Fangio: “We were ultimately the second-best defense on the field in those two games.”

SANTA CLARA — Vic Fangio spoke in the media tent Tuesday afternoon. Here’s a transcript courtesy of the 49ers.


We saw CB Darryl Morris got promoted to the active roster. Is that a sign that CB Nnamdi Asomugha won’t be able to play Thursday?

“Well, we had the opening with the roster, and we do have some questions with our health at the corner position. So, we just felt it was a natural to bring up Darryl with that opening.”


Is there more than just Nnamdi that you’re concerned with?

“No, not at this time.”


How is LB Patrick Willis doing?

“He’s getting better. He’s making a lot of progress. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be ready on Thursday or not.”


Do you consider having the replacement for LB Aldon Smith being a one-person job? Or do you see basically matching up LB Dan Skuta and LB Corey Lemonier—?

“I think both of those guys will get some playing time in the game as we move forward into it.”


If you don’t have Patrick and you don’t have Aldon, how big of a void are those two? And how do you sort of go on without those two?

“Well, you’ve got no choice. The game is scheduled. We’ve got to go play. And those guys behind them have got to go in and play and play to the best of their abilities. And we’ve got to go.”


Are the Rams pretty much still a pass-oriented team with QB Sam Bradford and does WR Tavon Austin give them an extra threat?

“Well, I think the Rams philosophically are a run-first team. Austin does give them another threat. He’s an excellent receiver in the slot where they like to play him most of the time. He’s got great speed and quickness. He’s a playmaker. But, I do believe that the Rams will try and run the ball. That to me is their roots.”


Do you see teams wanting to run the ball more on you now since they’ve seen other teams have success the last two games?

“I think the Rams, that’s their base philosophy anyway. And I think that they like to be a balanced attack and have a good mix of run and pass.”


It’s early in the season, but teams have averaged 35 rushing attempts against you guys after you guys saw about 25 last year. How do you adjust to that?

“You don’t. That’s just been the nature of the games we’ve been in. When they get to be low-scoring games and you’re behind in the fourth quarter, you get a lot of runs. Indianapolis, last week, came out throwing a lot early, and then as the game developed, they ended up running some more.”


Were you guys in a base set when they had three receivers on the field a little bit more against the Colts?

“We did it some. We did it some.”


Is that because maybe defending the run in the nickel has been kind of a struggle so far?

“Not necessarily. We always like to mix the base in there some against three wide receiver sets.”


How are you addressing the penalties and some of the first downs you guys are giving up from mistakes, and just to clean that up?

“Well, we’ve got to eliminate the pre-snap penalties and any post-snap penalty, neutral zone infractions, offsides, any personal fouls that would occur after the whistle. Those are the ones that have to be eliminated. We haven’t had many of the after-whistle ones. And then the ones in between, think you’re talking mainly about the pass interference, we’ve just got to be able to play with good technique, get ourselves in position to compete for the ball, and be able to make the play. It’ll all come back to technique.”


With Aldon Smith out, will you use DL Glenn Dorsey, some in the nickel defense?

“He’ll mix in there at the tackle position with those other guys.”


You set a really high bar with the run defense. Some people look at the numbers from last year and say, what’s going on? What’s the problem? Is there some sort of fundamental problem? Or is it just two bad games? Or anything you can put your finger on?

“Well, I just think it’s been we’ve let a couple of them pop, which we haven’t done in the past which skews the statistics. And we’ve been in games where they’ve been able to hand it off a high amount of times. So, I think it’s a combination that we haven’t been as sharp and the type of games we’ve been in.”


Have you been affected though as well maybe having to sub players more just because the amount of time the defense has been on the field the last two games?

“I don’t think so. I don’t think so. We’ve got to be able to play. Some of our problems in the last game were self-inflicted. We didn’t get off the field quick enough on some of those drives in the second half. So, it wasn’t totally because the game was the way it went.”


What’s your understanding on how long you guys are going to be without Aldon Smith?

“I don’t really know. I’m not able to make any comment on that. [Chief executive officer] Jed [York], [general manager] Trent [Baalke] and [head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] and Aldon himself have made the comments, and that’s where it stays.”


Do his teammates ask you about that? He’s an important part of the team. Are they wondering what the future is with him?

“I’m sure they’re wondering, but they know exactly what we know. And it’s indeterminate right now.”


Do you think of it as he’s one of my star players, but he’ll be even healthier for us for the long term in a month if he goes and helps himself?

“Yeah, absolutely.”


Did LB Ahmad Brooks play on the right side a little bit last game? Is that something where he might shift over there now?

“He played there a little bit some last game, and he did in the second game, too. That’s something we work in.”


Is there much transition for him to do that?

“No, he’s capable of playing on either side. He’s comfortable with it.”


Will you keep LB Dan Skuta and LB Corey Lemonier to sides, or will they be interchangeable?

“They’re interchangeable.”


What kind of insight does S Craig Dahl help with this week if any?

“Not much at all, no. He was a defensive player.”


I guess the numbers have been slightly skewed, that was a 13-7 game right in the fourth quarter, somewhat similar with Seattle. Overall, do you look at things and say you’re fairly pleased with the defense, but maybe they were down the fourth quarter, or just turnovers are part of that?

“Well, basically the last two weeks, which is what you’re alluding to, we were in low-scoring defensive battles and we were the first defense to crack. And we were ultimately the second-best defense on the field in those two games. And when we get in low-scoring games, we’ve got to be able to hold fort, hold the fort down and find a way to win those games with key stops, getting key turnovers, and find a way to win them. We’ve won low-scoring games here in the past. We’ve got to find a way to win them now.”

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  1. Fangio interviews are the best — he actually answers questions. I loved his answer to fourth quarter defensive issues. No double speak there.

