We knew going in that this would be a game that would be a very physical game. The 49ers had played very well all year long accumulating 14 wins based on outstanding field position, turnovers that resulted in short drives for scores, and a punter and kicker that kept people at bay no matter what the circumstance was. A record setting punter and kicker and the game proved very much to be that way. I was asked at halftime by Pam Oliver about what I thought the second half would bring and I mentioned again that the game would be decided by turnovers, field position, we certainly had a day where it certainly was weather but both teams, I thought, did an outstanding job of not allowing the weather to become any kind of factor in determining how they played. I mentioned to her that the game would come down to a field goal, perhaps, and I didn’t mention anything about overtime but there it was. During the overtime, the consistency in the way in which both defenses played was outstanding. I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that. The direct path to victory was going to be a most difficult one. What I really felt was somehow, someway someone who is not normally someone in the limelight would make a play that would help us win it and we had two of them. The two special teams plays which you pray for all year long, some big play and some special teams play that would give you an opportunity to win the game and of course they occurred twice and Devin Thomas was involved in both and Jacquian Williams making the incredible strip play as the returner made an excellent cut and was really trying to avoid Jacquian. His reaction with long arms was really quite a feat. That and plus the ability to maneuver the ball down in with the run game to get it located directly in the middle of the field and then kick the game-winning field goal which brought great drama to the conclusion of the game. The game was a very hard fought game in which we had 90 snaps in the game and they had 57. We had 38:36 of time of possession and the difference we thought was that they were 0-1 in the red zone and we were 2-4. The play by Eli to Mario Manningham on third down after we had the holding penalty that knocked us back, I can’t tell you how important that was to allowing us to win the game. Had we been forced to kick a field goal there, that situation that came up a little bit later may have been different.
Q: Has it sunk in that you are going to the Super Bowl?
A: Yes, it has. It sunk in just as always takes place with the field goal. You don’t stop and say to yourself, ‘we won the game.’ You say, ‘we are going to the Super Bowl,’ which I tried to explain to the players on Saturday night when we looked at a tape and we talked about the field goals that Matt Bahr kicked in (the ’90 NFC Championship Game) and we talked about the field goal that Lawrence Tynes kicked back in 2008 that indicated the way you were going to the Super Bowl. That was first and foremost on my mind but the thing that normally happens when you have a game of that nature both teams and players played very physical and very hard. Great effort was taken place on the field play in and play out, it was a very physical game and you are very grateful to be in the position that you are in and be able to win a game like that. It is very humbling as well to realize that as you have fought your way back into respect if nothing else. Our players have rallied and won five single elimination games in a row.
Q: How much easier or harder is it to prepare against a team you played in the regular season?
A: We are going to have time to study. The New England Patriots have won 10 games in a row. They are an outstanding football team. Without question to be able to play at home and beat a Ravens team that was playing so well and so physical and so on, they are playing very, very well. We will look at our game which seems like a long time ago when you look back to November. We will certainly look at that but we will study all of the games from that point on. Statistically, we will evaluate everything and we will have time to study and we know what we are going to find when we do study, they are a very good and very talented football team. They have put together an outstanding string of wins.
Q: Can you talk about Victor Cruz’s play yesterday?
A: The first half he made some plays and catches that were outstanding. He has truly been not only an outstanding player that has made the entire league and world take aware of but he has done so with consistency. The way that this thing has shaped up with our receiving corps, it has really been outstanding. For him to go into the game and have 10 receptions for 142 yards and 14.2 average, he just played very well and he created some opportunities for us that otherwise wouldn’t be there. He has done it and he has done it with consistency and we are very happy for him and the way he has played. He has been a big addition to our team and our success.
Q: Did your heart skip a beat on the low snap on the last field goal?
A: It was the weather and the snap but I thought Steve did a great job and he was so excited to tell Lawrence to keep his head down and make this field goal and we are going to the Super Bowl. He was all about that when he went about his business and he did make a very good catch and placement on that field goal and he did a very nice job the whole game with the ability to catch the wet ball in punting situations. We did punt 12 times and then when he was the holder, he did a very nice job with that as well.
Q: What was the flight home like? And how did it compare with the cross-country flight after defeating San Francisco, 15-13, in the Championship Game in 1990?
A: The players were all excited and they continued to remain that way with their NFC Championship hats. The noise level was very loud as we came onto the plane, the stewardesses were cheerleaders decked out in Giants gear and as they were for two or three weeks in a row, they were in rhythm in their welcome of the team. It was a very excited group, it was a very happy group. The volume was really loud for quite some time and after that we settled in and tried to get some sleep. The players were very excited and complementary of each other. There was a lot of high fives and shaking of hands congratulating one another and looking each other in the eye. I don’t have a great recall after the 15-13 win because we went from there to Tampa. We had packed for two weeks because of the one-week preparation of the Super Bowl. I am sure it was an excited time but I remember more of walking into the hotel in Tampa after four o’clock in the morning and having to be in the offensive staff room at eight to start the game plan. I remember those specific details as well as the fact that with a win of that nature, you are going to have tremendous acts of enthusiasm by the players because those games build up so much emotion and great excitement, drama and feelings. The impressive thing to me was the mental toughness that our guys and the 49ers showed. They kept playing and playing and each team trying to create a chance for their team to win it. That was the thing that was so impressive to me, the way that our guys kept that feeling on the sideline. That encouragement that each series would be the one, that convincing one and that proof was in the way the turnover was created and the outstanding runs that were very good. We didn’t have many that were but there was some good ones and when we maneuvered with quarterback zone to put the ball in the middle of the field for the field goal, those were all dramatic moments.
