SANTA CLARA – Here is the transcript of Vic Fangio’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.
Vic, [LB] Aldon Smith was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month, is he just providing everything you could have hoped he would at this point?
“He’s played well in this last month. His pass rush has really picked up. He’s had games where he’s had opportunity to play more because the type of offenses we’ve been seeing, and he’s taking advantage of that. He’s done a nice job pass rushing. And sacks are a well-publicized stat and he’s had a bunch of them here lately, so, that leads to him getting that award, which he’s done a good job for us.”
People see those stats and they say, well why the heck isn’t he starting with the 6.5 sacks. Can you make an argument that the 6.5 sacks are because he’s not starting, kind of coming in and playing fresh has created those 6.5 sacks?
“Well maybe. He’s not playing every play, but truth be known, in the last three or four games he’s played more than [LB] Parys [Haralson] has just because of the nature of the game that we’ve played. So, he is a starter in our sub-defenses. He’s not a starter in our base defense, so you can look at it either way you want.”
How has Parys played?
“He’s played fine. He played good last week. Had a couple good plays against the run, had a nice coverage pickup in pass defense and I thought he played one of his better all-around games last week.”
Is his main role to set the edge against the run?
“Well that’s part of his job duty, for both of our outside linebackers, not just him. But, he’s got a full plate, just like [LB] Ahmad [Brooks] does when he’s in there in the base defense. We expect him to rush the passer, set the edge. They have to drop the coverage some. So, he’s got to do everything out there.”
There’s some discussion as to who’s having a better year [LB Patrick] Willis or [LB NaVorro] Bowman. I’m not going to ask you to—unless you want to, to join in on that debate. But, if you could just talk about what their different responsibilities are, what you look for separately from each one of those guys?
“Well they’re both very similar, and they play similar positions. And a lot times in some of the stuff we do, they’re interchangeable. So, they have a lot of the same jobs. Just sometimes in our sub-defense Pat has to cover a little bit more on the tight end than NaVorro does, is where some of their differences come up.”
When you look at the film, are they comparable performance-wise at this point?
“Yeah, they’ve both played very well up to this point, and we’re happy with both of them. They’re active guys. They’ve played physical, and everybody knows that they’re good athletes and can run and they’re good in the open field, but they’ve played physical versus the run too, which is critical for us.”
Patrick he has the radio, right, in his helmet? How has that kind of evolved over the last I guess month or two, just the communication between you two, is it pretty well?
“It’s been fine. I’m up in the box, so I tell [linebackers coach] Jim Leavitt what to call and he radios it in to Pat. And it’s gone fine. Pat’s had the radio in his helmet right from the get-go when we started camp, he wanted it. And we’ve gone with it and he’s done a good job with it.”
I don’t know that this linebacker corps has gotten the fame that your corps had back with the Saints, but how does it compare, these four to those four?
“Well I think it’s way too early to have that comparison. Those guys there, we had the same four linebackers starting in New Orleans for seven straight years and all of them had three, four or five Pro Bowls in that time span. So, to compare these guys to them is a little unrealistic right now because some of these guys are just in their first year of starting with NaVorro and Ahmad. So, it’s a little early for that type of comparison. But, these guys have played well this year, and I can understand why people would ask that type of question. I just think it’s a little too early to go there.”
You’ve mentioned previously that you have a few ironmen on the defense, and it looks like eight guys pretty much play every snap for you, are you concerned at all about wearing them down?
“No. A lot of teams have that many guys, particularly in the secondary. You’re starting four DBs usually play all the plays for everybody. And then you’ll have out of your front seven, they’ll always be a few guys that stay in a lot. I’m really not that concerned about it as we stand right now.”
Are you reaching the stage in the season now that you want to maybe rest some of the guys during practice?
“Well we’ll do that. That’s just part of coaching in the NFL. Our job is to get our guys ready to play on Sunday and sometimes that might mean not getting as many reps in practice as you would earlier in the season, particularly with a guy that’s a little older. And we’re cognizant of that and we’re keeping our eyes on that.”
With Aldon making the transition from defensive end to a guy standing up, what’s the toughest part about that?
“The toughest part, number one, is when you’re a dropper, figuring out if it’s a run or pass, and getting into your drop at the right time. Invariably what happens to guys that are making this transition, they’re either one way or the other to the extreme. They’re very late getting out in their drop, or because their dropping, they’re way too early and you’ll see a lot of these guys drop when it’s actually a run. So, I know that sounds very elementary, but that’s the hardest part, is when these guys are in a drop-mode, when their pass responsibility is dropping, and it ends up being a run, to not let their pass responsibility affect their run play.”
Has he picked it up pretty well, or is there still things you’d like to see more from him?
“He needs to do better at it, but again, we haven’t had a lot of samples to judge it by because he hasn’t really played a lot of linebacker for us yet in these games. Most of his snaps in these games, outside 15 to 20 at the most, have been as a sub-rusher. Now he has to drop sometimes in that when we’re doing some different things. But, he hadn’t played really enough snaps at outside linebacker to give you a good answer.”
How are you guys approaching [DT] Ray McDonald’s status this week?
“It’s day-to-day, anytime with that type of injury. He’s making good progress, and he’s day-to-day right now.”
How much do you think that they’re going to figure into this contest, Aldon specifically, going against [Redskins QB ]John Beck?
“Well, it kind of will depend upon what type of game they choose to run against us. If it becomes a heavy passing game, and a lot of three wide receiver sets out there, Aldon would play more. If they’re into the run-play-action-type game, which is their staple, out of two receiver-type sets, then he wouldn’t be out there quite as much. So, the offense kind of dictates what type of game it’s going to be, and we have to defend the type of game that they choose.”
Do they go many three wides?
“They do some. They do on the third-down stuff, obviously, two minute. But they mix it in there on first and second down.”
Is he an option to get some of the snaps if McDonald was missing time just strictly at end?
“If who was missing time?”
If Ray McDonald was missing time?
“No, he does not play Ray’s position.”
There have been a lot of impressive stats in terms of defense, not allowing a 100-yard rusher, and not have allowed a rushing touchdown this year. As a coach is that something that you guys even talk about during the week? Is it ever mentioned?
“No I don’t mention it. I’m sure the players do because they read what you guys write, or listen to the radio, or the TV. But, to me there’s only one stat, and that’s our record. And everything else really is irrelevant. Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we’re happy with how we’ve played, and where we rank and all that. But, it’s really not the main focus. The main focus is we need to do what we need to do to win a game. And if that comes with good defensive stats, then that’s just icing on the cake.”
Do you buy this whole the ranking is yards per gain allowed, does that mean anything to you?
“Not really. The most important stat on defense, and it’s a team stat, is points allowed. So, we can’t give up points. That’s our number one job, and we’re doing well in that area. But again, it’s a team stat. Your offense can’t put you in a bad position very many times. They need to make some first downs so you’re not out there a lot. Your special teams can’t put you in a bad position, field position-wise. So, it’s a team stat. The defense is mainly in charge of it, but it is a team stat.”
Do you know where you rank in points allowed?
Is there an area where you think there’s room for improvement, where you need to see improvement?
“Yeah we need to not be sloppy in our technique sometimes. We got a little sloppy in that game against Cleveland where we gave up a big play or two that – we just didn’t play the way we had been playing lately, and the way we had been playing in that game. It kind of happened all of a sudden there, and we paid for it. So, we need to not ever get sloppy. We’re a lunch-pail-and-bucket-type defense, and we’ve got to do our job the right way all the time.”
That was cover two that you guys were in on that touchdown?
“Yes to that side, yes.”