SANTA CLARA – Here’s what Alex Smith said this afternoon in his Wednesday press conference.
Q: Greg Roman said the other day that the red zone was the last thing to come together for an offense. Do you feel like that’s still forming with this offense? Is that an area that can improve?
ALEX SMITH: I certainly hope so, yeah. No question. The situational football are the last things that you continue to get better at and the last things to hone in on. No question, obviously there’s room for improvement. We’ve left a lot of points on the field in the red zone, especially these last handful of weeks. So, no question, room for improvement, we need to improve and we will. We’re still doing a lot of good things but we’re not playing our best where it matter most down there in the red zone, so we need to get better, and obviously if we do there’s a lot to be taken advantage of.
Q: When you say room for improvement is it calling different plays? Is it different technique? What are you saying?
ALEX SMITH: I think all of the above. No question you’d have to look at execution, for sure, just executing down there. We’ve left a lot of good plays out there and haven’t finished them, haven’t executed. No question, obviously just plays, scheme, all that stuff kind of goes into it.
Q: Why or how is the game different first and goal from the eight as opposed to first and ten from the 45?
ALEX SMITH: The field’s just so much smaller. You’re only operating with a limited space down there, so obviously the windows are smaller, timing has to be better, the spacing has to be better, all of the above. The running windows are tighter, safeties are that much closer to run support. All those things come into effect down there. You just really have to be on the ball as far as executing. In the past game, balls have to get turned loose down there. You’ve got to trust what you see and then the windows are smaller. All that stuff. All of it comes into play.
Q: Despite all that you’re 10-2 and you’ve won the division. What does that say and what does that make you feel?
ALEX SMITH: I’ve said this before, in a lot of ways it can be frustrating but it’s encouraging. I think we’re still just scratching at what we can become, and we’re doing some good things in the meantime but I think we’re still forming and becoming what are potential is. That’s encouraging as well that we just need to continue getting better these last few weeks, each and every week taking a step and red zone is one of those areas.
Q: You worked out with Kyle Williams in the offseason. Talk about his improvement and him taking advantage of his opportunity.
ALEX SMITH: Any of us that have been around Kyle aren’t shocked at all. He does it every single day on the practice field. Anytime he seems to get a chance he makes plays. He worked his tail off this offseason. He’s out there every day. Not really a surprise, I think he’s just a prime example of a guy who continued to work and wait for his opportunity, finally got a little window and he hasn’t let go of it. Made the most of it and that’s what you’ve got to have. All good teams have that because injuries are going to happen and you need the next guy to step up, and Kyle’s been that for us.
ME: Alex, I asked you about throwing deep passes a few weeks ago. On Sunday you were on point with them, especially over the middle of the field to Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. You didn’t link up on the ones toward the sideline, the ones intended for Ted Ginn Jr. Is there a difference in those throws?
ALEX SMITH: Yeah, just different types of throws. The ones down the middle are play action. The ones on the sideline were kind of the two minute drill at the end of the half, they’re dropping eight guys, they’re playing coverage. So different types of throws. They’re obviously still down the field, but much different categories as far as in my head. Almost one of those – the couple to Ted – I’m just sailing, didn’t have clean vision on him and I’m kind of sailing there at the end of the half. When you’re in a two-minute drill at the end of a half you’re trying to get what you can, but obviously you’re not going to force things, make dumb mistakes and give the ball back. Obviously I’d like to hit those, but it was just kind of, you know, educated sails where I’m going to miss it out of bounds.
Q: On that throw to Vernon, at what point did you see the defensive tackle bearing down on you?
ALEX SMITH: I didn’t really, I was locked on the safety the whole way. We thought how we were going to have it turn out, and the safety stayed backside and Vernon ended up running right by him. I caught that at the last minute and just put it up over his head. Didn’t even notice it out there, I guess.
Q: Three weeks ago you guys played Arizona. What did you like about the matchup between Michael Crabtree and Patrick Peterson?
ALEX SMITH: He’s a talented young corner, extremely talented. The guy does a lot and makes a lot of plays. They match him up, especially the last few weeks, against the opponent’s top guy, and it was no different when we played, him matching up with Michael. I remember after that game we watched the film (and saw) Crabtree really sparking us all day, just really lifted us as an offense. He continued to make plays and when he was one-on-one, winning. I’m sure they both remember that and will be ready to go on Sunday. Anticipate those two matching up.
Q: The last couple weeks Crabtree’s really played well. Do you see him getting healthier and healthier?
ALEX SMITH: For sure, just getting back healthy. Then, anytime you miss camp and you’re coming in late and you’re trying to go off the injury, you’re still just catching up with the offense and how comfortable he is and understanding things. All of that leads to his playing faster knowing what you’re doing, and he’s doing that right now. Playing at a high level.
Q: A different feeling this week as you prepare knowing you’re in the playoffs?
ALEX SMITH: Yeah, a little different, but at the same time these are meaningful games. Division games. We played these first division games all at home – now we’ve got these chunks on the road. Going into Arizona, they’ve won four of their last five. I think we all recognize that. They just beat a good Dallas team. A little different, but at the same time no less pressure. These games are all big.
Q: Have you ever run a fly sweep before this year?
ALEX SMITH: No, no, not that I can remember. In college – not in the NFL.
Q: Does that take a while to develop?
ALEX SMITH: In college you don’t have the speed on defense that you have in the NFL, especially sideline to sideline, so it’s very rare to see it successful at least. Ted’s a special and the guys up front are doing a great job, but obviously Ted’s running ability makes it go.
Q: What does it say about Brian Jennings that he’s survived as the long snapper with the same franchise for about a dozen years?
ALEX SMITH: Just consistently does his job. Long snapper is one of those positions that if your name ever gets said it’s a bad thing. You’re just expected to do your job out there and that’s it, and he does that. He takes so much pride in doing his job and how he goes about it. A model of consistency.