Here is the transcript of this morning’s Greg Cosell interview on KNBR’s Murph and Mac Show.
Q: You told us the Ravens were a homework week – that they presented so many different problems on defense that you needed as much time as possible to prepare. That set off a little red flag in my brain and sure enough, nine sacks for Alex Smith. Do you credit that partially to the Niners lack of preparation? Or did you see something on film that was different or alarming that led to nine sacks?
COSELL: I think, and I made this note when I was watching the tape, that some of the nine sacks were on individual offensive linemen who got beat, some were on the pass protection scheme – and by that I don’t mean they were the wrong scheme, but some the schemes were broken down by the specific pressures – and some were on Smith where he didn’t get rid of the football. And Smith is not at the point in his development that he can compensate or camouflage below average offensive line play. Some quarterbacks can. Peyton Manning is great at that. Drew Brees is great at that. These are teams without great offensive lines. Smith is not quite at that point, and therefore the offense had a very difficult time sort of getting going and sustaining offense.
Q: How do those quarterbacks you listed make the most of below average offensive line play?
COSELL: There’s many ways to do it. First and foremost it starts before the ball’s even snapped – the recognition based on the defense, based on their fronts and their looks, where the blitz might be coming from. You’ll get fooled once in a while, even the great ones do because defenses do an awful lot of things, but you must win before the snap of the ball. The Quarterback must be aware that, “Hey, the pressure could be coming from here, let me adjust the protection.” That’s No.1. Then no. 2, when the ball is snapped, you have to be decisive with where you’re going with the football. The ball has to come out of your hands. You must win against good pressure teams primarily within the structure of your offense, not by becoming random and improvisational. That’s not the way to be consistent. Does that happen once in a while? Absolutely, and you can make great plays that way, but over the course of the season, you must beat pressure within the structure of your offense and what you do. The 49ers in that game, they were not quite ready to handle that.
Q: Did the offensive line really start to break down with Chilo Rachal replaced the injured Adam Snyder at right guard?
COSELL: Oh, well there’s no question that I would say the right side of the O-line, including Anthon Davis, really struggled with individual pass protection. Watching the tape, the interior three of the 49ers O-line struggled a bit. The Ravens D-line was much quicker and faster on tape. They certainly could not handle Haloti Ngata, but a lot of teams can’t handle Haloti Ngata.
Q: If the Niners played the Ravens in the Super Bowl, is there something they could do to minimize that damage the next time around? Is it correctable?
COSELL: Sure, it’s correctable on film, because a lot of things were on the breaking down of pass protection concepts. But the concern with the Niners, quite frankly, and we’ve talked about this, and I know a lot of people think that I don’t like Alex Smith. That has nothing to do with anything, I’m just watching the tape. The issue becomes – they played an offense in the Ravens that for the most part you would not call necessarily an explosive offense – when the 49ers plays a team that can score a lot of points, like let’s stay they play in the playoffs New Orleans in New Orleans. And we don’t know if that will happen, certainly the Niners could still have the second best record. But if they play the Saints in New Orleans or the Packers in Green Bay, it’s not likely, in my view anyway, that they win those games 13-10. As good as their defense is, and you know from day 1 I told you they had the best front seven in football, and I still believe that, as good as that defense is I still think you have to beat those two teams by scoring 24, 27 points. So that becomes the issue.
Q: You’ve been saying that the lack of explosiveness on offense is an ongoing problem.
COSELL: Yeah, I made the note again watching the tape: “Question involving the 49ers offense – do they not have enough dimensions, or do they not have enough talent?” And I think that we have to wait and let this season play out. By dimensions I mean can they attack a defense on all levels – short, intermediate and deep. You can’t become a complete offense and a multi-dimensional offense if you’re lacking dimension.
Q: Speaking of dimensions, are the Rams coming to town as a no-dimensional team?
COSELL: The bigger issue here is on the defensive side of the ball. The Rams at times have been good on defense. I remember watching them against the Saints a number of weeks ago, if you had just fallen out of the sky and didn’t know anything about those two teams, you would have thought that the Rams defense was better than the Saints offense. At times they can put great pressure on the quarterback. To me, I think the 49ers will go back to who they are and what they are. They’ll grind it out, they’ll play sound fundamental football, and they’re better than the Rams. And I think they’ll be able to win this game. It might not be pretty, guys. But right now you want to get a win. Right now, you’ll take a 17-10 win. You want to win. My guess is, and look, I don’t know Jim Harbaugh, I’ve told you numerous times this year I think he’s done a terrific job, I’ve met him but don’t know him. I think he’ll go back to basics. I think he’ll grind out a physical, we’re tougher, we’re better, let’s just kick their you-know-what, and I think they’ll get a win.