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.