SANTA CLARA — Vic Fangio spoke in the media tent Thursday afternoon. Here’s a transcript courtesy of the 49ers.
When you look at the Texans, what sort of jumps out at you about the challenge that they present to you guys?
“Well, balance number one. These guys are committed to running the ball and they have a play-action passing game that works directly in conjunction with their running game. So, they make their runs and play-action passes look exactly the same. So, they’re a tough offense to defend in that regard. And then they have a really good passing quarterback and really good receivers to throw to, highlighted by [WR] Andre Johnson, who will probably be the Texans first Hall-of-Fame guy once he retires, five years later. He’s still very big, very strong and fast and runs excellent routes and is a really a hard player to play against. They’ve got really good tight ends that they are both very good receiving tight ends that they’re very comfortable throwing the ball to. And they throw the ball deep, short and intermediate. They’ve got really good balance in their offense.”
Is it an especially good test for S Eric Reid just in, with the play-action and not biting and not going into one direction, things like that?
“Well, it’s a test for Eric and all of our guys. They have a very tough offense to defend. They marry everything together in the running game and the passing game off their play-action. And they’re one of the few teams, too, that still has a very good drop back passing game on the early downs, too. So, it’s not all play-action.
DT Justin Smith had voiced some concern, obviously they block similarly to Seattle and how that can also be dangerous for a defensive lineman’s legs. How do you go up against that? How do you prevent that? Is there anything you can do to counter that?
“They don’t do it to that same extent. And, it’s legal as we stand right now. So, you just got to play.”
Do you expect to have LB Patrick Willis for the game?
“I think Pat’s getting a lot better, making great progress. I think the chances are better than 50-50, but we don’t know for sure yet.”
Have you decided on a number three cornerback, everything being equal, everybody being healthy?
“Not yet. But, right now I still think it will be [CB Tramaine] Brock this week.”
How did he play against St. Louis?
“Good. He did a nice job. He probably had the biggest play of the game in breaking up that pass that [S] Donte [Whitner] intercepted in the end zone. That was a 3rd-and-1, deep into the second quarter. They were in field goal range and I think the score was only 7-3 at the time. So, that was a very critical play at that time and he made that. And he made some other good plays.”
What about LB Michael Wilhoite, especially if he has to be covering some of these tight ends on Sunday?
“Well, he’s got a tough assignment. These guys are an excellent passing team and running team. The linebackers, I think, you alluded to testing Eric Reid, it’s the ILBs have a harder test in deciphering run or pass against this play-action game and being sound in their coverage but yet being good playing the run also.”
How great of a game did LB NaVorro Bowman have for you guys?
“He played really good. He did a good job pass rushing and blitzing which we’ve been wanting those guys to do better on. And he did well, made some plays in the backfield. He really played a very good game.”
You mentioned Brock as the number three as it stands right now. Is that partly a function of CB Nnamdi Asomugha still coming back from his injury?
“Yes. That’s part of it, obviously part of the equation still.”
How do you assess how LB Dan Skuta and LB Corey Lemonier did?
“They did fine. They both played, the way the game unfolded, Corey played a little bit more than Dan. But, it’s kind of, we’re kind of treating it like we did in 2011 where Dan is playing the base stuff and Corey is playing the sub stuff. Although they both can be interchangeable because they, like one time during the game when we had to punt twice back-to-back because of a penalty Dan had to cover both those punts. We were in the base defense and Corey wasn’t on that punt team, so he went out and took the base snaps for Dan after doing basically two 50 or 60 yard sprints back-to-back.”
Can Corey play both sides or is he more comfortable on the left?
“Yes. He can play both sides as Dan can also.”
Does the emergence of the rookie wide receiver kind of make you guys, keep teams honest defensively as far as approaching Andre Johnson?
“Well, yeah they’ve got, their whole receiving corps, when they like to play a lot of two tight ends and two receivers and those two tight ends are good receivers. And then that’s with Andre and [Texans WR DeAndre] Hopkins out there, those are two really good receivers, so they’re still, and they got the really good back, they got two good backs. So, these guys are really good and they’re a tough assignment because they’re balanced. And they’ll stay balanced throughout the game as long as they can.”
Are they unique in that it seems like some teams against you guys, they can’t run and they say, “Well, screw it. Let’s just pass.” Are they somewhat unique in the NFL in that they really are committed to the run game?
“Well, they really are. They’ve won a lot of games there over the last few years and have scored a lot of points and gotten a lot of yards on a lot of people. And I think it’s because they have a commitment to a balanced offense. They try hard not to become one dimensional. And with their defense playing the way it is, they can do that for a long time.”
With the increased emphasis on protecting defenseless receivers, do you think that can change the ways offenses attack you or attack anybody in terms of taking more chances over the middle, sending guys up in the air, that kind of thing?
“Well, I’ve always said, when they’re fining these people for these hits, they should be fining the quarterback for throwing these guys into those big hits. But, we just got to learn and we have to hit correctly. Don’t lead with the helmet. Stay off their head. The part that’s hard about it all is the league has instructed the officials to err on the side of caution, so they’re going to throw the flag no matter what. So, ultimately what is a great play by the defender, but it looks so, because it’s such a great hit, but it’s a clean hit a lot of times, the flags are being thrown because it just looks that way. And I would wish they would do a better job on that.”
Do you think a booth review, make that a reviewable play would be one step in the right direction?
“I don’t know if you have to review it. I don’t know that the officials need to err, they need to err on the correct side, not on the safe side. Because, if it is an illegal hit, the guy will get fined on Monday or Tuesday. So, it’s not, if you miss it as an official, that doesn’t mean it’s over and done with.”
Where did you fall on Donte’s hit on Rams WR Chris Givens?
“The angles I’ve seen so far it looked like a good play. He did not lead with his head. It looked to me like he jolted the guy pretty good in the shoulder with his shoulder and the guy’s head snapped because of the impact of the hit which made it look like an illegal hit and so they threw the flag.”
What was the call on that? I forgot, they said unnecessary roughness, but what did they say? Was the receiver defenseless or was it to the head?
“All of that. I don’t know exactly what they called. If they, unnecessary roughness or, I don’t know.”
Do you have a take on the change of his name from Whitner to Hitner?
“He did not consult me before he made that decision.”
What would your advice have been?
“I’d tell him to rethink it because I do know if you change your name, correct me if I’m wrong [49ers director of public relations] Bob [Lange], you got some funds you have to come up with for jerseys is one thing. And, whatever.”