    1. Fangio is too conservative he needs to go. We need a more aggressive defensive cordinator. Maybe why defense gets torched in 4th is because he doesnt bring in fresh pass rushers? Same old boring Vic Fangio rush 4 dont blitz and dont sub in.

    1. DS – I have good news for you:
      I heard Mission Mental Health Clinic in S.F. has a new program that is designed for OCAD – “Obsessive-Compulsive-Alex-Disorder.”
      Step 1 – Admit you have a problem and call them for help.
      8 out of 10 “Alex Only” fans that completed the program have left their basements and are living somewhat normal lives.

    2. Just don’t get it, there are 49ers fans that give kap alot of props? Actually harbaugh can’t admit that he screwed up. He’s 49er team has alot of issues to fix, disgruntled players, overrated players, arrogancy is the most issue surrounding this team, starting with their arrogant QB and Head coach. No matter what thy say on the paper or bloggs they need still need to work on alot problem with this team.

  2. Fangio tells it like it is…while most of the focus has been “what’s wrong with the offense”, he’s saying his defense hasn’t been up to snuff, either. Lemonier and Skuta will do fine, IMHO. Both have shown an ability to get after the QB. Cory does it with speed and Skuta, just plain toughness and determination. I like the Morris promotion…kid just seems like a natural and with his speed, he could be a real good one in time. After Thursday’s game, only 3 more ’til both Dial and Carradine can begin practicing. While Tank got the headlines, I’m really anxious to see what the big guy can do in the middle.

      1. It makes perfect sense. Look at our defense since the new england game. Fire Fangio. Any d coordinator would love to be aggressive with our front 7. Fangio doesnt blitz and has no creativity. Brooks should be getting replaced by Lemonier but the coach wants to play Brooks every snap.

  3. Hope Fangio did not mean Niners’ defense is 2nd best of each game they played, with the opposing team to be the best. If so, season is over!

  4. In 2011, the San Francisco 49ers had the best run defense in the NFL and perhaps the best in the team’s storied 67-year history. With DE Justin Smith and DE Ray McDonald manning the end positions and NT Isaac Sopoaga entrenched in the middle, the defense was simply the best. Nobody ran on the 49ers. That season was Sopoaga’s best as he matured before our eyes into a great nose tackle after replacing departed NT Aubrayo Franklin.

    In 2012, for some unexplained reason, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, decided it would be best to pull Sopoaga on passing downs while limiting his play to only 30% of the snaps. The 49ers continued their excellent run defense until Cowboy sustained an injury. With Smith out and Sopoaga rarely touching the field, the 49ers run defense suddenly became very ordinary.

    Fast forward to the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons as Sopoaga barely touched the field in the first-half while Atlanta ran up 24 points. A team in shambles, Fangio returned Sopoaga to the lineup in the second half and he responded with three tackles and the team’s only sack on Matt Ryan. Atlanta was shut out in the second half.

    The story was much the same in the Super Bowl. Trailing 21-6 at half time and with Sopoaga mostly sitting, the Niners came out in the second half and came within an intelligent play call from a Super Bowl victory. Sopoaga played almost the entire second half, recorded three tackles and an assist, and the Ravens were held just under 100 rushing yards.

    Still, the coaching staff failed to see the value in re-signing Sopoaga and let him go to the Eagles. You NEVER break up a unit’s chemistry without good reason, and a few bucks is not a good reason.

    This season, in three games the 49er run defense is seriously lacking. Ian Williams was decent at NT but quickly went down and what we have now isn’t about to throw fear into any opponent. With the 340 lb Sopoaga refusing to give ground, the 3-4 worked perfectly for the 49ers as his incredible strength simply clogged the middle and you never saw the 49er line pushed backward as we did so often in Sunday’s dramatic loss to the Colts.

    According to Mike Tomsula’s stopwatch, Sopoaga was the fastest DL off the ball, and was an excellent red zone blocker from the fullback position. He even caught and 18 yard pass and his quite leadership is missed.

    My suggestion to save the season on defense is a simple one. Lamichael James will languish behind Gore and Hunter and eventually Lattimore and needs to play. His former coach, Chip Kelly has a great 3-weapon attack with Vick, McCoy and Jackson. How he would like to add James to the mix. At the same time, the ONLY way for the 49ers to quickly regain their former chemistry is to trade James to the Eagles, and get Sopoaga back. This would reinstate the defense to the exact same personnel on the front seven, return some stability to the Niner defense, and perhaps save Fangio’s job.

    1. You can say the same thing about special team. Niners’ ST was never the same after Blake Constanzo left or the Bears. Together with Ted Ginn’s speed, Niners’ 2011 ST was so fun to watch.

      The offense right now see a bit impact of Delanie Walker’s absence. His blocking, and pass catching are missed.

    2. Big Al,
      Good points.
      I just don’t agree with the Soap for LMJ trade. Yes, you are correct that the 2011 defense was lights-out. But as much as Justin Smith is credited for Aldon having a great season, I believe that credit has to be given to Aldon for JS having a good year as well.

      JS’ best years may be behind him, and MacD is only a few notches above being good, but certainly not great.
      And Soap is not receiving much playing time in Philly these days, so in my humble opinion there’s no way I trade LMJ for Soap.

      JS and MacD may never regain their 2011-12 form, but we need them to still perform at their highest level until we get our young bucks (Dial, Lemeonier, and Carradine) are ready to go.

  5. Glad to see harbaugh and Kap both got their butts kick in two games. Two terrible whipping they got from Seattle and Indy. This two thought they were invincible? Its amazing how one year makes a difference in how the teams played and how success turn to failure. Hope harbaugh and Kap learned their lessons.

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