SANTA CLARA – Here’s the transcript of Greg Roman’s Wednesday press conference. I have a question for you at the bottom.
ROMAN: “How’s everybody doing? We’ve got a short week here. As soon as we got in here early in the morning on Tuesday – right to Seattle. Not going to look at the Pittsburgh game probably unless we play another 3-4 (defense). A lot of water under the bridge since our first Seattle game They’re playing great defense. Where are they ranked in defense? Eighth, I believe, and very opportunistic, creating a lot of opportunities for their offense, a lot of turnovers, they score a lot of points on defense. We felt coming out of that first game that they’ve got two of the young…two of the best safeties that we’ll face all year. Their secondary is, I don’t want to say 6’2” and above, but to a man it’s very big. I don’t know if Earl Thomas is quite that tall but very long secondary. They’re doing a nice job, playing a nice bump outside. They’ve got great length.
“The front seven is very active. Red Bryant is playing great against the run, as is the rest of their front. Very opportunistic. Not as big of a pressure team as we’ve seen from some of the other teams we’ve seen up until now. Now, they can choose to be, they’ll pick their spots, and we have seen times during the season that they have chosen to get into the pressure mode – attack-attack-attack mode. We’re on a short week. Got a lot to get done. We’re right in the middle of it right now. Guys are in there eating lunch and we’ll get right back into it. Any questions?”
Q: Does their defense look better on film than Pittsburgh’s?
ROMAN: “I don’t want to compare one to the other…”
Q: Your coach did this morning on the radio.
ROMAN: “…in fear of diminishing one, but I think you can make that case for sure. I might have made that case last week. I might have. But they look good. They’re really well-coached. Sound. They’ve got more ways to play an eight-man front than any team in the league. Very creative there. The guys outside are doing a heck of a job.”
Q: How well did Monday night’s game plan go? It seemed like you had it scripted pretty well throughout. Did it just go as planned?
ROMAN: “You know, the players did a phenomenal job of executing. All the credit there goes to them, and when that happens things just start to flow – your down and distance is in your favor. We had three very long drives in the first half which is due to execution. The guys did a great job. It’s all a function of their preparation and just execution on game day. That allows stuff to flow. Now, there’s always things you want to correct. Pittsburgh’s a great defense. They’ve got players that have got some pelts on their wall, you know? You can’t just roll it out there and expect to beat them. But it went well, it went well.”
Q: Coach Jim’s been promoting Alex Smith for the Pro Bowl. Can you talk about his development throughout the season, and is he worthy of that nod?
ROMAN: “When we evaluated him in the offseason we saw a lot of things that we really, really liked. And we put in place on how we’re going to get this thing moving forward, and he’s been there every step of the way. I think he does a lot that people will never know in terms of running the offense – I’m sure not going to get into those details, but he just does a phenomenal job of leading a team. We’re not in shotgun every play, spraying the ball around. We don’t feel like that gives us the best chance to win, so his numbers aren’t going to be what some other guys’ numbers are. Could it get to that point someday? Maybe. But our No. 1 stat is winning, we’ve got a formula for that each week and he has been really, really winning in what he’s done. He’s been a winner. Everything he’s done is winning. His professionalism – he’s in the office late at night getting a head start on the game plan. That’s what your quarterback needs to do. I think we’re 11-3, so that sounds like a Pro Bowl year to me.”
Q: How has your passing game evolved from the first game against Seattle to now?
ROMAN: “Oh, it’s definitely evolving – it’s still evolving. I think every week there’s a few things in there that you bring to focus, but a lot of it’s a function of what the defense is doing, you know? You’ve got to take into consideration where they’re deploying their assets in coverage – are they doubling the outside receivers? (That’s) Cover 2, which opens up the inside. Are they closing the middle of the field and adding somebody to the inside coverage, which opens up the outside lanes? Seattle has a lot of different ways to play coverage, so a lot of what you do is going to be predicated on what they do – where the weakness in the coverage is. That’s one of the reasons we don’t turn it over.”
Q: How has Seattle’s defense developed from Week 1 to now?
ROMAN: “They’ve been coming on strong. Their system is so big that they’ve really evolved. I think when both staffs looked at the film, we probably both thought, when they looked at their defensive film and we looked at our offensive film, ‘Man that seems like a long time ago.’ I think we’ve both branched out in different directions. They’ve got a lot of different things that they spread around people week-to-week. They’ve got a nice cycle of defenses they play. I think they’ve stayed relatively healthy. Guys play hard and they’ve been really effective, and that’s been a big reason why they’ve been winning games.”
ME: What’s your philosophy on single coverage? If a receiver is single-covered before the snap does he automatically become the primary target on the play?
ROMAN: “I don’t think you can make that statement – it’s play-by-play, you know, concept of the play. If everybody’s single covered and it’s a blitz, then now it becomes matchup – who’s got leverage, who’s the best matchup? Because a lot of times you’ll have single coverage over here and here because they’ve got everybody in here, so now I’ve got to pick the best matchup. If there’s one receiver over here and three over here and there’s single coverage over here (the first ‘here’), generally you’re going to take it because you never know what could happen over here. It all depends on the formation, the coverage, the play concept, you know? If you have a single receiver over here, and he’s got a route that breaks in but the corner’s playing way inside, that might dissuade you from working that particular play. There’s so many variables involved that a quarterback has to manage on the fly. That’s why the preparation and film study is so important, because teams like the Seahawks, they’re going to study us, our splits, our routes, all that stuff and they’ll try to cheat things accordingly to help themselves. And also generally speaking, we’re always going to have a progression of sorts, to where if that receiver doesn’t win or isn’t open or somehow a defender buzzes or gets underneath him, you move on to the next one.”
ME: Greg, your offense is ranked 31st in third down efficiency. Has that been an issue of play calling, scheme or execution?
ROMAN: “It comes down to everything. It’s never one thing. It’s always a compilation of things. That’s an area we’ve got to continue to improve in. We haven’t run the ball well in third down situations. Overall I think we’re moving in the right direction there though. But it’s something we’ve got to improve on, bottom line.”
Do you agree with Greg Roman that the Niners offense is moving in the right direction on third down? I don’t. They’ve converted roughly 30 percent of their third down attempts all season. On Monday night they converted 4 of 13 third down attempts – 30 percent. So where’s the improvement?