Postgame Q&A -- Patrick Willis

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Postgame Q&A -- Patrick Willis

SAN FRANCISCO -- All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis finished with eight tackles and a fumble recovery in the 49ers' 36-32 NFC Divisional playoff victory over New Orleans on Saturday. He also drew -- and handled -- tough assignments against Saints RB Darren Sproles and TE Jimmy Graham. Afterward he met the media and reflected on his first playoff win as a pro.

LB Patrick WillisPress Conference January 14, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints

Q: What were the emotions you were feeling out there?
Willis: I dont want to make this about me. We won and it was a great team win. I was hurting, I was down because I know that my teammates always count on me to be the defensive player that I am and he made a good catch at the end. I was feeling low, Im not going to lie. But thats one thing I love about my teammates is that regardless of how youre feeling, they always find a way to pull you back up. Just to have this W, to go on and play another week, to have a chance of redeeming myself feels great.

Q: For the offense to put up two in the end zone at the end, how big was that?
Willis: Its big. It just shows that we have a complete team across the board in all three phases. I said early in the week that it was going to take all three phases to win this game. Defense came out in the first half great, played well. We came back on in the third quarter and we played well. We fight. The special teams played great all night. It was a phenomenal win.

Q: Alex Smith has been second-guessed or criticized his entire career. What does this win say about Alex?
Willis: It just shows he has the will to never quit. With some of the things that have been said about him, to see him this year sticking with it when most would have given up and gone somewhere else, he stayed. I thank God he did. Im happy hes our quarterback going forward for us.

Q: Was there a point before the final touchdown that you felt the offense might have gotten you off the hook?
Willis: One thing about the team all year long is we dont quit. Were not afraid of any situation. Regardless of how bad it looks, or how crazy it looks, we still believe that we have a chance to win. They just showed again tonight what our team has been about all year long. When all odds are against us, we find a way and we did that tonight when it counted most.

Q: Can you describe the atmosphere in the stadium?
Willis: Man, it was loud. Its the loudest Ive ever heard our stadium. Im thankful for the fans that came out on our behalf. All the fans that were there turned on a great ball game. Hopefully we get to come back here again, but if not, I thank all of the fans out there tonight cheering the way they did.

Q: On the touchdown pass that TE Vernon Davis had, did he run that against you on the practice field?
Willis: Not really. Vernon had a great week of practice and he just showed the All-Pro tight end that he is. I dont know, I just remember telling him on the sideline how proud I was and how much I love him for just pulling out what he did not only for this team, but me as an individual. I dont know how I would have taken this game if we didnt get another way to win. Im just thankful that we have a chance.

Q: You did a great job on RB Darren Sproles most of the day, and then he gets away for one. Were you frustrated to let him get away for one?
Willis: Its just one of those things that you have to play for 60 minutes against him or however many snaps you get on defense, you have to play hard for all of those snaps. My guys did. Hes a playmaker and hes a football player as well. He made a play against our defense and thats what it was. What mattered most was we get to go and play another game. Thats all that matters.

Transcript courtesy San Francisco 49ers media relations.

Rodgers, Packers headed to NFC championship after thriller with Cowboys

Rodgers, Packers headed to NFC championship after thriller with Cowboys

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas -- This time it was a catch, and another win for the Green Bay Packers.

Call it a "Half Mary" from Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Packers to the NFC championship game with their eighth straight win while thwarting a huge Dallas rally in a 34-31 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday.

The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook on third-and-20 with 12 seconds left - confirmed on review - wasn't nearly as debatable as Dez Bryant's famous catch that wasn't in the Cowboys' divisional round loss to Green Bay (12-6) two years ago.

Cook, who led Green Bay with 104 yards receiving, kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds.

And it came after the Cowboys tied the game twice in the final 5 minutes behind rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their playoff debut.

It was the third field goal of more than 50 yards in the final 1:33 - two from Crosby and one from Dallas' Dan Bailey. And Crosby had to make the winner twice after Dallas coach Jason Garrett called timeout before the first attempt.

