SANTA CLARA — Vic Fangio spoke in the media tent Thursday afternoon. Here is a transcript courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
How has the Packers offense evolved since you faced them Week 1?
“They really haven’t changed a whole lot. To me, that’s a credit to their coaches and the system that they have installed there. It’s a flexible system. And when they had lost their quarterback for that extended period of time, they lost one of their top receivers. They lost their top tight end. They were able to just trudge along and run their same offense that they’ve always run, highlighting different areas of it and relying more on the running game. But, nothing’s changed in their offense. They’ve just called more runs than they used to. So, to me it’s a credit to their coaching staff and their players that they’ve been able to fight through those three losses and come up with a couple wins and a tie that got them in the playoffs.”
How much of Packers RB Eddie Lacy’s success is running out of nickel situations?
“It’s a lot. They play a lot of three wide receiver sets, even when they lost [Packers WR Randall] Cobb. And he is running against a lot of nickel defenses. A lot of teams it’s nickel, but they still have the extra guy up there some because they’ve run it so well. They’ve just done a good job of blocking and he’s developed into a very good runner.”
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw for some yards in that Week 1 game. Are you a little worried by that? Do you like that performance? Or was it good enough that you don’t have to think about it too much?
“There were parts of it that I liked and there were parts that I didn’t. I know that’s kind of a no answer. But, we had a bad drive at the end of the first half there when we let them score. We did a lot of good things in the game. But, they did too. They’re a tough offense in spite of not having Rodgers for seven or eight games, whatever it was, they’re still highly ranked in all areas. So, kind of gives you an indication of their overall offensive talent. And then you bring him back, who many people think the best quarterback in the league, and they’re a tough assignment. They score a lot of points on a lot of people and move it pretty good.”
How much attention do you pay to passing yardage?
“It all depends on the personality of the game. If the other team is attempting in the vicinity of 55 to 60 passes, when you count sacks, quarterback scrambles and penalties like we’ve had here many times over three years, they’re going to get some yards. Now, if it’s just a normal game, kind of equal run and pass and they’re getting a bunch of yards, then that is a real problem. Usually when you give up a lot of yards in those types of games, it comes from giving up big plays. And you can’t give up the big play.”
Do you expect CB Carlos Rogers to start, or play for you on Sunday?
“It’s yet to be determined. I think he’s going to give it a shot today. His injury is not as bad as originally feared. And we’ll see how he does today and tomorrow.”
How do you feel about CB Eric Wright as a plan B if Carlos isn’t ready to go? How prepared is he for what would probably be pretty heavy if he doesn’t start?
“Well, I’d hope he’s well prepared. But, the answer to that will come on Sunday for sure. He hasn’t played a lot of nickel for us. The snaps that he got earlier in the season were at corner. Carlos has been our nickel here for however many games we’ve played here in the three years that we’ve been here. So, this will be our first game without him as our nickel. So, we’ll find out on Sunday.”
You feel like it’s better than you guys had originally feared, the injury?
“Carlos’ injury, yes.”
And what makes you say that?
“Just wasn’t, just not as severe as they originally thought.”
Is there a danger for an explosive position like a defensive back in the extreme cold weather? Are there any cautions you have to take with your players on Sunday?
“I don’t think so. You’ve just got to get loose, stay loose, stay warm and just make it a normal game as best you can.”
What’s the coldest game you’ve ever coached in?
“We went up to Green Bay when I was with the Panthers, my second year there, and played in the NFC Championship game there. And I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I know going into the game it was supposed to be colder than the famous Ice Bowl. I don’t know if it got to that point or not, but it was real cold.”
Game plan, would it at all generally change knowing you’re going to go into intense cold?
“It could. But, to me it all depends upon what the footing’s like. It could be just a normal game that’s played at a little slower pace. Or it could be where there’s a lot of slipping and sliding going on then you have to adjust a little bit. You need to wait to see Sunday exactly see how the field affects the game.”
When you say footing, there happens to be reports that they heat the field there now. But, that it doesn’t heat evenly. There are patches. Have you heard that? Is that what you’ll be looking at when you get there?
“I haven’t heard that.”
What kind of a challenge does Packers TE Andrew Quarless present as their tight end?
“Well, they use the tight end in their offense a lot. It’s an important position. It was with [Packers TE Jermichael] Finley. And like I said, they have a system there that they use and believe in and they just plug in the next guy, much like we did here when we lost some guys on defense. We didn’t change a whole lot. We do what we do. And the tight end position is a big position for them.”
And a lot of teams seem to be coming at you these last few weeks, going to the tight end. Is that a concern? And how well are these guys covering the tight ends?
“They’re doing fine. Obviously we didn’t do well enough in certain instances. But, I don’t see that as a major problem.”
How is LB Aldon Smith playing right now? Is he at like a midseason feel in his play?
“I think so. He’s played very well down the stretch here. He drew a lot of attention last week in their pass protection plan because they saw the way he was playing. And I feel good about where he is.”
You guys are healthy on the defensive front with DT Justin Smith and Aldon, probably more so than last year. Has rotating the other guys in, do you think they’re a little bit fresher going into the postseason this year?
“Well, Aldon is for sure. He had an extended absence there. And Justin hadn’t played quite as many plays as he has in the past. He doesn’t have the arm issue that he was dealing with. So, they probably are. I don’t know if fresh is the right word, but healthier.”
Can you estimate about what sort of percentage that three receiver sets Green Bay runs?
“A lot. If you count all situations, it’s 75 percent or more.”
Last season they had their running back who had been a car salesman. He’d been playing pretty well. But, obviously Lacy seems to be a different type of back, different pedigree. Does he give their offense I guess more legitimate balance?
“It does, just by watching the tape and watching them play, you see it. And they show it to you by how many times they’re handing it off. They handed the ball off last week in a tight game in the mid-30s. And then they had a bunch of other runs that were called where you hear people calling them a look route or a smoke route where they just throw it outside. But, they had six or seven other runs called in that game that turned into those quick passes. So, they believe in the run game right now and I think that’s their formula going forward.”
And that’s somewhat un-Packer-like as compared to previous versions of this offense?
“To a certain degree. I think they’ve got more balance.”
With all the penalties on hitting ball carriers, if players wrap up, does that kind of mitigate that do you think?
“It does to a degree you hope. And tackling will be critical in this game. With the footing the way it might be, and we can’t afford to miss tackles, particularly in the open field. But, it might. But, you know a lot of those tackles we see those types of hits happening, the wrap-up isn’t quite as easy as it is interiorly out in the open field.”
Is the Packers offense significantly better with Randall Cobb back and playing?
“Yeah, they’ve got another really good receiver playing. And he’s got versatility. Against us, they’ve liked to line him up in the backfield as a running back against us in the past. So, that’s something we’ve got to be ready for, too.”
Has CB Perrish Cox just stepped in back to where he was in that dime situation if Carlos can’t go?
“He does. But, he might get some other action too.”
In what other?
“In there with [CB Eric] Wright switching on and off. Or, playing in our other five or six defensive back packages.”
LB Ahmad Brooks hasn’t had a sack since I think Week 12. How has he been playing recently?
“He’s been playing well. Sometimes the sacks can go dry sometimes. And that’s been the case with him recently. Overall his play has been good.”