Fangio: “We were ultimately the second-best defense on the field in those two games.”

SANTA CLARA — Vic Fangio spoke in the media tent Tuesday afternoon. Here’s a transcript courtesy of the 49ers.


We saw CB Darryl Morris got promoted to the active roster. Is that a sign that CB Nnamdi Asomugha won’t be able to play Thursday?

“Well, we had the opening with the roster, and we do have some questions with our health at the corner position. So, we just felt it was a natural to bring up Darryl with that opening.”


Is there more than just Nnamdi that you’re concerned with?

“No, not at this time.”


How is LB Patrick Willis doing?

“He’s getting better. He’s making a lot of progress. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be ready on Thursday or not.”


Do you consider having the replacement for LB Aldon Smith being a one-person job? Or do you see basically matching up LB Dan Skuta and LB Corey Lemonier—?

“I think both of those guys will get some playing time in the game as we move forward into it.”


If you don’t have Patrick and you don’t have Aldon, how big of a void are those two? And how do you sort of go on without those two?

“Well, you’ve got no choice. The game is scheduled. We’ve got to go play. And those guys behind them have got to go in and play and play to the best of their abilities. And we’ve got to go.”


Are the Rams pretty much still a pass-oriented team with QB Sam Bradford and does WR Tavon Austin give them an extra threat?

“Well, I think the Rams philosophically are a run-first team. Austin does give them another threat. He’s an excellent receiver in the slot where they like to play him most of the time. He’s got great speed and quickness. He’s a playmaker. But, I do believe that the Rams will try and run the ball. That to me is their roots.”


Do you see teams wanting to run the ball more on you now since they’ve seen other teams have success the last two games?

“I think the Rams, that’s their base philosophy anyway. And I think that they like to be a balanced attack and have a good mix of run and pass.”


It’s early in the season, but teams have averaged 35 rushing attempts against you guys after you guys saw about 25 last year. How do you adjust to that?

“You don’t. That’s just been the nature of the games we’ve been in. When they get to be low-scoring games and you’re behind in the fourth quarter, you get a lot of runs. Indianapolis, last week, came out throwing a lot early, and then as the game developed, they ended up running some more.”


Were you guys in a base set when they had three receivers on the field a little bit more against the Colts?

“We did it some. We did it some.”


Is that because maybe defending the run in the nickel has been kind of a struggle so far?

“Not necessarily. We always like to mix the base in there some against three wide receiver sets.”


How are you addressing the penalties and some of the first downs you guys are giving up from mistakes, and just to clean that up?

“Well, we’ve got to eliminate the pre-snap penalties and any post-snap penalty, neutral zone infractions, offsides, any personal fouls that would occur after the whistle. Those are the ones that have to be eliminated. We haven’t had many of the after-whistle ones. And then the ones in between, think you’re talking mainly about the pass interference, we’ve just got to be able to play with good technique, get ourselves in position to compete for the ball, and be able to make the play. It’ll all come back to technique.”


With Aldon Smith out, will you use DL Glenn Dorsey, some in the nickel defense?

“He’ll mix in there at the tackle position with those other guys.”


You set a really high bar with the run defense. Some people look at the numbers from last year and say, what’s going on? What’s the problem? Is there some sort of fundamental problem? Or is it just two bad games? Or anything you can put your finger on?

“Well, I just think it’s been we’ve let a couple of them pop, which we haven’t done in the past which skews the statistics. And we’ve been in games where they’ve been able to hand it off a high amount of times. So, I think it’s a combination that we haven’t been as sharp and the type of games we’ve been in.”


Have you been affected though as well maybe having to sub players more just because the amount of time the defense has been on the field the last two games?

“I don’t think so. I don’t think so. We’ve got to be able to play. Some of our problems in the last game were self-inflicted. We didn’t get off the field quick enough on some of those drives in the second half. So, it wasn’t totally because the game was the way it went.”


What’s your understanding on how long you guys are going to be without Aldon Smith?

“I don’t really know. I’m not able to make any comment on that. [Chief executive officer] Jed [York], [general manager] Trent [Baalke] and [head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] and Aldon himself have made the comments, and that’s where it stays.”


Do his teammates ask you about that? He’s an important part of the team. Are they wondering what the future is with him?

“I’m sure they’re wondering, but they know exactly what we know. And it’s indeterminate right now.”


Do you think of it as he’s one of my star players, but he’ll be even healthier for us for the long term in a month if he goes and helps himself?

“Yeah, absolutely.”


Did LB Ahmad Brooks play on the right side a little bit last game? Is that something where he might shift over there now?

“He played there a little bit some last game, and he did in the second game, too. That’s something we work in.”


Is there much transition for him to do that?

“No, he’s capable of playing on either side. He’s comfortable with it.”


Will you keep LB Dan Skuta and LB Corey Lemonier to sides, or will they be interchangeable?

“They’re interchangeable.”


What kind of insight does S Craig Dahl help with this week if any?

“Not much at all, no. He was a defensive player.”


I guess the numbers have been slightly skewed, that was a 13-7 game right in the fourth quarter, somewhat similar with Seattle. Overall, do you look at things and say you’re fairly pleased with the defense, but maybe they were down the fourth quarter, or just turnovers are part of that?

“Well, basically the last two weeks, which is what you’re alluding to, we were in low-scoring defensive battles and we were the first defense to crack. And we were ultimately the second-best defense on the field in those two games. And when we get in low-scoring games, we’ve got to be able to hold fort, hold the fort down and find a way to win those games with key stops, getting key turnovers, and find a way to win them. We’ve won low-scoring games here in the past. We’ve got to find a way to win them now.”

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