This is the transcript of Jim O’Neil’s Week-13 press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“We’ve got a great setup down here. I think our operations staffs did a hell-of-a job kind of making the transition as easy as it could in the hotel. So, kudos to them. As far as the game; defensively, I thought we took a step in some areas. We just continue to talk to our guys about finding a way to make one or two more plays and I think when you’re in a close game like that, it makes guys appreciate how them making one more play could have been the difference in that game. But, I was happy with the two-minute stop. I was happy with having five three-and-outs. I thought we took a step in the run game. We’ve still got a long ways to go to where we want to be. I thought that the two four-minute stops at the end of the game were huge for us to go three-and-out back to back and give our offense a chance to score a touchdown and then be in it on the last play of the game. So, there were some definite positives to take out of that game.”
Do you guys have to, from a defensive backs standpoint, just concentrate on having those guys get their eyes around to try and find the ball? It seems like so many times they’re in good position but they don’t look back for the ball.
“They ran a vertical ball on [CB] Rashard [Robinson] early in that game. Rashard looked back for the ball and got a PBU. They ran a double move on [DB] Jimmie Ward. He looked back and located the ball and got a PBU on it. So, no. I think [defensive backs coach] Jeff Hafley and [assistant defensive backs coach] Roy Anderson do a great job coaching the guys on that. Obviously, when you get a deep ball caught on you, you always wish you could have played it better. But, I think we’re contesting every throw. We’re making quarterbacks throw into tight windows.”
No DT Quinton Dial in that game. How did DT Chris Jones and some of the other guys who filled in at that spot play?
“I thought Chris Jones did a great job. I thought he gave a boost to our defense. He was rock solid at the end position for us, took two linemen a lot and allowed [LB] Nick Bellore and [LB] Gerald Hodges to scrape free to the ball and I thought that he was one of the reasons we had so much success in the run game. So, he’s going to continue to have a role in our defense.”
Head coach Chip Kelly had mentioned yesterday he was happy with the improvement on the run defense, but the tradeoff being you give up some bigger plays in the pass game. Is there a tradeoff there? I know you guys play a lot of man concepts anyway, but is there a tradeoff there that has to be made?
“Yeah, like I said, I thought that secondary-wise, we contested every throw and we’ve made quarterbacks complete balls into tight windows. You wish on the two deep balls we gave up you would have made at least one of them. You’d like to make both of them. But, we play tendencies. So, if teams are showing a certain area that they’re going to run the ball a lot, we’re going to err on the side of playing run defense. If teams show on another down and distance or a certain tendency or a field zone that they’re going to throw the ball, then we’re going to play more pass defense.”
You had a couple plays where you put 10 guys up on the line of scrimmage and only dropped S Antoine Bethea back. How did that package come about and how did it do?
“We’ve done that all year.”
With 10 guys up on the line?
“There was a middle linebacker in there. So, yeah. We’re just playing man coverage. We’re a press team. So, if teams give us spacing where we can press, our guys want to press. That’s what we want to have here. We don’t want to allow guys to have free access down the middle of our defense or down the sidelines. So, we want to be a press team and we’re going to be aggressive in the run game. So, that’s not anything new that we haven’t done all year.”
With the Bears having so many injuries, what’s the scouting report on them? What do you know about their personnel?
“We’re obviously just starting to get into it, but I think [Chicago Bears offensive coordinator] Dowell Loggains, their offensive coordinator, has done a good job with them. I worked with him when we were in Cleveland. So, I know a little bit about him. They’ve had to fight through a lot of different quarterback stuff. I think they have a really strong wide receiving group, guys that can make plays. The running backs are similar to the group we just played in Miami. They run hard, they get downhill, they’re a threat with the ball in their hands and they’re also a threat out of the backfield. So, it’ll be a challenge for us.”
I assume we’re talking about the same thing, but what San Jose Mercury News reporter Cam Inman was asking about when you just had DL DeForest Buckner as the only defensive lineman on the field. You’ve done that throughout the year?
“Yeah. You’re talking about like a dime package with multiple DBs on the field?”
There was like a third-and-11 play and you had 10 guys up and Bethea was about 20 yards back.
“Yeah. We’ve had a dime grouping up in almost every one of our games thing year. On third down we’re just trying to get the matchups that we want so that we can play man coverage and take advantage of our guy’s skill sets.”
What did you see from S Jaquiski Tartt in his first start?
“I thought he was solid. I thought he made some good plays. He did a good job communicating back there. I think as he plays more we’ll get more plays out of him. But, I thought his first start back there at safety for us in the base packages he was very solid.”
I know this is a front office decision, but LB Ray-Ray Armstrong is due for free agency in March. Did he show enough to, in your eyes, to warrant him coming back and arrow up on him?
“He’s one of my favorite guys on defense. So, if my opinion gets asked, I’m two thumbs up on Ray-Ray Armstrong.”
How big a loss has he been? I know you guys have had to cycle through a lot of guys in there, but it seemed like he was coming on when he got hurt.
“Yeah. Ray, I thought he did a really good job the first two weeks for us. He was kind of known as just being a coverage linebacker which he does an outstanding job. There’s not too many tight ends or backs in this league that he can’t match up with, and that’s obviously when he got hurt it created a little bit of a void for us because you guys have seen us starting to have to use safeties and some other guys in some later downs to fill that void. But, the thing that impressed me the most was how he attacked the line of scrimmage and was a factor in the run game. So, yeah he’s a hell-of-a football player.”
The run defense has obviously gotten better the last few weeks. Before the game Sunday, general manager Trent Baalke was talking to the team’s broadcasters and he said he thought the alignments were a little different, that you had changed things as far as some of the fits. Is that accurate?
“We tweaked a couple things to help out who we have playing at inside backer and to fit our personnel up front. Like we’ve talked all year long, as the season goes on you learn more and more about your football team. With this being our first year, you think you know and you think you learn about your guys and what you’re going to be good at throughout the spring and throughout the summer and preseason, but the reality is you really don’t truly know until you’re playing real games on Sunday. So, yeah, every week we tweak stuff. We tweak stuff in the pass game. We tweak stuff with our blitzes. We tweak stuff in the run game. So yeah, as the season’s gone on like we always talk about, we’ve tried to put guys in position to make more plays and do what we think that they do the best.”