This is the transcript of Greg Roman’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“Good morning. Got a very good Redskins defense coming in, top-10 in a lot of defensive categories. Play very sound. Well coached. Very fundamentally and technically sound defense. Their secondary, they’ve got two veteran safeties in [Redskins S Ryan] Clark and [Redskins S Brandon] Meriweather. [Redskins CB David] Amerson and [Redskins CB Bashaud] Breeland coming along as corners. The linebackers, [Redskins LB Perry] Riley [Jr.] and [Redskins LB Keenan] Robinson, are pretty quick, good speed. They put a lot on those guys covering guys down the field. And then their front which they play a real physical kind of 5-2 defense if you can envision that with [Redskins LB Trent] Murphy and [Redskins LB Ryan] Kerrigan on the outside and then [Redskins DE Jason] Hatcher, [Redskins DL Chris] Baker, [Redskins DE Jarvis] Jenkins and then [Redskins NT Barry] Cofield [Jr.] is coming back, got a lot of respect for those guys. But, kind of come from the Pittsburgh family of defense, the old Pittsburgh Steelers defense. But, they’ve got a lot of different variations. And then [Redskins CB E.J.] Biggers comes in in nickel. But, the long and short of it is, well coached, good players, body of work very impressive. So, we’re excited for the challenge. Great to be back home. Any questions?”
You guys have won two in a row. But, is there a sense, are you at all disappointed that the offense hasn’t done more and especially this last game didn’t do more with the five turnovers that the defense created?
“Well, the one turnover that we got was in positive territory. That’s when we have always done a good job of turning that into points. But, as far as moving the ball, changing field position, a really good job. Point production, obviously we’ve got to produce more points. We know that. And, when you really look at it, we just had too many negative plays. So, I’ve got to do a better job of coaching and we’ll do a better job of executing and get that right. But, I think we put ourselves in scoring position five or six times. I thought there was a lot of things beyond the point total that were very, very positive from that game and much improved from prior games”
You talked about the negative plays. The one time you guys were down there you guys have had success from the read-option, but then you get down there and you get thrown for a seven-yard loss.
“Right. That right there is hard to overcome. A sack, a seven-yard loss, however it comes it’s really hard to overcome second and 17. Advantage defense at that point. So, we’ve just got to do a better job of coaching that up.”
QB Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been that accurate in the fourth quarter either. Is there a reason why that you’re noticing?
“I don’t think you can nail any of that down to one particular thing really [San Jose Mercury News reporter] Cam [Inman]. But, he’s constantly trying to improve every day and really doing a lot of good things. A lot of things people will never see in that game, he got us in and out of certain plays. The Giants took a pretty extreme approach to stopping the run against some of our personnel groups and he was masterful and just recognizing what they were doing and getting us into the appropriate play. But, nobody knows about that stuff but it had a big impact on the game.”
WR Anquan Boldin talked about a few drops in that New Orleans game that frustrated him. Do you ever see him take it up another notch like something like that motivates this guy to be even better?
“I tell you what, Anquan is such a special guy. You don’t really notice that because he’s always at that notch. I grabbed him last week and made an analogy about some of that stuff and we chuckled because it just never happens. It’s not something you would ever see. He’s so dependable, such a strong-handed catcher. And it’s every single day in practice. From the first day of OTAs, through OTAs, into training camp, it’s the same. What a great guy for young guys to look at and say, ‘Hey I want to be successful. I want to be a great player. I want to be the best I can possibly be.’ All they have to do is look no further than number 81.”
And the analogy was?
“I can’t repeat that analogy.”
You can’t tease us like that.
“It’s not appropriate. Is this HBO?”
But, you guys just chuckled at the fact that that was an uncharacteristic day for him?
“Completely. Completely. Completely. But, then again he made some great plays in that game too. But dependable, reliable, accountable, tough, smart, a winner.”
In the past in the playoffs it seems like you’ve saved some of your plays and kept some plays in your back pocket.
“I never said that.”
Former 49ers QB Alex Smith’s run against New Orleans or Kaepernick running a lot in Seattle last year. How do you balance keeping plays in your back pocket when you know your offense has been struggling in the red zone and what goes through making those decisions?
