Q: What do you remember about Manningham’s touchdown reception in last year’s NFC Championship Game?
A: I drew it up on the sideline. The free safety was hanging on the backside so they were making it difficult to throw on the front side, so I said we’ll run our normal route and get the safety that’s dropping down to jump it and we’ll throw a post on the backside. Great throw, great catch. It worked out, but the second half was a struggle because they did a great job defensively. It was important that we get a big play somewhere. It worked out.
Q: What is it about the 49ers defensive line and front seven that makes it so hard to block in terms of protecting Eli?
A: Ability. That’s it. They have great players. They’re tremendous, they’re tough. They have great speed on the outside, Smith is a beast on the inside, he’s strong, he does as good a job of grabbing a hold of offensive linemen and allowing those twists to take place. He never gets called for it so he gets away with murder. That, in conjunction with the ability level they have, makes them as formidable as anybody we go against, and we go against some pretty good ones in Dallas’ and Philadelphia’s. They’re as good as anybody up front.
Q: Mario Manningham told us yesterday that he’s been talking to the DBs and coaches about your stuff. How big a concern is it that they have two players who have spent a lot of time with your offense?
A: You certainly wish it didn’t happen, but many of the things we do are predicated on what you do defensively. If you’re going to sit down because, “hey, this is where it’s supposed to go,” guess what, we’re not sitting down because you’re not where you’re supposed to be. Most of our big plays take advantage of situations where guys are trying to overplay or cheat on a route. That’s when our big plays happen. You’ve seen a couple of examples in the last few weeks with Victor (Cruz) running through. It’s a read-route for us; certain coverage allows us to do that. That’s something we spend a lot of time on. That’s a foundation of our routes. Maybe as opposed to some teams where I’m going to run an 18-yard in or a 14-yard curl or a 12-yard this; when we’re coming down we’re making decisions. It really doesn’t matter what you do, if we’re doing it well enough, we’re going to have a chance to get open. It still comes down to are you good enough to beat a defender and are you good enough up front to provide sufficient time for the quarterback to make those decisions, to sit and see who’s open. It maybe wouldn’t be quite as a concern as it for some more conventional offenses.
Q: Is their defense just physical and fast, or do they have some great schemes as well?
A: Most really, really good teams, in my opinion, on either side of the ball, they have their foundation and they have good players, and then it’s the subtleties and the nuances of how they adjust. It’s not a dramatic (change), “hey they did this,” and then it’s something completely different. No, they make the subtle adjustment, it may be just as much as you offset the fullback and all of a sudden number 94 goes from 4-eye inside of the tackle to he’s now down on the guard because he knows you’re going this way. Or, we went this way and the nose guard slanted that way. It’s the subtlety of their adjustments which make it very, very difficult. You get great players that position themselves perfectly. They’re not giving up or surrendering a lot of mistakes. There’s not a lot of mistakes that you can exploit. You have to actually flat-out beat them, which they’re good enough, so they make it difficult to do that.
Q: Is it different with
A: There’s a reason he’s a starter. You see the contribution he’s capable of making when you see Tampa Bay, that’s the difference. The other guys, as you have mentioned, have filled in admirably, we’re very proud to see what Ramses (Barden) did for a couple of games, what Rueben (Randle) did this past game, Domenik (Hixon) has been unbelievable all season long. A lot of the things that maybe people on the outside don’t see, not only the terrific catches, but his blocking, his route running, some of the things he’s done have been phenomenal. I’m proud of them all, but you always want your best players, when you get your starters to come back. The more you have there, the more difficult it is for people to matchup. Some of the advantages that they may have in certain spots, maybe they start swinging in your favor. To get him back would be great. The problem is, just getting him back is one thing, what level is he able to play at, is the other. That’s what we’ll have to wait and see.
Q: How do you run on the 49ers?
A: There’s a lot of jocular answers are coming to mind, it’s hard because again, you have great players, and they’re not gambling, taking a lot of risks. They line up, they do a terrific job of trying to knock you back and because of their ability and strength inside, those two defensive ends and nose (tackle) they have are big, huge, powerful men. They make it hard. Their linebackers are as good as you face in the game. You add two safeties who are as physical as anybody in the game and you have a great nine out of 11, in terms of their strength in what they do in defending the run. When they get you in enough long-yardage situations then they can pin their ears back. The whole flavor of the defense changes. Rather than being very run-conscious and physical and sliding along and reacting very effectively to your blocking schemes, now all of a sudden they just pin their ears back. You have to do something to stay in a down and distance rhythm that you give your guys a chance on third down, or it can be a long day.
A: We’re trying to expand his role as fast as we can as you guys know, but it’s a process, so we take it one day at a time.
Q: Da’Rel Scott?
A: It’s possible. Whoever is up, I’ll see. I never know until Friday what our thoughts are in that regard based on the injury factor in a lot of positions, not just offensively. Each coach tries to put the best 46 out there. I don’t know, but if they’re there, the good thing is, he’s familiar enough with what we’re doing and what we expect from him that he could go in and contribute.
Q: If Bradshaw has to carry 30 times again:
A: I’m sure he’d be the happiest guy on the football field.
Q: He already said that.
A: I figured he would.