A: I'll just start out by saying that in looking at the tape today there's things that as a coach you look at and you wonder why you didn't do them better. I think the best thing that we can say is that we played hard and that was characteristic all the way through. We went from a situation where we thought, quite honestly, we'd be up 13-3 to where within a couple of minutes, it seemed like it was a couple of minutes, it was 10-10. We hung in and we battled. At the seven minute mark of the fourth quarter, following that we had an 85 and an 80-yard drive. We were able to follow the match where New England came down and scored and we took it and went down and scored again. Certainly that was a thrilling way for all of us to end that particular game and certainly be excited about the way that the game finished. I think there were some people that obviously played outstanding. You'd have to say Jake Ballard. You'd have to say Eli. Brandon Jacobs ran the ball hard. I thought our offensive line played hard and played against some very, very good football players, some people with size and physical skills up front and did a nice job with that. Defensively, we had a nice mixture of pass rush. We did put pressure on the quarterback at times and also we displayed the ability – yeah we bend and we did some things of that nature, but we didn't break. At the end of the day I was happy that we kind of had gotten the run thing under control a little bit better, still not to where you want to be, but got that a little bit better. Played against one of the superb quarterbacks in the history of the league and did a reasonable job. I thought our kickoff coverage team and our punt team, protection-wise and coverage were kind of indicators of the quality of our play, our intensity and that type of thing.
Q: Was that the most you ever asked Mathias Kiwanuka to drop back in coverage? And how do you think he responded? Obviously he got the interception.
A: He did respond well and had a full week of it. We also rushed him. We really did balance things out yesterday in terms of having him in positions many times where he was on the end of the line in rushes with an occasional drop to where he was off the ball now and did create some problems for their protection schemes by virtue of his size and strength and speed and his ability to time up the pressures in the middle. Then he also dropped back and had a nice interception. Looked like he was a little bit more comfortable in space and that's a good thing.
Q: Were you worried this summer when you lost players to injury and free agency? Or did part of you think change was good because you hadn't won a playoff game since the Super Bowl?
A: I think that as the suddenness of the Collective Bargaining Agreement having been settled and having gotten the players in here, there seemed like in the very beginning there were things that were taking place on a daily basis that we just had to stick to the grindstone and continue to do our job. As we say normally, let's not worry about what we can't control. Let's worry about what we can control. As I said from day one, we recognized the guys that were injured and felt badly for them. Then we called upon everybody else to have to step it up, to have to take more responsibility for the younger guys that were going to get a chance. 'Let's go.' That's the way that we approached it and I think the players did the same.
Q: Can you tell who is going to step up? For instance, did you see something in Victor Cruz's nature to suggest he would?
A: Not just in Victor's case. We had guys here, but we knew that they needed a lot of work. So you're talking about developmental guys who really had to be exposed to all of the things that take place in the National Football League and that was the challenge and still is the challenge. There's still an awful lot of work to be done in many areas with a lot of the young players that are here. But it's ongoing and it will always be to a certain extent. Did we see some natural talent? Certainly we did. There wasn't any question about that. Had that talent completely exposed itself to us? No. No, it didn't, but we continued to work and continued to try to improve on that and we still do.
Q: Now that you are at midseason, do you still feel that this a young team?
A: Well they're young, they're still young. Nothing has changed in terms of their status, but they have experienced some things now and they have developed an attitude. And that attitude has been a big plus and the help of their teammates around them has helped them as well. It's the process of building a team and that's an ongoing and continuing process, but it does benefit from the experience factor, from the veteran players understanding what we're asking of them in terms of setting a good example and being positive in trying to help the adjustments of young players. So it's ongoing.
Q: How hard is it for a receiver to go up for the ball when he knows he's going to get clocked?
A: I think that it depends on the individual. You have all kinds of guys who will play through a wall and you have others that are affected by it. Jake did get his bell rung or did get hit hard. Anybody that's in this game and the ball's coming your way, it's going to happen. His attitude about it has been outstanding. He got back up, a little bit slow at first, but as the game wore on he continued to play at top speed and looked forward to the next opportunity.
Q: Do you feel that when Jacobs' head is in the right place you get a different back?
A: Forget about the attitude and all of that stuff. You're talking about a guy that is powerful. He is strong. He looked at and assessed the situation. He knew full-well that his teammates needed him. His team needed him to perform at a level that we have come to expect, if you will, a higher level. He had the ability to look at the game from a week ago, for example, and decide that wasn't good enough. That wasn't the way he wanted to play. He did help set a tone last night. It was very welcomed and it certainly gave us all a great deal of confidence. As I said after the game, even when there wasn't much, it was second-and-seven. A lot of the times it was second-and-five or second-and-four and that is a good situation.
Q: Is the importance of 'finishing' something you addressed with the team or do you figure they know all about it by now?
A: We've talked about finishing since day one. We talk about it every Saturday night. We talk about the catchy line from one of the videos that we've shown about how you have to finish. That's the point. We continuously talk about that and we will continue to. Do we talk about anything that has to do with the past, no. We talk about this now being an eight-game schedule and the next game is the most important game of the year. It's the game against the San Francisco 49ers. That's how we approach it. As I said, the entire concept for us is keeping both feet on the ground, dealing with praise as well as criticism and understanding that if you're going to have any success in this business, then your preparation has to be exceptional. You have to be prepared to pay the price, to sacrifice the other types of things in your life that could or could not be a distraction to the benefit of your team and your teammates and we'll continue to sell that.
