Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh


Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with reporters on Monday for his customary day-after-game press conference at team headquarters in Santa Clara following San Francisco's 19-11 win over the Washington Redskins in Week 9.

The following is a complete transcript of his question and answer session:

Q: What has been the key to getting these guys to play so well going back East? Its not often that you see a team that can go from West to East or East to West and win more than one or two games a year and you guys have won all of your games so far?Jim Harbaugh: I dont know if I could just come up with one key. Playing good football. A good football team.When the Niners were really good in the late 80s and early 90s, rain, snow, overnight trips, nothing bothered them because they were a good football team. In the end when they started slipping, they started complaining. Dont you find, if its a good team, everything else becomes incidental? Just go out and play football. Early starts, late starts, all that stuff.JH: I think so. Yeah.Q: "RB Frank Gore said he had a precautionary X-Ray on his ankle. You think everything is good to go?JH: Well see. Talked to Frank today and X-Rays were good and Frank was feeling good, he was feeling like Frank. You look at the film and watched during the game and saw the same thing. That was a tough physical game for everybody on our football team. We knew it was going to be that way going in and it played out that way. There are some guys that are definitely getting some treatments, got some bumps and bruises today. But, our guys will work hard at that and get themselves ready to go.Q: DT Ray McDonald also thinks hes a go this week.JH: Hes been working through something and well see where hes at this week. But, it was that, it was a physical ball game. Theyre like that a lot of times in the NFL and this particularly was a physical game offensively, it was defensively, it was special teams. Our guys played a physical brand of football ourselves in this game. One thing that really popped out off the film was the aggressive, hard-hitting tackling. Thought we really tackled well in this ball game, both from the secondary and the linebacker position. Up front we were not giving up yards after contact in this game. S Dashon Goldson, S Donte Whitner, LB Patrick Willis and LB NaVorro Bowman played extremely well. So did LB Ahmad Brooks. DT Ricky Jean Francois played extremely well; Ricky Jean had a good game. So did DT Justin Smith. DT Isaac Sopoaga was taking on double teams and doing a great job there. Just across the board, I thought contact was made and tackles were made. Hope that popped out to you, too. Was proud of our guys for that.Q: One of the things that Frank seems to do so well, particularly on that first run, is kind of see just a small crevice and go through there. Have you seen a back whos done that any better than Frank does?JH: I cant say that I have. The positions and the angles that he gets in and his ability to get low to the ground you see it in person and its moving so fast that you really get appreciation for it when you can slow it down and look at him, get in through the narrowest of holes and margins. Another thing I do is pick out pictures each week and Frank is always in some amazing positions, legs going one way, upper body at a 90-degree angle the opposite way. Its amazing. Theres been times where he has gone into real small crevices in the interior of the line and hes able to run so low that I think sometimes he doesnt get the full yardage on his runs because I dont think its humanly possible that a guy to could be that low and still not have his knees on the ground. I dont think he always gets everything that hes run for. Its shown up a couple times on the goal line. But no, I have not seen a guy that can get in those kinds of body positions and get that low to the ground and still be moving that fast.Q: What were some of the pictures you put up this week?JH: Im still going through them. That pretty much stands out every week. There are certain guys that every picture taken of them, theyre in some kind of unique, good, athletic position. There are other guys that its rare to find a very (good photo), like me.Q: Did FB Bruce Miller make the photos?JH: Were still going through it. Bruce has been on a few, absolutely.Q: When you drafted him, and I know we talked to you about it months ago, but what told you that he was going to be a quick learner and be able to handle that position switch as a rookie? Is he a feel-good story in your locker room right now?Yes, he really is. Hes a real good learner and I dont take any credit for drafting Bruce. We had a scout, Matt Malaspina, who really pounded the old first on the table for Bruce and gave a great recommendation and felt like he was what we were describing that we wanted in a fullback. Lot of credit to Matt on that. The other thing about Bruce is hes a great learner, as I said, and Running Backs Coach Tom Rathman, (we) really need to give a lot of credit to Tom for the job that hes doing this year. You see Frank, hes always coaching Frank. Frank is always listening to Tom and I think Bruce and RB Kendall Hunter really see that example, that Frank is always listening to Tom and Tom is always coaching Bruce and hes always coaching Kendall and they follow that example very well. Heres a converted defensive end whos now playing fullback, no offseason; Tom Rathmans got him playing outstanding football. Kendall has come in and done a terrific job. Those youngsters on a football game, because they are involved in the pass, theyre involved in protection, theyre involved in route running, and theyre involved in the running game fully because theyre running the ball and theyre