young pieces, including a rookie quarterback. Are these moments expected with a young offense?
“A little bit, you know. But with a rookie quarterback and a rookie wide receiver, we’ve got to get that running game going on offense. I’m on the other side of the ball, so I can’t say too much about offense. All I know is that, on defense, we’ll be ready to go next week.”
The crowd was smaller than you would usually see here. Do you guys notice that?
“They were pretty loud today, even though there weren’t as many people as we’re used to. But that’s who we play for — we play for our fans and our families, and it’s good to see some people here today. The only way to get people in here is to win games, so we’ve got to look at next week and try to go get a ‘W.’ ”
Considering how this team was rolling in the second half in Denver and the fact you came out crisp this week, is it disappointing that you really couldn’t move the ball the rest of the game?
“Oh yeah, it’s always disappointing. Whenever you only put up six points on the board and you have an opening drive and kick a field goal, it’s disappointing. We were still in the game (in the fourth quarter), so we weren’t really pressing that much. I think our defense was playing outstanding, so I didn’t want to press the issue and take a tons of shots. I wanted to try and get the running game going. But when you do that and you’re not successful, you’re second-and-long. If you throw on first down and you get sacked like we did one time today, you’re at second-and-20. If you get a holding penalty, you’re at second-and-20. I think everyone was pressing a little bit too much today instead of just coming off the ball and doing what we’re good at.”
You replaced guard
“Yeah, Boling struggled a bit early. That’s going to happen. They’re a very, very good defense, so (Mike) McGlynn came in there. He’s more of a veteran guy. He’s been in the league for a (few years now). We just have to find the right people, and everyone’s going to get better.”
Any idea what went wrong in the red zone?
“In the second half, we had first-and-goal at the five (yard line), and we ran a power (running play). On second-and-goal at the four, we tried a bootleg and (49ers linebacker Patrick) Willis sniffed it out perfectly. I thought it was going to be there, but Willis made a hell of a play. And on third-and-goal, we tried a fade route to (wide receiver) Jerome (Simpson), but (
It looked like you got it from him as he was going down:
“It was just a tackle, and a hand ended up being on the ball and took him to the ground. The ball came out and we just so happened to have a good looking play. We just didn’t capitalize on it on offense. We gave up some big plays on defense. “Our effort was there. We were fundamentally sound in the gaps and executed our plays. But we gave up that one long play to (49ers tight end) Vernon (Davis) down the sideline … ”
Looked like you were mad at yourself when they called you for that unnecessary roughness penalty:
“The whole week, we were talking about effort and running to the football and (how) one guy is not going to make a play. I was just running to the ball, tripped him up and he started going down and I was just trying to jump on him. I put my helmet down. I wasn’t trying to make a cheap shot or anything, but I guess I’ll find out on Monday or Tuesday when I get a FedEx (from the league).”
How much do you think the fine will be?
“Money that I don’t have.”
You had a big role on the first drive today, but there was a stall out after that. What changed and what was the struggle to fix it?
“That’s a good question. I don’t know exactly what changed. The defense did a great job — they played great today, getting us the ball back. We have a lot of three-and-outs. We have to executive more on third downs. We managed to find some room in there to run the ball at times, and we’ve just got to stick with it.”
The first drive … I sensed some frustration from you that you were taken down just short of the goal line. Did you get tripped up at a spot where you feel you should have gotten in on that drive?
“Oh yeah, absolutely. You always (do), being aggressive and leaning forward and trying to get the most out of every play. Sometimes, it’s gets the better of you. I think one of their safeties or corners made a good play getting in there (and) getting a hand on me, but I have to finish those.”
This is now 25 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Them keying on you, did you feel that changed after the first drive?
“No, not at all. I don’t think they were poised to not have us run on them. We were still able to find some success I think. We just have to stick with it.”
You guys would get going and then something would happen. Was it just a matter of stringing something together?
“Yeah, just executing more all around the board at every position. Just finishing. We have a lot of young guys, but still, that’s no excuse. We just have to play hard to the whistle.”
