SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Curtis Modkins’ Week-11 press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“Tough loss. There’s a lot we can take from it. Probably the most important thing is, like I’ve probably said up here a lot, we can’t do the things that hurt ourselves, whether it’s penalties, drops, etcetera, and win a football game in this league especially against a good quality opponent like that. We’ve got some stuff to clean up. The guys recognize that. We recognize that. All we can do is work today to try to get it fixed. Anybody got any questions?”
Looking at the holding penalty on C Daniel Kilgore, how can you coach that up so that doesn’t get called?
“In regards to penalties, our guys are well aware of what’s a penalty and what’s not. A flag was thrown. Danny’s just got to be more aware of it. I can’t say a whole lot about it other than a flag was thrown and we’ve got to avoid them. Danny’s coached up. [Offensive line] coach [Pat Flaherty] Flats coaches all those guys up on how not to hold and what to do and they’re never coached to hold. They threw a flag on it, so we’ve got to live with it and we’ve got to make sure we avoid the situation.”
In terms of the drops, there were about five different guys that had them. Was there a common element to all of them?
“Most of the time at this level, when a guy drops the ball it’s because he took his eye off it or it’s a fundamental thing. If they’re here it’s because they can catch. Most of the time it’s a fundamental issue of taking an eye off the ball, trying to run with it before I catch it. But, whatever it is we’ve got to get it fixed because it can cost you in a ball game. It cost us, so we’ve got to clean that up and they all understand that.”
Head coach Chip Kelly has talked a lot about wanting to run the football. You guys haven’t been able to run the ball consistently. Why, what do you see as the issue of why that hasn’t been able to be a staple of your offense?
“That’s a major point for us. We’d like to be able to run the football. Speaking of the last game specifically, that was a very good defense we were going against. So, you have to give them credit too. They were, I think going into the game, the top ranked defense in the league, so that was a very good opponent. In terms of the running game, I can’t say it’s just one position or one person specifically. It’s everybody. It’s the backs being in the right places with the right timing, the line being on the right people and finishing on the right people, receivers blocking on the perimeter, the quarterback making the right reads, getting us in the right play. There’s a lot involved with having an effective running game. So, in saying that, that’s always going to be a goal of ours and we’ve got to collectively fix it as a group.”
Have you thought about using an extra lineman to maybe help in that run game, maybe using G Andrew Tiller as an extra lineman to get some push?
“No, not particularly. When you do one thing in this league, when you solve one problem you normally create another. So, bringing an extra lineman in hasn’t been something that we’ve, we’ve done it before, probably not now. We’ll see. Who knows what can happen. Normally when you bring an O-Lineman in you take a receiver out, you take an eligible guy out. So the defense normally changes when you do that. We’ll work to figure that out. That may be something, who knows?”
What stood out to you about G Joshua Garnett’s play over these past few weeks since he’s been a starter?
“Josh is a young player and I think every game, every rep, every rep in practice and every game is important for his development. Did he do everything perfect Sunday? By no means, but I think we do see strides. We do see the game slowing down a little bit. He’s understanding. He’s not making a lot of mistakes. He had a penalty in the game. Those things happen. We want to correct them. I see improvement in a lot of different areas and most importantly it starts on the practice field. He’s improving day-to-day with fundamentals, his techniques. It’s a long way to go, but he’s a young player that’s improving.”
How’s he doing with pass protection and specifically dealing with the two-man games and blitzes and stunts?
“He’s working at it. All of our guys are working at it. Coach Flats spends a lot of time working on that specifically, the twist game and the stunts. That’s a staple in this league and people have done that to us and they do it for every offense and that’s what guys have to work together. He’s a young player that’s new to the league and he’s getting it. So, we work it a lot with all our guys and that’s one of the things that I think is improving.”
Is it fair to say the offense has been better under QB Colin Kaepernick than it was with QB Blaine Gabbert?
“No, I wouldn’t say that specifically. I think our offense is growing. I think our offense in general is learning more and more about what we’re asking from them and where they need to be and all those types of situations. I wouldn’t say it’s specifically because of Kap. I think our guys grew a little bit last week. Probably couldn’t say that the week before, but last week.”
Kind of saw him carry the team a lot more Sunday?
“There’s no doubt he’s done some good things. He’s been improving and we just look for that to continue. He has a long way to go as do all those other guys on offense. So, we’ll work for that, work to that.”
ME: Where do you see him improving and where do you feel he needs to continue improving?
“He’s improving with his reads. He’s improving with handling the offense, getting us in and out of plays. He’s done a good job of extending plays. I think he’s getting his legs. He’s strong. He’s running when he needs to. But, like I said he has some work to do just like myself and the rest of the guys. But, he’s improving.”
You said big and strong. We spent months asking you about his health and where he was in that. He did seem confident and fast and strong in that game. Do you think that from what you see he’s back to where he was pre-surgeries?
“Well, what I knew of him pre-surgery is from a distance. I wasn’t here specifically observing him on a day-to-day basis, so I probably can’t answer it as far as from a personal knowledge of where he was at outside of watching him on film from afar. But, I do know that he had some major surgeries and it takes some time to come back from those. These guys are young and they probably come back a lot sooner than you or I come back. But, it does take time. I think I see him working. He’s working his tail off to get back. I see some of the things I saw on film before I came here from a running perspective. He’ll continue to do that and look to do that when the opportunity presents itself and that makes us better when he can.”
It looked like on those sacks he had a clean pocket for a while and could have gotten rid of the ball. Were there guys just not open or did he make the right decision holding onto the ball?
“Sometimes, I think it’s a number of different factors. I think there are times when a quarterback holds the ball it might be because he feels a defender. The look tells him to go here but he feels the defender might run under the ball so he holds it. There are a lot of factors involved. When you give up a sack, sometimes people automatically point to the offensive line or the quarterback. It might be somebody ran the route at a different depth that he wasn’t expecting or ran the wrong route. There are a lot of different factors. The bottom line is we can’t have sacks. Colin knows that, our offensive line knows it, our backs know it and our receivers know it. So, everybody has to do their job and that helps Colin out tremendously.”
You talk about pass protection, specifically OL Trent Brown, he gave up the most quarterback hurries and hits, also allowed the sack to Arizona Cardinals LB Markus Golden. Is that a concern for you moving forward knowing that he’s having a hard time with these speed rushers off the edge?
“No, not particularly. I think Trent needs to improve like everybody, but I think his strong suit is pass protection. He’ll fix the issues that we had in the game Sunday and he’ll be better for it. He’s also a young player that’s learning and he’s learning out there. But, from a pass protection standpoint I really don’t have any concerns with that. He’ll fix his issues and he’ll be better next week.”
From your time with the Bills, what did you learn just about the Patriots I guess as an organization and are there certain hallmarks of their defense?
“Yeah, they are always going to be well coached. They always play hard. You have to beat them offensively. They’re not going to give you busted coverage or be out of gaps. You have to beat them. It’s kind of how it’s been as my experience with them. I think we all relish, that’s why we’re in this league. I think our guys are looking forward to the opportunity to prepare today and we’ll go from there.”
Are they unique in a sense of the way they adapt and the way they can do so many different things defensively in terms of how they scheme things up?
“I think every team in this league is unique. I think the Patriots do a good job of using their personnel to their advantage and whatever that entails from week-to-week. Obviously they do a very good job at it. They’ve been doing it for a long time and they have championships to prove it.”