Brent Jones spoke on KNBR Monday afternoon. Here’s what he said.
Q: On a 1-to-10 scale, how much of an alarm meter would you ring on Sunday night?
BRENT JONES: I think it’s a 10. The thing that scares me the most is the defense. There have been four games this year – the Vikings game, the Giants game, the Patriots game and this game where we just flat-out got dominated. Certainly, the Justin Smith injury is significant. I think the most recent defensive collapse of the last two weeks can be attributed to that, but this defense is so much better than just one guy.
The reality is when you get behind so quick so soon, you’re in such a bad position to play catch-up on the road. You almost have to throw the ball, so you kind of have a one-way go. The run game, play action – none of that’s going to count. You’re not going to see Frank Gore 22 times. It just takes your strength away.
This team will not win the Super Bowl unless the defense carries them. It’s just the way it is. It’s reality. Earlier in the season I thought they could do it. Now that I’ve seen enough games, I’m starting to question it.
Q: From the first snap, Seattle pushed the 49ers’ defense back. You don’t see that happen.
BRENT JONES: It just doesn’t happen. I was scratching my head. What are the things that are different these last six quarters? You look at Justin and what he’s done, that hurts. But it’s not everything. We’ve got too many great athletes on this defense. I don’t know if they’re not motivated, I don’t know if guys are playing individually and not in the scheme, but I do know this: There have been a couple of games where they got out-physicaled. This defense should not be physically manipulated by another team.
If you go back historically and look at the great defenses that have won championships – the Bears, the Giants teams with LT, some of our defenses with the 49ers – that just never happened. There might be a glitch or two during the season, but you never saw our team give up four touchdowns in the fourth quarter. You never saw our team give up 11-of-12 on third down.
This was a crucial game. I know the people are talking about: “Hey, we’re fine. We’re still going to win the division.” But this put us – unless the Vikings beat the Packers next week – this put us on the road. Having to play in Green Bay in September is much different than having to play in Green Bay in January. And then likely having to go through Green Bay and Atlanta. This team can do it, but boy, you just talk about making it tough for yourself.
We’ve got through some games that were just phenomenal, and then we’ve laid some eggs in other games where that just shouldn’t have been the case. We’re a Jeckyl-and-Hyde team. I’m hoping that we get hot during the playoffs. I’m sure Jim Harbaugh and his staff will have the guys mentally ready to go, but I’m a little flustered and frustrated because I can’t figure out who that was or what that was that showed up Sunday night.
Q: There was a jarring difference in red zone play between the two teams. Seattle was able to score in the red zone, and the 49ers weren’t even able to get chances to score. What do you see?
BRENT JONES: It hasn’t been one of our strong suits over the last couple of years. I think a big part of that is when things get compacted, the receivers are a little less able to use their speed and their moves. That’s where Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker really have to get involved. Delanie’s starting to come around. The reality is both those guys together can create some havoc and give you an advantage because they’re going against linebackers or strong safeties. You can run crossing routes. You can maneuver with those two together. It just feels like they haven’t been in the zone at the same time. That’s an area that we definitely need to focus on. We need to get those guys more involved inside the 20. Those are two great receiving tight ends that can manhandle a lot of linebackers in coverage. We’ve got to focus more on them instead of trying to force the ball to Crabtree, running slants and fades – everybody does that. It’s a 50-50 nowadays because defensive backs are so used to those types of plays.
Q: The red zone interception last night started as a red zone slant to Crabtree. Do the 49ers need to make scheme adjustments?
BRENT JONES: I think so. I think the mark of a great coach, and Jim certainly has this, is you’re constantly evolving during a season. You can’t stick with your same plays. I don’t if there’s any go-to play that we have in the red zone, but when you talk about our receivers against very athletic corners – that’s a tough matchup. Now, Crabtree has some physical capabilities to him, but the greatest point to emphasize is our tight ends because I think they’re just more athletic and they are able catch the ball. Certainly some scheming can help.
And the other thing is we’re playing with a young quarterback. I’m still a huge fan of Colin Kaepernick. I think the kid has been remarkable. Sunday night he was playing from behind the whole time. That’s an unbelievable assignment to be on the road and be down 21 before you blink, with all that crowd noise and all of that stuff. It just changes the game plan. Basically the run game was dead at the end of the first quarter, and that’s brutal, especially for a young quarterback. Was Colin great? No. Was he bad? No. I think he’s still Colin. He’s still going to make plays. He’s still got unbelievable upside. And he still needs his defense much like any quarterback in this league needs their defense. You can’t just go out and lay an egg right off the bat.
Q: I can tell you’re a tight end from your insights.
BRENT JONES: I’m always pumping up my guys. Fortunately, that’s the one area of the field where you have to. It’s such a huge advantage to have tight ends or backs – you saw Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown catch. That was just a classic Texas route. We used to run that play with Tommy Rathman all day long. You either cover the tight end or you cover the back, somebody’s open. Whoever’s open is who you throw it to. We need some more of those types of plays.