blocking. So much to digest when youre a running back or a fullback and all the different alignments that a fullback can line up in in our offense that its been learned and its been taught, just great coaching by Tom Rathman, the intelligent backs that we have that have great study habits and then great ability as well. Thats a heck of a job by Tom and the fellas.Q: In speaking to Bruce, he said his whole mentality was to come in as a defensive end or linebacker in the NFL and it wasnt until the scout, Matt, contacted him and said were looking at you as fullback and that day with no preparation he had to run routes and go out and do that. How rare is it then for somebody like Bruce to do what hes done, how many players could do that?JH: Theres others. First person that comes to mind is Erik Lorig who we had at Stanford who was a defensive end his whole career and now is a fullback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.Q: But can you imagine that a kid is drafted and has a plan here, thats a daunting task isnt it, to work in the middle of a lockout and hes not going to get the practices, to have to switch positions and now for him to be doing what hes doing?JH: We can all appreciate that. I know I certainly do, it sounds like you do. To be playing a position for four or five years in college and that position in high school and now youre going to go to the highest level, around the greatest athletes, the toughest guys, and throw a position switch in there as well. Hes been all about it from the first time we talked right before we drafted him and told him what our plans were and our intentions were for him and he wanted to do whatever we thought was best and however he could help the team and hes had that attitude since we got together. The fact that hes embraced it; its helping our ball club. I dont think hes ever run underneath a pass, in a game, had to catch it over the shoulder in that kind of situation. Hes done it in practice, but first time hes ever done it in a game. He just ran under it, caught it and scored a touchdown. Looked cool as a cucumber doing it.Q: A lot of these players have all heard about the five Super Bowls, the winning tradition. The fact that Tom Rathman was here, does he bridge the gap between that winning tradition that he was a part of and can he keep these guys grounded on whats happening to them now?JH: He does a great job of that. He really goes. Theres that link to that great era and where we are right now. I think its a perfect way to phrase it and he does it in a very good way, respectful to both, those teams that he played on and these teams that hes coaching. Always wise words from Tom. Hes a ball coach. The thing I admire about him is he never takes a break coaching. He is coaching all the time. Hes coaching in meetings, hes coaching on the practice field, hes coaching on the way out to walk-through, coaching in the lobby, coaching in the hallways here. His meetings start half hour before everybody elses do. Its just great to see the consummate team guy that Tom Rathman is.Q: So you played the same time as him, is he as intense as a coach as he was as a player?JH: Yes. Theres no question about it. I think his intensity is at 10-tense. If theres another rung, hes at the top of it. Hell probably find another rung, knowing Tom, hell find the 11th.Have you gotten a chance to talk to league about an explanation for that simulating the snap count penalty and what exactly happened on that play?JH: Yes.Q: What did they tell you?JH: All conversations with the league and the clubs are privileged and confidential, but satisfactorily explained. I have an understanding of what to tell our players and well move on from there.Q: Are you in a situation where on a play where youre attempting a shift like that, maybe your guy has to tell the referee ahead of time that, hey this is what were about to do, be on the lookout for it so dont call a penalty on us?JH: No, I think the game should be played and officiated without anybody thinking of what the intent is or may be or without explanations. Thats the way football isIm just saying if its like a version kind of like reporting as an eligible receiver. Something thats not very common.JH: What are you trying to say? Report in that were about to make a shift and its our intent here, hey, were going to shift here. No, thats not football. Its not realistic. I understand your point but football is football and theres ways to play it and theres ways to officiate it and everybody does the best that they possibly can to do that. And thats all you can expect.Q: What was the reason for going to Arlington National Cemetery with the team on Saturday?JH: Just thought it would be a neat experience for the fellas and myself, our team. We were practicing very near there and appreciate the folks over at Arlington for accommodating our team and for making us feel so welcome. Our guys were really moved. They really appreciated what they were witnessing, what they were able to be a part of. It was a good, positive thing for us.Q: Have you been there before?JH: I have, yes.Q: When you look at the second half against the Browns, as well as this game, only one touchdown in those six quarters. It seems like the offense had trouble getting into the red-zone. What is it struggling with that youd like to see improve?JH: I think weve struggled getting it into the red zone. Weve had good drives. This football team has put together some very good offense and were not getting everything thats out there. Were not getting every first down thats there, were not making every play thats available. I think theres more there for us and we all feel that. Well see if we cant keep reeling that in, those opportunities. It gives us things to get better at, to coach up and practice up.Q: Here