Good afternoon. I am excited, excited to move on, excited to be one of the remaining four teams that will play this weekend for the AFC/NFC Championship. The game yesterday was really eventful and meaningful for our team to go into Green Bay, to play against the reigning champions, which we have tremendous respect. We always talk about the turnover margin and of course that was huge yesterday. We were plus-three and we felt very much so for a team that only had 14 turnovers over the course of the entire season that was exceptional. They were a team with plus-24 and really had played from the other side of it all year long. Yesterday, the opportunity for us to be a plus-3 team, we had one turnover and they had four, was a huge part of the game as you know from being there. The other things that were highlights, in addition to the turnovers, fumbles, etc. The recovery of the surprise onsides, the recovery of the must onsides kick, Derrick Martin did an outstanding job with the surprise onside and Victor came up with the must onside. The play before the half where there is no timeouts and it looks as though we may be stalled in our own end of the field, Bradshaw makes the outstanding run and saves us six seconds. Then we go into what we call the flood-tip which is the desperation play the end of the half or game, and we were fortunate enough to hit it, which is a very rare thing that you see a couple times a year but not many. That was a big boost for us to go into the half 20-10 and then to come back out and look at just before the half and then the third quarter, we had the turnover and we had those plays I just talked about. Then we came out and they drove the ball and Osi got the big strip and Deon Grant came up with the ball for us to stop one of their drives and turn them away. I congratulated Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay team, Aaron Rodgers, for the year that they had. It was an incredible year when you think about the accomplishments they made and the numbers. The performance that Rodgers had with a quarterback rating of 122 was just an incredible season for them. I did see a little bit of the 49ers game and they were really physical. It was a hard fought game that I did not see the end of but I tried to read about it the next morning. The 49ers have played extremely well all year long, they have rushed the ball, they have played outstanding defense, their quarterback came up with huge plays in the game the other day to help his team win. We are looking forward to digging in and preparing for the 49ers.
Q: What can you improve on coming out of the game against Green Bay?
A: Our consistency with the run, which has been very sporadic. Yesterday we made some plays and some chunk runs towards the end of the game and at the half which helped our numbers but the consistency I don’t think was there to the extent that we would want it to be so that is the number one thing. We were two for five in the green zone yesterday with touchdowns and we have been much better than that. We need to make sure that improves. The 147 yards rushing yesterday by Green Bay, 66 of that was by the quarterback, but we still had a 19 and a 20 yard run against us that we have to do a better job with that. From the standpoint of our special teams play, our field goal protection had a leak and we have to get that shored up. Our kickoff coverage late in the game, which had been outstanding late in the game with our ability to maintain leverage and contain the returner, I was a little bit upset about that. I think those are things that I would start off with as far as things of improvements.
Q: Now that the flood-tip play has worked, do you have to change it for the next time?
A: You can tinker with it. Usually we put five seconds on the clock and put the ball in different places and there are different protections depending on where the ball is on the field. That gets tinkered with and the releases because people come up and jam your releases so you do have to prepare some things for that as well.
Q: Have you ever had a receiver with hands like Hakeem’s?
A: These are special hands. I can give you a couple guys that I personally coached that were great players. This guy gets his hands on the ball and like I said last night, when I saw those red gloves go up, he is going to be up above everybody else and we would have a good chance of catching that one. I could appreciate it even if I was an offensive line coach. That is pretty special.
Q: Was that one of the reasons why you drafted him?
A: Very much so. That and a lot of other things, a couple of them you have seen in the last few weeks. I think he is a lot faster than people give him credit for, especially when he is being chased. He came out of the other end when he got hit. He got tagged pretty good by Peprah and it kind of knocked him around and turned him around and he remembered which way was north and away he went.
Q: How much different is Alex Smith this time around?
A: He has done a great job all year of taking care of the ball and doing what he is coached to do. We saw that in our first appearance out there. The team believes in him and he certainly has reinforced that with his play last weekend.
Q: Is the 49ers defense the best you have faced this year?
A: I am not going to get into that yet, I haven’t studied them yet. I am just getting started on their special teams but I will get to it. I will say that they are very physical and they played us tough the first time around.
