SANTA CLARA – Here are more quotes I selected from Jim Harbaugh’s Tuesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.
Larry Grant has played really well with Patrick Willis out. Have you thought about, are there different ways you’re going to look to get him involved when Willis comes back? Are there other ways to get Larry Grant on the field more than he had been before the last few weeks?
“Larry played very well in this game. Especially early. I thought he made some real statement plays early in the ball game. Tackled well. NaVorro Bowman also played very well. Again, good team defense. Larry’s an outstanding football player. To answer your question, yeah, you try to find ways to get your best players on the field. He’s playing at a very high level. Also, Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga were very good up front in this game. Really, also need to highlight the play of the secondary. There was some yardage given up, but the way our secondary played was really good. Tarell Brown, in particular. Great coverage. Also, came up with the ball. Carlos Rogers, again, really good coverage. Comes up with the ball. Dashon Goldson made a great interception. Made a great play on the ball. It was just an outstanding game from a coverage standpoint. The receivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers are fast, quick men. [Mike Wallace] 17, I believe, is the fastest player in the NFL. The fact that he runs as fast as he does when he gets loose, it’s a nightmare to bring down. Our guys did a great job covering those receivers. Ed Donatell, our secondary coach, is something that another person’s individual effort that needs to be highlighted. He’s done a great job with our secondary this year.”
In 1981, the 49ers went into Pittsburgh and beat them. It was a big, big win for that team that didn’t know how good it was. Standing outside the locker room, I could hear them cheering like a high school team. The game meant something to them. It told them ‘we’re a good team; we might be able to win a Super Bowl.’ This is a big win you had last night. In addition to being a win, is it a game that is a marker game that tells you we’re at a certain level, we’re at a certain standard? Does it also mean that?
“For us, the expectations are to have a good day today. Have a great week at practice this week. Do everything we can do to win the next game. That’s as far as we want to go with expectations, markers, statements. Where this team has been, practicing together, learning together, fighting for each other on any given Sunday afternoon for three hours and becoming a team. That mentality of just trying to improve, just trying to get better, is kind of where we leave our expectations.”
When you evaluated Aldon Smith, and maybe even now, did you ever notice like a next gear? Something that enables him to just get to the quarterback, being close to the quarterback and then closing quickly. Sort of like a quick strike? Does he have a quick twitch that enables him to get there so quickly?
“There are some unique things that we saw when we were first evaluating him. The fact that he could athletically avoid defenders in tight spaces, especially inside the tackles. He showed that at Missouri. The other thing was that he was always on his feet. He always played on his feet. He was rarely off his feet. Even when he was knocked off his feet, he had a way of stopping himself just short of hitting the ground of popping back up like a spring. He’s got some real gifts of God. I think, really over the last six, seven, eight weeks, Aldon has really bought in to Coach Fangio’s scheme. I see them having a great working relationship. Just keep coming along. Just keep getting better.”
Do you think he surprises people with his inside move and strength? Maybe when they look at him, they see a tall guy, lean and just think of him as a speed rusher on the outside and he kind of surprises people going as many sacks as he does?
“He does. He does a great job coming off of the stunt. Starts up the field then loops back inside. He’s getting a great lane from Ray and from Justin. Those guys are really, when you dissect what’s happening, those two guys are doing a tremendous job. A lot of credit to Aldon, too. He comes in and is able to beat the defender in a very tight space. Athletically, contort his body in split-second decisions. He’s getting a lot of credit for that and deservedly so.”
I think a lot of fans see what he does and say why isn’t this guy starting, why isn’t he playing all three downs? I guess the question is, would he be able to do what he’s doing this year if he was a three-down player? Does the fact that he comes in on specific plays allow him to be the player that he is this year?
“I trust in what Vic and [Defensive Line Coach] Jim Tomsula and the defensive staff is doing. We got a lot of other good players, too, like Justin. Again, I’m going to say it again; I think he is the most valuable player on our team. Parys [Haralson] is doing a nice job. Ahmad Brooks has played outstanding football. Already close to double the amount of snaps that Ahmad Brooks has had in an entire career, this season. I think he’s somewhere around the mid-400s coming into this season and he’s up close to the mid-700s now.”
TE Vernon Davis last night, he kind of developed throughout the season and learned to beat the double team. Could you talk a little bit about his game last night?
“Yeah, made the big play. Especially on the big drive. We had a big drive in the game where we had to respond. It was 6-3. Alex made a heck of a throw and Vernon beat the man to man coverage. Really adjusted nicely to the ball. And there was safety help over the top. You call that double coverage or not, it’s really single coverage with help. It was a heck of a route, great adjustment on the ball. Great throw by Alex. Came back after a penalty and hit the big screen pass to Kendall Hunter, which was a big play in the game. Then, immediately Greg Roman called the Y-hide screen to Vernon and another really good throw, transcontinental across the field. Again, Vernon makes the nice over the shoulder catch. A real strength play, in what I thought got him into the end zone, that was taken off the board. Thought Vernon did a nice job composing himself and coming back the next play, executing the touchdown reception. He made some tough catches over the middle as he always does. He’s a threat every time he gets the ball in his hands. Also did a nice job blocking in this game, a physical presence there. Delanie Walker is another guy to highlight in terms of really setting the tone physically, in terms of blocking. He had a great cut block early in the game on their middle linebacker. Heels up into the air kind of block. Another physical, rattle-their-fillings block about two plays later. Then made a great tackle on the special teams.”
After those first two field goals, were you still concerned about your production in the red zone?
“I was happy about the way our team moved the ball. Put drives together and responded. We were attacking. Pittsburgh’s a heck of a defense. We had our opportunities and then finally cashed in on them. Those were big scoring drives in the red zone.”