at midseason, how would you assess where you guys are right now as far as what you were hoping to feel when you came in and where you thought you would be at this point?JH: I really dont assess it. Is that the question? How would we assess it?Q: Yeah, what would you think is the how were you hoping to feel when you came in this being your first season, here you are at midseason. Did you have a goal for where you would want to be at midseason as far as what you feel here with the team?JH: We would have liked to have been 8-0 at the midseason point. But, no, we didnt have any our expectations are to have a great week of practice this week to get ready for the ball game coming up. Pleased with the way our guys are preparing each week and feel confident in that. But we didnt have an expectation other than day to day.Q: You said last week well look in December how many we need, where were at. A lot of the guys in your locker room have never even tasted the cusp of being a division winner or a playoff clinching team and they want to control it themselves. They dont want anybodys help, they want to do it as soon as possible. Is that something where now you can say okay lets get this done, lets wrap up one thing that we need and keep moving forward? Are you open to that, lets clinch it in November?JH: Well just kind of keep doing what weve been doing and thats focusing on whats important now, having great expectation for todays game-planning, for tomorrows meetings, tomorrows workout, Wednesdays practice. Thats the way weve been going about it. No need to look ahead, and have expectations because we didnt when we started. We didnt say heres what our record needs to be at the mid-way point or predicting what would happen or what the record would be. We just take care of whats important now. Weve got a lot of questions to answer and keep asking ourselves and keep working toward a good game plan this week. Thats whats important.Q: What are some of those questions you need to keep asking yourself?JH: Well weve stated them a bunch of times. You want me to go back through them? I mean theres a lot of them.Q: You dont need to. I didnt know if there were any new ones.JH: Okay. This ball game is going to be a great test for our team. I think our guys all pretty much know and theyre going to embrace that challenge. Giants are an outstanding football team, everything weve seen so far is well-documented. This is a physical team, both lines are extremely good, playing very well. We feel were good on both sides of the line and playing well. Those are going to be two opposing wills that are going to meet in this football game. Two quarterbacks that are playing extremely well, playing at the top of their games. Two outstanding running backs. Physical defensive secondaries and linebackers. Special teams for the Giants is very physical, disciplined, fundamentally sound unit. We feel that way about our guys. Theres an excitement thats brewing right now already for this contest. Well do everything we can to get mentally and physically and emotionally motivated to play in this ball game. I think itll be a great game and a great test.Q: You mentioned last night hey I dont care what the run distribution and the pass distribution is.JH: I didnt say that.Yeah, I think you did.JH: No, I didnt. I said we strive to be a 50 run, 50 pass team and thats what we strive for.Q: Lets go with that one. But if youre running more, isnt that an indication that youre winning? The Bill Walsh teams that won Super Bowls, they always ran more than they passed. If youre running more, youre running out the end of the game and isnt that an indication that things are going well when youre running more than youre throwing?JH: It can be, definitely. When youre a score or two scores ahead in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, you would tend to run the ball more. That could be an indication of things going well.Q: Two of the best units on your team so far have been your running backs and your defensive linemen and those are two units that youve had carryover with the coaches with Tom Rathman and Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula. Do you think thats a coincidence or do you think the continuity has helped those groups?JH: I think weve got good coaches on our entire staff. Some that were here last year, some that have been new to the staff. Every single one of them, were really pleased with. Couple other things to point out, S C.J. Spillman had a very good game on the special teams. Theres no statistic for how many blockers you used up on kickoff coverage or punt coverage, but he used up probably six to nine in this game. Sometimes two or three on one single play. Nobody will know about those kind of things outside of our meeting room, but were getting some tremendous effort out of a lot of guys. CB Tramaine Brock was just back in his first game. One on one as a punt holdup guy is one of the hardest tasks for one player football in the game, did a great job. K David Akers, another four-for-four in the field goals. Now I see you nodding your heads, you like that low-hanging fruit dont you? Oh four-for-four, thats a statistic we can mark. Hes doing a great job. Thought QB Alex Smith played extremely well. He was on right from the beginning of that ball game. I know we talked about it yesterday, being able to secure the ball, not turn the ball over, uncanny quality that he has. That was a big hit, most guys would have been dislodged from that ball. 70 passer again, close to 200-yards throwing the ball, touchdown, no interceptions. I think hes playing extremely good football. Winning football. Kind of like a pitcher in baseball, you judge them by the record. I guess youre done with me so Ill move on.--Transcript provided by San Francisco 49ers Media services

