SANTA CLARA – This is the transcript of Vic Fangio’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.
Just the matchup, the two wide receivers, how do those guys rate or compare or how difficult it is to prepare for those two guys as opposed to a lot of receiver combinations you guys have faced?
“Well, they’re certainly up there as one of the best tandems in the league, if not the best. But, the whole crux of their offense is not just those two guys, it’s all 11. You talk about defending the receivers and you have to, well how does that affect [TE Tony] Gonzalez? How does that affect the running game? So, you’ve got to have a good plan and a good mix to stop this offense. It’s not just the receiver-driven offense, although they are two of the best receivers in the league. They have good weapons all over the place and obviously a really good quarterback in [QB Matt] Ryan running the show.”
How is LB Patrick Willis evolved since you’ve been here as far as covering tight ends and just that facet of his game?
“I think he’s improved. He’s proven that he can do it on a consistent basis. Some weeks are tougher than others. Obviously this week is a very tough week with Gonzalez.”
Do they tend to go, we saw the throw that pass to Gonzalez at the end of that crucial drive. Does Ryan tend to go to him in those types of situations, critical situations?
“Well, he certainly has developed a good karma with him in his years there with him. And he feels very comfortable throwing the ball to him. He’s got confidence in where Gonzalez is going to be and he likes throwing to him. So, I’m sure he does like looking to him in critical situations. But, the more tape you watch you see him throwing it to other guys, too.”
CB Chris Culliver yesterday said that he thought that WR Julio Jones was more difficult to cover because he gets in and out of his breaks better than WR Roddy White. Do you share that sentiment?
“They’re both really good. They’ve got size. They’ve got speed. They can run good routes. They catch it well and they’re both good threats running after the catch. To quibble over which one of those two is better, you’re cutting hairs one way or the other.”
As big as they are, does it change your approach in trying to hit them at the line and prevent them from getting off the line?
“Sometimes. It’s always a good idea to do that. But, again it goes back to the original question. We’ve got to stop their whole offense, not just the receivers. So, sometimes when you’re leaning towards Gonzalez, or running game, that lightens you up outside. So, you just have to mix it up and pick your spots.”
How do you evaluate how DT Justin Smith and LB Aldon Smith played together again last Saturday night?
“They played well. They did a good job for us.”
Did it seem like the Packers were playing Justin the way any team normally would have during the regular season?
“I think so.”
It’s easy to look at the numbers and see that Aldon hasn’t has a sack in four games. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that he’s had this so called drought?
“I don’t look at it as a drought. You guys were at the game last week. And the guy was throwing the ball extremely fast. How many plays in the game were there where you were saying, where’s the pass rush? It’s just they were throwing it fast. He came loose a few times and the ball’s gone. I think he’s rushing good. I think teams have respect for our rush. They throw it quick sometimes. And those guys are playing fine. It’s not always stats. Don’t look at that play-by-play after the game and make your conclusions. Watch the game.”
What have you seen from their running game?
“Well, right off the bat what jumps out at you is these running backs are running extremely hard. They’re two guys that are on the short side, they’re built low to the ground. They’ve got low center of gravity. They run hard. They use their height to their advantage. They create leverage. And they’ve been running through tackles and running people over. Their line’s doing a good job of bodying up and getting on people and these guys are making people miss. You can’t get either one of these guys down with an arm tackle.”
You mentioned those two backs that are pretty well respected. Statistically I realize what you just said about stats, but they didn’t rank very well during the regular season. Why was that?
“I don’t know. I’ve kind of focused most of my attention on their last couple of months’ body of work and I don’t see it in those games. Maybe they had a bunch of games early in the season where they didn’t run it well. But, anytime you throw the ball as much as they have and accumulate the yards that they’ve had, something’s going to suffer along the way. And I guess the running attempts suffered early in the year. But, they’re running it very well. They ran it good on a good Seattle defense last week.”
RB Michael Turner obviously is an older back. Did it seem like he had fresher legs with that week off last week?
“Yeah, maybe. You’d have to ask him for verification. But, they had the week off. They’ve been giving the ball more to [RB Jacquizz] Rodgers. So, he hadn’t had the amount of carries that he’s had in week to week. So, I’m sure he’s a little fresher.”
The fact that Ryan doesn’t run that much, I mean not at all really.
“That much is better than not at all. He does scramble.”
He does scramble a little bit. But, I think the fact that he’s mainly a pocket passer, does that help you more in your preparation?
“Well, you still have to prepare to stop the offense they’re running. The guys that scramble and create, you always have to be prepared to defend two plays. The one they called in the huddle and they’re running. And then the one that the scrambling quarterback may create on his own by getting out. So, the work’s still the same. Maybe he’s not going to scramble as much as [Seattle QB] Russell Wilson or [Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers might. But, you still have to defend their passing game.”
You talked about avoiding arm tackling. Your team does tackle well. How much of that is drafted and how much of that is coached?
“How much of that is what?”
How much of it is just drafted? That you draft guys that can, or how much can you coach?
OK. So, when you’re coaching it what are the points of emphasis?
“Well, we can’t create big seams. You give backs big seams and then a good back becomes a great back. A great back becomes unstoppable. So, it all starts before the tackle is even attempted. You’ve got to establish a line of scrimmage and not give them big alleys and holes to run through.”
Which is, that’s the linemen then?
“That’s everybody up front taking on their blocks correctly. Not giving these backs room to run and get into your secondary and work on the DB’s.”
Before they abandoned the run in the second half, Green Bay had some success on the ground. Were you pleased with your run defense?
“Yeah. Some of the success they had was they put [WR Randall Cobb] 18 in backfield and made him a back. And we were in some calls that were better against the pass. And we were a little light and they popped two runs on us there. But, overall the run defense was fine.”