You had a chance to step in in a big way today with five, maybe six catches. You got involved right away, ready to roll:
“Yeah, I was ready to roll. I was very excited and got a chance to show my worth out there. I just want to show the coaches and the team that I am a guy that needs to be out there all the time.”
For the second week in a row, tough on third down — one of 10 this week, one of 11 in Denver. It’s tough to win in the NFL when you are two of 21 over two weeks:
“Yes, it’s almost impossible. You have to convert those third downs and make plays in those situations. We aren’t doing it right now and that’s why we have two losses.”
A couple opportunities in the red zone and you guys left eight points on the field. In a game like this, particularly when the defense has a takeaway like that and gives you a short field, settling for three is painful:
“Yes, it’s very painful. We have to convert in those situations. We just have to get back on the (practice) field and get to practicing and get better every day.”
Was San Francisco doing anything differently or was it just lack of execution?
“They did what we expected. It was just a lack of execution. We just have to get back to practice and get our timing, our blocking and everything back in sync.”
This was a good defense against the run, but has struggled against the pass. Maybe you guys didn’t take full advantage of that?
“They have had their struggles, and we have had our struggles. We just have to revert to doing better and making plays. Our playmakers have to make plays when the opportunity presents itself.”
The front seven stepped up pretty big today.
“Today we tried to play 60 minutes. We just didn’t finish what we needed to.”
With the offense struggling on third down ... that has to be tough because you guys don’t get much of a break out there:
“It’s our job as a defense — if the offense doesn’t get it done — to go out there and stop the opposing offense and get the ball back. We did a good enough job, but we didn’t finish and we let them score.”
The first three games, it’s been a situation where there hasn’t been a large margin for error and the opportunities aren’t being taken advantage of at the end of the game. They always comes back to be factors, don’t they?
“In order to be a good defense, we have to play stout all day and not give up too many big plays.”
Frank Gore didn’t really get much going and after his fumble. Kendall Hunter was their go-to guy down the stretch:
“After our last game, our emphasis was to keep playing the run and being stout up front. That’s what we did today.”
Usually, when you hold a team under 17 points, that’s the goal for a defense. A lot of times it works in your favor defensively. Just not one of those days this time?
“It just wasn’t one of those days. I thought we played a good game, but it just didn’t happen today.”
When opportunity knocked, the door didn’t always open for you:
“It continues to be a thing that we aren’t scoring in the red zone. We have to be able to get the ball in the end zone in those situations. Last week, we probably never get in that situation if we can score some touchdowns. And this week, same thing. If we have a chance, we have to put up touchdowns.”
It’s the second week in a row you have struggled on third down. It’s tough to win going two of 21 over a two-week period:
“Third downs have to be better; it’s just an execution deal. First and second down have to be positive and then you have to convert.”
You guys moved the ball well between the 20-yard lines, but when you got in the red zone, it was like the Twilight Zone a little bit:
“Yeah, we have to be able to move the football more consistently in the running game and the passing game. In the red zone, we have to be able to score touchdowns. We just haven’t been able to take advantage of opportunities. We’ve had some positive field position situations where we should at minimum end up with field goals and we didn’t.”
Into the third quarter, you guys had a huge field position advantage. Every one of their drives started inside the 20, and you guys started better than them again. It’s a margin for error thing — you guys just have to capitalize:
“We have to capitalize and be more effect in those situations. That is something that is going to haunt us if we don’t get it fixed.”
As a leader, what do you say to this team to make sure they stay focused and keep going the right way?
“We have to go to work. You are a professional athlete now, and this is what being a pro is. It doesn’t always go how you draw it up. It doesn’t always go how you want it. You have to go to work and make it work the next week, and that is what we are going to do.”
“Justin is a good player; I will say that about him. It was fun playing against a guy that you practiced against every day.”
Tough loss for the team today. You had a couple nice catches on the last drive, but unfortunately you couldn’t get it done and punch it in:
“Things that were done early on my part hurt the team. We shouldn’t have been in that situation, and I just have to tighten up and improve things.”