The three things you need to know from 49ers' 41-39 loss vs Rams

The three things you need to know from 49ers' 41-39 loss vs Rams

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 41-39 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3 on Thursday night:

1. The offense is alive
It was a rough start for quarterback Brian Hoyer. His interception on the first pass attempt of the game was exactly how the team did not want to see him bounce back from a horrendous offensive showing against Seattle.

But Hoyer rebounded with a more-than respectable performance after his interception led to the Rams' first touchdown -- just 12 seconds into the game. Hoyer completed 23 of 37 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Still, everything is not running smoothly with the passing game. The receivers do not always seem to be running crisp routes. Hoyer is not putting his passes in great spots. And the receivers have far too many drops.

But with Carlos Hyde running hard – 84 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts – and the passing game showing some signs of life, the offense under coach Kyle Shanahan should get better and better.

And that should bode well for the future.

2. Defensive letdown
The defense is the side of the ball that was supposed to carry the 49ers. And after solid showings in the first two games of the season, the defense failed to hold up its end of the bargain against a vastly improved Rams offense.

Again, the 49ers did not supply much of a pass rush. The run defense was pretty good for most of the game, but Jared Goff picked the 49ers apart because he has time to wait for his talented receiving corps of Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins to get open against the 49ers’ over-stressed secondary.

Third downs have killed the 49ers’ defense. The unit simply cannot get off the field in crucial situations. The Rams were successful on eight of their 12 plays on third downs. The defense has to find a level of consistency. And they are clearly missing rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, who has not played since the opening 11 plays of the opener due to a high ankle sprain.

3. Time to recover
The 49ers have a long week, and that comes at a good time with fullback Kyle Juszczyk, safety Jaquiski Tartt and linebacker Brock Coyle in the NFL’s concussion protocol after sustaining injuries in the second half.

Juszczyk appeared to be shaken up when he went head-to-head with Rams safety Mark Barron as a lead blocker on a third-down run play for Hyde. He was slow to get up but remained on the field for the fourth-down play. He made a block on Hyde’s 1-yard touchdown run, and again was slow to get up. He did not return to action due to a concussion.

Defensive lineman Tank Carradine sustained a right ankle sprain early in the fourth quarter and did not return. He left the locker room walking slowly while wearing an orthopedic boot after the game.

The 49ers return to action Oct. 1 at the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers must get some of their players back in order to have any hope of avoiding an 0-4 start, including getting swept in their first round through the NFC West.

Instant Analysis: 49ers fight back, fall yards short of huge comeback vs Rams

Instant Analysis: 49ers fight back, fall yards short of huge comeback vs Rams


SANTA CLARA – After feasting on the Los Angeles Rams twice last year, the 49ers found out Thursday night that these Sean McVay Rams are not the same ol’ Rams.

McVay, the 31-year-old head coach who served as quarterbacks under then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for several seasons with Washington, got the better of the first head-to-head matchups against his former mentor. It could be their first of many meetings as NFC West rivals.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked like the No. 1 overall draft pick of 2016 -- which he was -- and despite spirited late-fourth-quarter rally, the 49ers made enough critical errors to prevent Shanahan from any chance of his first victory as an NFL head coach.

The Rams took advantage of an early Brian Hoyer mistake and held on for dear life to a 41-39 victory over the 49ers in front of a sparse gathering at Levi’s Stadium.

In the past 22 games entering the game, the 49ers were 3-0 against the Rams and 0-19 against all other opponents. That trend came to a halt, but not before the 49ers' wild comeback attempt made for one of the more interesting Thursday night games in recent memory.