Rodgers, who sparked last week's wild-card win over the New York Giants with another Hail Mary before halftime, is headed to an MVP showdown with Atlanta's Matt Ryan next Sunday. It will be his third NFC title game - all on the road.

"Unbelievable effort. I mean, what a game, what a game," said Rodgers, who threw for 356 yards with two touchdowns. "We're going to celebrate this and move on to Atlanta. We're just going to enjoy this right now."

Green Bay's win was the first by a road team after 12 straight home victories in the playoffs dating to last season. The Packers were the previous road team to win - over Washington in last season's wild-card round.

The Cowboys (13-4) almost became the third team in the Super Bowl era to win in the playoffs after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter. The first was Dallas in 1972, when "Captain Comeback", Roger Staubach, rallied the Cowboys for a 30-28 win over San Francisco.

Instead, top-seeded Dallas ended up with its fifth straight loss in the divisional round and a 21-year drought in trips to the NFC championship game.

Prescott, whose 11-game winning streak during the regular season sent Tony Romo to the bench when he was ready to return from a back injury, rallied the Cowboys in a way that probably made Dallas' 10-year starter proud.

The fourth-round pick, who was supposed to be the No. 3 quarterback before injuries changed everything, got Dallas' rally going with a 40-yard touchdown toss in the first half to Bryant, the first playoff TD for the star receiver.

Then he set the stage for the first tying score on a 6-yarder to Jason Witten, also the first postseason touchdown for the 14th-year tight end.

Rodgers led the Packers to a go-ahead 56-yard field goal from Crosby with a big boost on a pass interference penalty against rookie Anthony Brown that wiped out an interception from Jeff Heath, whose pick earlier in the game helped Dallas rally.

The Cowboys answered with a 52-yarder from Bailey.

Prescott threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and Elliott had 125 yards rushing.

Rodgers didn't seem to miss receiver Jordy Nelson, out with a rib injury sustained in the win over the Giants.

Rodgers found six different receivers, including a 34-yard touchdown to Richard Rodgers that was his longest since catching one of three successful Hail Mary passes from Aaron Rodgers in the past 13 months.

SAY AGAIN?

The Cowboys had a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that doesn't happen often. Dallas had a first down wiped out by the penalty against receiver Brice Butler, who wasn't even part of the play. And that was actually the issue.

Referee Tony Corrente threw the flag immediately after the snap. After Terrance Williams made a catch the referee announced that Butler was penalized for going into the offensive huddle and then leaving the field.

There was even more confusion when the penalty was initially marked off only 5 yards. After Packers coach Mike McCarthy pointed it out, Corrente announced the correction and the ball was moved back another 10 yards. The Cowboys punted soon after.

UP NEXT

Packers: At Atlanta in the NFC championship game next Sunday.

Report: Jags interviewed Chip Kelly 'very quietly' before hiring Marrone

Report: Jags interviewed Chip Kelly 'very quietly' before hiring Marrone

The 49ers fired Chip Kelly on January 1. But it didn't take long for Kelly to get a job interview.

Between January 1 and January 9, when the Jaguars hired Doug Marrone, Jacksonville reportedly interviewed Kelly for the job.

The interview happened "very quietly" according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Jaguars had interviewed six known candidates: Marrone, Tom Coughlin, Harold Goodwin, Mike Smith, Kyle Shanahan and Josh McDaniels.

While the Jaguars hired Marrone and most other teams filled their head coaching vacancy, the 49ers are the lone team remaining without a head coach.

The leading candidates for the 49ers’ job appear to be McDaniels and Shanahan. The 49ers interviewed Shanahan and McDaniels on Friday and Saturday, respectively, as their teams earned first-round playoff byes.

The 49ers are also scheduled to interview Seattle offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable on Sunday.

Three days after he was fired by the 49ers, Kelly addressed his next possible career move with CSNBayArea.com.

“I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” he said. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”