“That’s just a constant thing that goes through your head 24-7. It just is. It’s do we do this? Can we do that? Time investment? Should we save that? Is it more appropriate for that opponent? Do we want to waste that here or do we need it there? But, essentially, really and truly you’re trying to do everything you can to win the game and you’re trying to as a coach load your wagon with enough stuff to win the game. You try to get a feel for what their team overall can produce and then have plays for every situation. You’ve just got to have a good feel for that. But, generally speaking, you’re going to do whatever you’ve got to do to win the game and not save anything. There’s a lot of plays understandably, hopefully that you’re not going to run every play on your game plan. So, you might be working on something week after week after week but not pull it out until the right time so to speak. So, hopefully that answers that.”
Before the season, you said you were going to emphasize the red zone offense in training camp and improve it. And you did, I saw that. My question is why has the red zone offense taken a step back this season statistically?
“Well, there’s a lot of season to go. And, certainly last week wasn’t our shining moment. That’s just something that we’ve got to continue to improve on. We’ve kind of been up and down in the red zone this year. New Orleans, great. Last week, not so great. It’s just something that we’re going to continue to work on every day. I have total belief and faith in our players. That’s where it starts, whether it’s run or pass. I do think that we need to run the ball better in the red zone as well. I don’t think we’ve set ourselves up well down there running the football. All the above. All the above.”
I have a follow-up. TE Vernon Davis has one target in the red zone this season. He had 18 last year and had eight touchdowns. Why haven’t you made him the primary receiver more frequently on pass plays in the red zone?
“Well, he was the primary last week on a couple. But, the defense a lot of times down there will basically put a bunch of people inside and leave the outside single covered or do things to take him away, top him with a safety, etcetera. But, he’s definitely been involved in the plan. Coverage has taken the quarterback away from him sometimes. But, Vernon is definitely a guy that we want active in the red zone and actively work to do that.”
Vernon’s numbers are down dramatically. Is he OK? Healthy?
“Yeah, he’s healthy. Yeah, he’s doing good.”
I think a lot of people, I guess myself included wonder, they see one catch seven yards, one catch eight yards. What’s going on?
“Well, since he’s kind of gotten back from the injuries, it’s just kind of worked out that way. I’ve got to do a better job of getting him the football.”
Are defenses focusing on Kaepernick running more in the red zone than they were last year?
“It’s week-to-week. It really is. It’s week-to-week. I wouldn’t say so though. Some teams do. Some teams don’t.”
I know you don’t want to make a living off of this, but are there times that you would tell Colin, “Hey even if the defense does this against Vernon, still give him a chance to go up and make a play?”
“Yeah, I think there’s times. Anytime it’s one-on-one.”
But, I mean, even if he’s double covered?
“I don’t know about that. When you go back, and I’ll use this as an example, the New York Giants led the league going into the game in interceptions. Then you look at the film and you see why. The games they’ve won they’ve baited people into such interceptions. You know, another thing that was very good by Colin not getting baited into those same mistakes other people did. And that was a huge difference in the game. So, it’s not just drop back and throw the ball to Johnny. You want to throw the ball where coverage dictates. That’s best for the team.”
Former 49ers QB Steve Young has talked about just with running quarterbacks, which obviously he was, it can take them longer to develop just because they can use their legs to get out of trouble instead of having to figure out where to go with the ball. Not meant to be a knock on Colin or other running quarterbacks, but do you know what he’s talking about? Do you understand that premise and do you agree with it to some extent?
“I think spoken from experience. I think there’s definitely a perspective there. Again, it comes down to guys like Steve and Kap, they’re going to come in every day and work and work and work. They’re just going to get better as they go. Whether they’re running, throwing, but I would definitely take that perspective into account. It’s a voice of experience speaking there.”
How far has WR Stevie Johnson come each week? He’s talked about just the transition of his role here and a lot of great receivers. What’s your take on–?
“Stevie’s done a great job and it’s a different style of offense. They were just kind of, in Buffalo, just kind of wing it and try to put up big numbers and if you win the game, so be it. If not, oh well. But, I think it’s a different style of offense and he’s adapted to it very quickly and he’s doing a great job. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he does a great job. He’s got a very unique skillset and really pleased with what he’s done.”
Both Breeland and Amerson are big cornerbacks. Does Johnson do well against that type of cornerback, hands on cornerback?
“Yeah, you could make that argument based on his body of work that he does a really good job against those bigger guys. But, quite frankly, he’s done a good job against all style of corners, really, yeah.”
He’s not the biggest guy in the world. What enables him to have success against bigger bodied cornerbacks?
“Well, in case those corners are listening, I really don’t want to discuss that, but he’s got a very unique style that is hard to figure out, hard to gauge at times. He’s a pretty big guy too and he’s pretty quick.”