Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy spoke on a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Tuesday. Here’s what he said.
Q: How different are both of these teams from the teams that faced each other in Week 1?
McCARTHY: I think every team in the National Football League is different from Week 1 to when they get in the playoffs. I think that holds true for both the 49ers and the Packers. Things happen. It’s part of the challenges of going through the NFL season.
Q: Did playing Joe Webb the other day give you a nice warm up for playing Colin Kaepernick?
McCARTHY: No, not really. Colin Kaepernick, to me, is a totally different player than Joe Webb. There is a play or two schematically that we saw in the game that carries over to some of the things we’ve seen on film from the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick, in the little time he’s had, is a much more experienced, much more productive quarterback. He creates different challenges for us.
Q: Is there one thing you’re stressing this week that your defense needs to do against Colin Kaepernick?
McCARTHY: Why would I talk about that in a press conference? Good shot.
Q: James Jones had a very nice season for you. Has he elevated his game from previous years? What makes him so successful?
McCARTHY: Absolutely, James has done a great job. It’s a real credit to him. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s always put his time in, he’s always been ready for his opportunities and now he’s been given the opportunities and he’s taken full advantage of it. I think JJ has clearly had one of his best seasons and one of the best seasons we’ve had hear from our players.
Q: It must be nice to finally have a mostly healthy team.
McCARTHY: You never want to see any of your players go down to injury, but it’s also an opportunity for some of your players to step up and take advantage of that opportunity. I’m pleased where we are today. There have been a number of players we’ve been able to play, particularly our younger players. I think it’s definitely made us a better, more well-rounded football team.
Q: How does the 49ers current defense compare to the defense Mike Nolan was trying to install back in 2005?
McCARTHY: There’s definitely some similarities with Mike Nolan and Vic going through Baltimore. There’s some carryover. Obviously, the personnel is a lot different today than it was in 2005.
Q: How much did your one year coaching for the 49ers shape who you are as a coach?
McCARTHY: Every experience you have as an assistant coach helps you and prepares you to be a head coach. The opportunity to work in San Francisco was a great one for me personally on a number of different fronts. As a young coach, I was at the University of Pittsburgh with Paul Hackett, we always studied the 49ers’ film. It was always something we were trying to emulate. And then when I was in Kansas City, all three quarterbacks had come from San Francisco, so you had a lot of time you spent with the way they did things out there, particularly on offense. To have the opportunity to go out there and work, it was definitely a year I enjoyed.
Q: Does Kaepernick seem pretty poised for a quarterback who’s made seven NFL starts?
McCARTHY: Absolutely. We’ve been very impressed with what he’s done on film. He’s a strong athlete. He can do everything from the pocket, out of the pocket. I think he’s put together a very nice stretch.
Q: Has DuJuan Harris surprised you in any way with what he’s been able to do?
McCARTHY: I think you have to be. He joined the practice squad midseason, so there really wasn’t a period of development where you can go back and go through the installations. He kind of had to learn everything on the run. He was given an opportunity and he’s done very well with each game. I’m definitely surprised and thrilled that he’s here.
Q: What does it mean to have Charles Woodson back?
McCARTHY: Charles is an outstanding football player, has been his whole time here. He’s been in two different systems, plays a number of different positions for us. And then the other part of it too is his leadership. Just glad to get him back sooner than later. Just watching him go through this injury, I know it’s been tough on him. He’ll be ready to go this week.
Q: How big of a chess move is it for you to send four wide receivers on the field and make the 49ers decide whether to replace Patrick Willis with Perrish Cox?
McCARTHY: It’s not a chess match in my view. I have a lot of respect for the way they game plan. Vic Fangio is going to do what’s best for his football team. We’re going to line up, run our concepts and do things that we feel gives us the best chance to be productive.
Q: Were you surprised in the first game when Willis went to the bench in their dime package?
McCARTHY: Nothing surprises. I’m never surprised by anything in this game.
Q: How much of a game-changer is Justin Smith? How much does he mean to the 49ers’ defense when he’s in?
McCARTHY: He’s a very good football player. We’re preparing for him to play. We have plenty of film on him and we’ll make sure we’re ready.
Q: You didn’t establish the run game Week 1. How big of a deal is that in this game?
McCARTHY: You don’t ever want to be one dimensional. Every game plan I’ve ever been a part of and everything I’ve ever heard a defensive coach talk about is their goal is to make you one-dimensional. It’s important to be able to run and throw the ball.
Q: Do you think you’re better equipped to do that than you were earlier in the season?
McCARTHY: We have to be. It’s the playoffs. We’ve been running it better the last four or five weeks. DuJuan Harris has given us a shot. Ryan Grant is back and he’s more comfortable now. Hopefully Alex Green is getting healthy. James Starks is practicing again this week, too. Maybe one of those guys can give us a shot in the arm also.