NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell spoke on KNBR this morning about the Niners. Here’s the transcript of what he said.
Q: Jim Harbaugh is saying that the Seahawks defense is better than the Steelers’ defense is right now. Is that a fair statement?
COSELL: I think it’s a very fair statement. In fact, one could easily make the argument that the best young secondary in the NFL resides in Seattle. This is a tough defense. Not a lot a people look at the Seahawks – they’re in the Pacific Northwest. Certainly here on the east coast a lot of people don’t even know that they play in the NFL. But this is a very good defense, and they’re tough to throw the ball against, and they’re front seven has played well. A name you’ll hear this week is their rookie linebacker K.J. Wright. They’re good. Now, they’re not as good as the 49ers defense. I said before the season started that the Niners would have one of the best defenses in pro football, and I would say right now they’re the best defense in pro football.
Q: Mike Tomlin said the Steelers lost because they played 49er football. Are the 49ers are team right now that’s so effective they’re imposing their will upon their opposition.
COSELL: Well I think defensively they’re doing that. The 49ers to me are a team that has outstanding defense as I said – they’re the best in the league. They run the ball efficiently and effectively if not spectacularly. Their special teams are very good, and they’re getting consistent, efficient quarterback play. So if they can play every game like that, then they can win any game. The question always for teams like that that are not explosive on offense, is what happens in any given game – let’s say the go to New Orleans in the playoffs. Let’s say it plays out that way, and all of a sudden it’s 17-0 in the second quarter for whatever reason, and the 49ers are behind. That’s always the question with teams that are not explosive in the pass game. But up to this point they haven’t really needed to be, so we don’t know the answer to that question.
Q: Why is Alex Smith more effective this year?
COSELL: Well I think, No.1 – he’s being managed extremely well. This is not an offense that asks him to make a lot of downfield throws. They control those throws with what we call “shot plays.” They take their downfield shots proactively, when they choose to, on first and ten for instance, which is the best down to throw the football. Because of their defense, because of their special teams, because of their multidimensional run game, this team in not usually behind in the third and fourth quarter by any more than one score even if they are behind. So they do not have to abandon their game plan approach and start lining up in shotgun, three-wide, four-wide, asking Smith to have to make difficult intermediate and downfield throws. Therefore they can stay very tightly controlled and structured, and he’s been extremely efficient in that. I’ve probably taken some heat out there, but the reality is – and I’m not saying anything that the coaches don’t know – he is not an overly talented passer. He’s not an elite-arm talent, but he’s clearly a much more confident quarterback than he has been at any point in his NFL career, and he is willing to make tougher throws now than was the case a few years ago.
Q: Did the Chiefs find a way to crack the code that other teams will be able to use against the Packers?
COSELL: Well there’s no codes, by the way. There’s no blueprints, but oftentimes things happen in given games. The loss of Greg Jennings is monumental and no one talked about that. Aaron Rodgers by the way over the last month, and it’s all relative because he’s a super talent, has not played as well over the last month. You put perfect storm together – the loss of Jennings, tight press coverage by the Chiefs, an offensive line that’s in relative shambles right now, and it all came together to render Packer offense a little bit problematic. But other teams have played man-to-man against the Packers and they’ve beaten them. There’s no blue prints in this league. There’s different ways you try to matchup given your talent versus the other team, but you can’t just take what the Chiefs did and say, “Ok, that what everybody will do now and the Packers won’t score.” It won’t happen like that.
Q: Peter King said he thinks the Niners would matchup well with the Packers, particularly if they still have protection issues for Aaron Rodgers. Are the Niners a viable team that can compete in the NFC to go to the Super Bowl?
COSELL: Right now, the 49ers are built in a way that always leads to success. Wherever that goes remains to be seen, but whenever you can – and these are clichés but they’re true – whenever you can run the ball effectively, whenever you play good to great defense – and they’re closer to great – whenever you have good special teams, whenever you don’t turn the ball over on offense you can compete with anybody. So they’re built to do that. The question becomes as I said earlier, if something fluky or strange happens or if their defense goes to New Orleans and has a bad game and all of a sudden they’re down two or three touchdowns, what happens then? That’s the only question. And as I said, we don’t know the answer to that, but that’s the question.