What did you mean about things you did personally to hurt the team?
“Just key blocks in the run game. Right now, I feel like I am just hurting the team. I think I just need to put more into the week and just be more consistent.”
Third-down conversions have really hurt this team the last two weeks. Can you pinpoint why the team hasn’t been able to convert better?
“It’s just execution. We have a good game plan, and the coaches are doing a good job. It’s just up to us as players to make a play and get the first down.”
You had first-and-goal inside the 10 a couple of times today and had to settle for field goals, and that wound up hurting:
“Like I said, in the beginning, it was key blocks. We have to be able to be professional and tighten down and do things right.”
I know you would like to consider yourself one of the top tight ends in the NFL, and Vernon Davis had one of those performances today:
“He did great. He had a lot of catches and helped his team out a lot. What can you say? That’s why he gets paid so much.”
Can you go over the last part of the game?
“The closing aspects of the game were two interceptions by our defense. I thought our defense played a tremendous game. It was a great football game on the defensive side. It was a big interception by Carlos (Rogers). It put us in field goal range and David (Akers) made the big kick again. What a tremendous job he is doing. Then we came back and got the interception by Reggie (Smith). That wasn’t the end of the ball game, but it did give us the win.”
Andy Dalton started off very well. Did you do something different on defense after that?
“Yes. We played really good defense after that opening drive. Even during that opening drive, to turn them away on the goal line with a field goal, I thought, was huge. It was first-and-five at the five-yard line, and we turned them away. Our defense was able to do that twice in the ball game. That was a big key in the victory. We were getting good inside pressure by Justin (Smith) and Ray (McDonald) — and Ahmad (Brooks) on the edge. It was good. The coverage was tighter. He had to pull the ball back down. We got him out of his rhythm.”
The way the offense was sputtering during the game, did you have to talk to the guys before the touchdown drive?
“It was a tough ball game all the way around, and that’s the way they are in the National Football League. It was hard moving the ball. It was hard for both teams to move the ball. When our offense had to, we were able to create some good field position and knock out a couple of first downs and get into (a rhythm), that helped. I was pleased with our offense. The pre-snap penalties shoot you in the foot. It was a grind out there. I was proud of our team to win a game like that.”
Was it a no-brainer to kick the long field goal at the end of the game?
“No. You are weighing the perils and merits of doing each thing. You can see the merit in both. If you punt it down there, they have a rookie quarterback and a touchdown beats you. I think that it’s confidence in all of our units. I was confident that our field goal unit could make the three. If we feel that we can make the three, then that’s what made the decision. I have confidence in our defense, and David (Akers) makes you look good.”
On Vernon Davis:
“Vernon played really well. He made a big play for us in the third quarter to get us down to the five-yard line. He caught some crossing routes. He caught the first one early in the game. It’s something that we have been working on for about three weeks, and we thought that this was the game to use that play. He played a good game. I thought Alex (Smith) played extremely well. He was 20 of 30 for (201) yards passing. He really managed the game well.”
Was that a tough game to call?
“I thought that we called a good game. I thought it was good preparation by our coaches our players. I’m proud of the way our guys reacted on the field, especially after the ball was snapped. One of the things that were really hurting us were the pre-snap penalties, and that is something that we will have to work on.”
What did Kendall Hunter show you on that touchdown run?
“It was well-blocked, first of all. There was a crease and he got up in there fast. I thought it showed a real good burst on that. He had a couple other runs too. Good game for Kendall.”
Did Frank Gore get hurt on the fumble play?
“No. His ankle was bothering him before that.”
Was Kendall playing more because Frank hurt his ankle?
“Yes and no. Kendall was in the ball game within the first seven or eight plays of the game. He was getting more snaps later in the game in response to Frank’s ankle.”
Alex Smith has been sacked quite a few times in the past two games. What needs to change?
“First of all, nothing needs to change. What we need to do is improve. That’s what we’re going to do in every area on the football team. I’m pleased with our guys. I thought they really sucked it up today. I thought they played tough. I thought they battled. That’s what you want your football team to do, especially in the fourth quarter. In the National Football League, these games are hard. (I’m) proud of the guys.”