Q: Has there ever been any common thread to why you've struggled in the second half of the season?
A: I don't know. I'm sure there would be. I'm not, at this point in time, going to mention or say what I think because I really don't have the thoughts in front of me and certainly haven't done the research on it. But, no, I would say at this point in time I couldn't tell you that.
Q: Were you happy with how the team responded to an emotional win in week three (at Philly) and then traveled across the country (Arizona)? And will you draw on that this week, having to do the same thing?
A: Well we talked about that last night, that the 49ers are a very good team. They're playing very well. They're a very physical team. They've demonstrated that multiple times this year. It'll take superior preparation and a superior game – high energy, physical game for us to travel out there and win at their place. That's the point that we'll make. Hopefully if there are other positives to be drawn from other experiences, we'll call upon that during the course of the week.
Q: You mentioned Cruz and Ballard. How much does that represent your organizational view as far as developing guys as parts to the puzzle?
A: It's always a constant search for talent. We do have an outstanding collegiate and pro staff in terms of player personnel and people who do judiciously conduct themselves in a search for talent. Sometimes it's through the draft. Sometimes through the free agency market, be it pro or college. It's an ongoing thing. Sometimes you're fortunate. Sometimes you're not. But let's see where this goes. Let's hope that this process with those two young men, and others that are on our team and providing us with either depth or outstanding special teams effort. Let's continue to have that develop here over the course of the remaining eight games.
Q: Can having these come-from-behind fourth quarters help your team and give them confidence in that type of situation?
A: It definitely can do that. You put yourselves in that position enough times and people know that they've been there before and do know what it takes and it's part of what we've talked about since the first day we arrived in camp. It has to do with winning the fourth quarter, being the stronger team in the fourth quarter. It has to do with finishing better than we did a year ago because that has been a main objective of ours as we put things together in the offseason and the players are well aware of that. They openly discuss and talk about that. These experiences that we have had in these very close games, they will help going forward. The mention of emotions, there's a belief on the sideline, a confidence if you will, that we can get it done, no matter what. If the opportunity is there – there was 1:36 last night – then the belief is that some how, some way we can find a way to do this and certainly when you handle this in the right way and you understand that you're talking about an exceptional football team in the New England Patriots and you realize that it is going to take a great effort to accomplish what we did last night. But again, it's a springboard onto better things – that all has to be understood as well.
Q: When you watched film of the Steelers versus the Patriots, what did you think made the Steelers successful and did you use that yesterday?
A: We watch literally every game of the opponents throughout the course of the season and then we zoom in on the things that are beneficial to our team, the personality of our team, the way we want to play our personnel – that type of thing. You study an awful lot. Of course the Steeler game was the most recent one so we studied that as well. You reinforced the physical part of the game by looking at that game and they battled. They had the ball for so much [of the game]. The one thing you had to come away with was the time of possession difference, which was a way in which they could attempt to keep an extremely high powered offense off the field. We weren't able to do that last night. I think we nosed out a little bit, the time of possession, but not to the affect that the Steelers did.
Q: Was the man coverage you played in the first half an influence from the Steelers game?
A: We do what we think is best for our team and the matchups, the people that we're going to have to play against, those are the primary decision making factors, your own personnel.
Q: Do you have any sense of the availability this week of Bradshaw, Nicks and Boss?
A: I know that they're improving. Again, it's going to be how they feel tomorrow and to what extent they can do some things, being Tuesday, with the trainers and then the trainers will report to us as to, if anything, what they can do on Wednesday. We're hopeful. We have encouraging signs coming out of the training room, but I wouldn't go as far as to say what can be expected.
Q: Is there any feeling that letting Bradshaw sit for a couple of weeks would help?
A: We'll do whatever the doctors recommend and that will be based on how he feels and whether or not he's been able to control some of the soreness and if he is able to run and do the things that are necessary during the course of the week to prepare himself to play. Again, we'll have to wait to see exactly how he feels in order to put together some kind of plan. The medical people will, after they assess where he is this week, then they'll give us a good guide as to what they think we can do and what our expectation level will be.
Q: How close was Prince Amukamara? Were you thinking, 'let's wait one more week before we give it a go'?
A: Again there has to be, in everyone's opinion, the proof – how he's performed on the practice field – before we can simply say he's ready to go. He gets better each week and everyone is thinking that the time is approaching. There are still some things that I think have to be cleared up on the practice field. When that happens we will welcome him.
Q: Given the fact that Eli had the 12 yard run and also on the goal line on first down he was able to avoid the blitz and sack, do you think his ability to stay alive on plays is an underestimated part of his game?
A: I think so because that may have been the play of the game. They hit us with, we have kind of a crazy name for that blitz, but Guyton was right on top of him. I mean point blank range. And not only does he avoid him and rolls to his left, but he almost throws a strike. That ball, arguably, is a catchable ball. It's off balance. It's to his left. He makes a heck of a play. The other thing I think that has to be understood is that a quarterback sees the coverage and recognizes the coverage and sometimes when the coverage is such that it is a vulnerable coverage to the quarterback pulling the ball down and running, he doesn't do it until a key time in the game when perhaps you need it the very most. That's when he pulled it down and ran. I thought that that was wise.
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