The 49ers made it interesting late. After Hoyer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie slot receiver Trent Taylor to cut the Rams lead to eight points, 41-33, with 5:12 remaining in the fourth quarter, the 49ers got a quick takeaway on the ensuring kickoff.

Victor Bolden forced a fumble on Rams return man Pharoh Cooper, and Aldrick Robinson made the recovery. Carlos Hyde scored with 2:17 remaining, but Hoyer’s two-point conversion pass intended for Trent Taylor for the tie was broken up and intercepted.

Trailing 41-39, Robbie Gould’s onside kick was recovered by Raheem Mostert. But the 49ers could get no closer. Their last best chance was erased when Taylor's apparent reception at the Rams' 39-yard line was called back on his own penalty for offensive pass interference.

Coming off a poor performance on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, the night could not have started any worse for Hoyer, the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

Hoyer’s first attempt, intended for Marquise Goodwin was off the mark, provided Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman with an easy interception. Robey-Coleman’s 25-yard return set up Todd Gurley’s 3-yard touchdown run.

And just like that, the 49ers trailed 7-0 just 12 seconds into the game.

Hoyer and the 49ers’ offense managed to string together enough plays on the next drive and were aided by a Rams offside penalty on a punt to form a 14-play, 81-yard drive.

Hoyer accounted for the first touchdown in 126 minutes, 47 seconds for the 49ers this season with a 9-yard touchdown run. It was the second running touchdown of Hoyer’s career, and the first since his rookie season of 2009 with the New England Patriots.

Gurley scored three touchdowns in the first half as the Rams built a 24-13 lead. Robbie Gould kicked field goals of 36 and 48 yards for the 49ers. But he also missed an extra point at the beginning of the fourth quarter that proved costly, forcing the 49ers to go for a two-point conversion late in the game for the tie.

Gurley finished with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 28 rushing attempts. He added a 7-yard touchdown reception.

Goff had a strong showing, completing 22 of 28 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 145.8.

The 49ers got back into the game in the middle of the third quarter with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Shanahan rolled the dice on fourth down from the L.A. 1-yard line. Hyde scored to make the score 27-20 with 20 minutes to play.

But the 49ers’ defense was not up to the task, allowing the Rams to convert 8 of 12 (67 percent) on third downs.

Hoyer ended up piecing together a decent game, completing 23 of 37 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Pierre Garçon caught seven passes for 142 yards.

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was ruled out of action for the remainder of the game late in the third quarter due to a neck injury. Juszczyk appeared to be injured during a short-yardage situation that ended up with Hyde scoring on a 1-yard run. He was later diagnosed with a concussion.

The 49ers also lost two other players due to concussions. Safety Jaquiski Tartt and linebacker Brock Coyle both sustained head injuries in the third quarter and were ultimately diagnosed with concussions, the 49ers announced.

Defensive lineman Tank Carradine went down early in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.

The 49ers will return to action on Oct. 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.

--Running back Carlos Hyde left the game in the first quarter with a hip injury, and was announced as questionable to return. However, he missed just one series before returning to action. Hyde finished with 84 yards and two touchdowns on 25 rushing attempts.

--While Hyde was out, 49ers No. 3 running back Raheem Mostert lost a fumble.

--The 49ers got a takeaway in the second quarter when long-snapper Kyle Nelson ran down the field to recover Tavon Austin’s muffed punt.

--Safety Jimmie Ward can expect a fine of $24,309 for his hit on Robert Woods as a defenseless receiver late in the first half after a 13-yard gain. The unnecessary roughness penalty on Ward moved the ball to the 2-yard line. On the next play, Gurley scored a touchdown to give Los Angeles a 24-13 lead at halftime.

--Shanahan won his first challenge as he threw the red flag to object to a play on which Pierre Garçon was ruled to have caught Hoyer’s pass out of bounds. Instead, Garçon’s remarkable two-foot toe-drag was ruled complete for a 19-yard gain. The play accounted for 34 yards, as Aaron Donald’s late hit on Hoyer was tacked onto the end of the play.

--He later won another challenge in the fourth quarter on a similar play to Marquise Goodwin at the sideline late in the fourth quarter. The play gained 12 yards.

--Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, who sat out the game with a high ankle sprain, wore a 49ers custom jersey on the sideline with a nameplate that read, “5AVA6E” (SAVAGE). Foster wears No. 56.