Q: What has Michael Boley brought to the team since coming back?
A: If you watched the way he played last night, Michael Boley played very well last night. He did an awful lot of things. He rushed the passer with the two sacks, he had hits on the quarterback, he was very physical in his tackling and he covered well. He displayed a lot of the things that he can do last night and when he is on the field, we have a lot more options then we have when he is not.
Q: Do you expect an explanation from the league on the Jennings’ fumble?
A: I doubt it. I doubt there will be any explanation at all.
Q: Was there anything that you saw that didn’t make it a fumble?
A: There is, but I won’t go into it.
Q: Do you ever look back and see plays that may have changed this season?
A: Not at this time but I will at some point. Most of the time, I look ahead. When the game is over, let’s go to the next one.
Q: What goes into challenging a play?
A: It is a sequence that we always believed in and I want to say at the beginning of the season, it was the best in the National Football League for a lot of years but having said that, we have a sequence that we want to use and discuss. Usually, I am looking for the most proof I can get but we have lost some challenges this year without empirical data but usually it is one of those deals when you are told exactly. I am always saying ‘did you see it, can you prove it, do you know it is there’ and that is how it works.
Q: Are there any injuries from the game that concern you at this point?
A: There are always some people after a physical game like that. Whether you are worried about it or not, you have to wait until Wednesday. Today and tomorrow are big days as far as exactly what the issues are and if it is anything that will go forward or not. Right now, I would say I don’t think so but we will see.
Q: Did Blackburn have a shoulder injury?
A: I don’t know if it was a shoulder, he may have had a stinger or burner but it didn’t prevent him from going back.
Q: Has Eli’s improvements been steady?
A: It has always been steady, it has always been steady with Eli and everything is always going forward. Just like anything else that is very fine, it has developed and it will continue because of the way he works.
Q: Is there something about the way Kevin Gilbride tailors the offense to get the most out of the players?
A: The number one thing in coaching, which I think all of our guys have done a good job with this year and Kevin and Perry with the assistant coaches and special teams coaches, you have to evaluate your talent and see what they can and cannot do. From that point on, you design, improve and move forward. The combination that the coaches have seen in the individuals and what they are doing and the direction that all of these people have been pushed in, is the result of what you are seeing on a weekly basis. If you want to take Victor, it was the Philadelphia game that showed you what he really can do and there have been many, many instances of it throughout the course of the year. Jake Ballard’s development especially earlier on before the injury and what he contributed. He had a big catch last night for a first down.
Q: How has your relationship with Antrel Rolle evolved?
A: My relationship with Antrel is very good. We have always been straight up and up front with each other. Again yesterday, he was all over the place with eight tackles, a fumble recovery and good solid pass coverage too. The one ball that Jennings caught on him was perfectly thrown. That was the one that I point out but he has played very, very well. He has been into it and you see the bounce in his step. I am very pleased with his attitude first of all, with his outlook because he is a very bubbly, smiley guy and he has really fit very well with our other players.
Q: Do you draw any conclusions that for the most part the high-powered offenses are no longer playing and the teams that play defense are still in it?
A: Other than the fact that as this thing unwinds, the teams that are playing very, very well and take advantage of the opportunities and with a good formula have the opportunity to advance. You want to know about defense, offense or special teams, to me it takes all three. It takes all three playing in harmony with one another to give you the opportunities to win.
Q: Is Osi’s play taken for granted?
A: No, no, he is always going 100 percent. Sometimes you have to say Osi because he goes hard. The way in which he practices is the way in which he plays. He is always, always looking to make a play.
Q: How would you describe the mentality of the team?
A: We are very excited about winning. We enjoy the postgame and the locker room. The guys are very, very much into it. They are excited and emotional and by the time we get it out, we are talking about the next game. This morning, they are in here with the idea of looking forward so I think they have handled it well and continue to.
Q: What do you think about the play where Osi got a penalty?
A: It was an aggressive football play. He followed through as he released the ball and the hit is from the side, there was no helmet involved, it was from shoulders to waist. We will coach that one forever.
Q: Do you think it was because Aaron Rodgers was on the ground for so long?
A: It was a late occurring flag.