The play-action fake really helped set up the only touchdown of the day:
“Yeah, I had the call on and I saw they were bringing pressure, so I really tried to sell the fake. Kendall Hunter made a great play when he got the ball.”
Jim Harbaugh was saying that you guys have worked on that play for a few weeks:
“Yeah, we’ve worked on it.”
What kind of changes did you make in the second half to put points on the board?
“We got into a rhythm. We moved the ball and finally got some chunk plays.”
The offensive line has been struggling. Do you ever need to talk to them and settle them down?
“There was a little bit of crowd noise on third down. Every team deals with that on the road, but we have to improve.”
Did you think the play to Michael Crabtree was a touchdown?
“I saw him make a great catch when he went up for it. I saw him come down in — I was worried that he would be pushed out when he landed. When I ran up, I saw that the ref’s hat was off, so I knew what that meant.”
What did you say to the guys in the huddle before the go-ahead touchdown drive?
“I can’t remember. I say a lot, and I can’t remember which drive I say what.”
You guys showed some real poise during this road game victory:
“To become the type of team that wins on the road, you need to have poise. The defense kept us in it all day, and special teams played well. Offensively, we have to play better. To come back and have that fourth-quarter drive says a lot. I think guys were fired up and wanted the ball back after our lost fumble. I’ve been on teams where it’s ‘here we go again’, but it’s not like that here.”
You were sacked six times. How do you feel?
“I feel good. Obviously, sometimes you wake up in the morning and feel some things, but I feel fine.”
How did you feel after the hit from
“I heard the crowd and watched the replay. It looked pretty good, but I felt fine.”
It seemed like they rolled you out of the pocket and you were able to find success:
“Yeah, we moved the pocket and spread the ball, and it helped us get into a rhythm and produce more on first and second downs.”
Thoughts on Bengals offense:
“They were the best running team that we’ve faced so far. They have a great scheme with good players up front. They have some big fellas, and they run the ball.”
Did you guys do anything differently on third down?
“I think it’s safe to say that they’re a running football team. We did a decent job against them on third down, but they still did a pretty good job. Our defensive backs made some plays to get us off the field.”
After QB Andy Dalton had some success on that first drive, did you guys do anything different to confuse him the rest of the game?
“I think he made some plays. They run those quick timing routes and three-step drops. The guy has some potential, and I think he’ll be just fine. Our secondary tightened up and made some plays. You have to give them some credit too.”
It wasn’t the prettiest win, was it?
“A win is a win. We’ll take it. We’ll look at the film and try to fix what we did wrong.”
This was a pretty good road win for you guys:
“It was a great day and a beautiful road win in the Jungle. This game meant a lot, especially since we are on a big road trip right now. Our play calling and overall play was solid.”
What did you do to shut down the running game today?
“We made sure we used the right personnel and just stuck to the game plan that we had practiced all week.”
You came in as the blocking back on the touchdown run:
“I was anxious because I was hoping I would get a chance in the first half. I was so excited. I was speechless. Hopefully there will be more opportunities coming.”
Was the foot injury bothering you at all during the game?
“No, not at all. I came out healthy, and I’m blessed for that. I’m ready for the next game now.”
What do you think happened on the touchdown play that was called back?
“I don’t know. They said I stepped out of bounds. When you’re in the zone during the game, you just have to go off of what the referees are saying. If they throw a flag, then they throw a flag. The most important thing is that we got the win.”
Was it frustrating on offense during the first three quarters?
“It’s always frustrating. You’re going to have some downs and you’re going to have some ups. You’re going to have some dropped balls but you have to just keep pushing.”
What was different about the go-ahead touchdown drive?
“In football, not everything is going to go right. Everybody came together. The line was blocking great and Kendall (Hunter) came in and punched it in. We got a couple of first downs and just finished the game strong.”
Are you experiencing any soreness?
“The injury is behind me now. I’m healthy enough to continue playing, and I’m going to go out there and do what I need to do.”