Q: Is mental toughness one of the team’s strengths? Do you attribute that to the five elimination games in a row?
A: There isn’t any question about it. We preach [mental toughness] from day one and we try to explain what it is – a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. I think you see evidence of that.
Q: You seem to be having a really good time with this team. What is it about them that is registering with you?
A: There’s a great feeling. I talk a lot about spirit. I talk about emotions. I talk about vibes. I talk about feelings. I talk about an atmosphere that’s been created by the cooperation between players and coaches and the harmony and the great feeling that exists. It’s been that type of feeling that has sustained us really throughout the course of the year, but even more as I see people grow closer together. That naturally happens with success, but I’m talking about a real bonding and that’s what I sense. That’s what I feel – a very responsive team. On Saturday night they were locked in as well as any team that I’ve ever been associated with. You could hear a pin drop in the meeting rooms. We initially started off with special teams and then we go offense and defense. When I walk around and listen to the meetings you can literally feel and sense the focus and the concentration. Those are things that I appreciate. I understand young people and all that goes with that, but these guys have been able to really create a very strong business-like approach to what they’re doing. Whether you use the word fellowship or whatever word you want to use, there’s a strong, strong feeling among this group. It’s been a great source of pride for all of us as coaches to be associated with this group of young men.
Q: What about Eli’s physical toughness? When you see him take all of those hits what goes through your head?
A: We’ve done a really good job the majority of the year of not allowing people to get to the quarterback. Last night wasn’t that type of an example. There were too many hits on the quarterback last night. We threw the ball an awful lot. We weren’t having much success running it. Some of the questions that have come to me about Eli – we have such great trust in him. He stands in there and he’ll take the blows, he’ll get right back up, he gets right back in the huddle, he’s the same positive influence on everybody around him. He doesn’t get real upset and point the finger or want to know what the deal is. I’m sure he does in his mind, but he’s never going to show that. He’s got a real sense of toughness about him and it’s demonstrated by the way in which he plays. He certainly demonstrated that last night.
Q: Do you get a flutter in your stomach, like ‘Oh my God, he’s going down again’? Or do you know he’s going to get back up?
A: Sure I am [concerned]. I don’t like it. I don’t want the quarterback to be subject to that. I know that if we take care of him, he’ll take care of us. So that’s really where my concern is. Rather than spend time thinking like that, we then begin to try to figure out how we can help more – what can we do with our backs and our tight ends and those types of things. Whether we need to move the quarterback – what do we need to do to try to help that situation out? So that’s normally where most of the energy is directed.
Q: Did you get a kick out of Ann Mara giving it to Terry Bradshaw after the game?
A: I missed most of that, to be honest with you, because I was ushered over to the press conference side, but I did hear a little bit about that this afternoon. I know that in many ways, many times Mrs. Mara’s attitude is reflective of the way that we would hope our team plays. She has great energy and tremendous interest and she is so interested in the team playing well and doing well.
Q: Can you talk about the job Bradshaw did running the ball?
A: He’s a tough guy and he’s going to pound it up in there. Even if it’s not yardage that we want, he’s still forcing people to pay a price just to tackle him. He’s a physical force. He wants the ball. He’s very aggressive about it. He has a toughness about him that everyone on our team recognizes, not only because of the things that have happened to him and he’s played, but it’s the way in which he plays. You can look at the last three or four runs where he’s doing everything he possibly can to get every yard. You see him stretching and ducking and reaching. You see his pad level down around his knees and you see him even when he’s extended over, trying to get anything he can get in addition to where he is at that point in time. He runs the ball with power and with force.
Q: How is Tyler Sash and did you have any other injuries come out of last night?
A: I think Tyler is going to have to go through all of the protocol, but he felt pretty good even on the plane last night. So I’m hoping that he will go ahead and pass all of his testing. A lot of that will take place tomorrow.
Q: Have you decided how you’re going to structure the practice week before the team travels to Indianapolis?
A: We’ll follow a routine that we developed a few years ago. We’ll end up practicing this week, trying to prepare as best we can while we’re here. We’ll practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday here and then when we get out to Indianapolis we’ll practice a normal Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.
Q: How many days are the players getting off this week?
A: They’ll be in tomorrow and then Wednesday they’ll be off. And they’re off today except for the training room.
Q: Is Hakeem Nicks okay? He missed a couple of snaps in the game.
A: Came right back and played. He’s sore, but I think he’s going to be fine.
[Note: I don't usually front page these transcripts, or allow comments, as they are usually just reference material. During the run-up to the Super Bowl, though, I will put some of these out front for you.]