Q&A with Jim Harbaugh

Q&A with Jim Harbaugh
January 15, 2012, 6:35 pm
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SAN FRANCISCO -- As quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Harbaugh earned the nickname "Captain Comeback" but he never authored come-from-behind drama quite like the fourth-quarter action that lifted the 49ers into next Sunday's NFC Championship. San Francisco's coach reflected on what the franchise's first playoff win since January 2003 meant.

Opening Statement:
Well, just really proud of our team. Youre going to live or die in these games. We lived. We move on and we move on in spectacular fashion. Really proud of our football team. I know there was The Catch. I dont know what youre going to call this one. The throw? The throw and catch? But it was a great play by TE Vernon Davis and QB Alex Smith. Vernon was huge today in this ball game. It was a great team effort. Great team victory. I also want to talk about our kickoff coverage. I think those guys are just the best darn guys in the business at covering kicks. A lot of other things. We knew they were going to make plays. We knew we were going to make plays. We felt that we would make more plays and it ended up that we made one or two or three more than they did.

Q: Talk about the job your defense did, particularly in the first half, forcing all the turnovers and getting you every opportunity to take the lead and take control of the game.
We got some spectacular stops. On third down, I thought they were outstanding. Five takeaways in the game. I know the special teams contributed to that as well. Very opportunistic today. Got pressure on their quarterback. Made plays on the ball, and made them when they were there to be made, our guys in the secondary made them. Got some huge stops in the game. It was a terrific job by our defense, once again. You just love the way they play. You love the way they compete. Love how hard they work on the field.

Q: Can you tell us the name of the play that the throw and catch was that won the game? Are you allowed to?
Yeah, the main part of the play was Vernon-Post. We told Alex, we said, Lets go to Vernon here. Its either Vernon or nobody. Quarterbacks Coach Geep Chryst did a great job calling that play. He designed it. It worked. Great job by Geep.
Q: What about the run by Alex around the left side when he scored there? Can you tell us the name of that one?
QB-9.
Q: Have you run either of those plays today? Or whens the last time you ran either of them?
Weve run the one with Alex. The one that Alex scored on, weve run that before. I cant remember exactly what game that was. It was a home game. I think it was the Giants. The Vernon-post was new to this game plan.

Q: What were the Saints showing you that youou felt like it was the time to break open plays like that. Were the Saints showing you anything particular in their coverages that you felt like those plays would be effective?
We were really taking some shots all game long. I felt Alex played extremely bold. Might be time to give Alex a little credit, huh? Spectacular performance by him as well. We just put things in his hands and our offenses hands. They really did a great job learning this game plan, understanding it and then going out and executing it.

Q: Have you ever had another play go running into your arms crying, tears running down their face ever?
A few times, but that was special. I dont know if there was anything ever better than that. I cant remember winning a game in such spectacular fashion as this one.

Q: What was Alexs demeanor like after the TE Jimmy Graham touchdown? On the sideline?
It was no different than it was any other point in the game. We knew we were down by 3 and we had to get at least a field goal to put it into overtime. Then he makes the great throw to Vernon on the go-route. Then we wanted to press it. We wanted to go for the touchdown and take our shots.

Q: Did you go into the game thinking that Vernon was going to be a big factor or did he make himself a big factor?
Vernon is always a big factor in any game plan. He was singled up a lot today. They were trying to bring heat and play man-to-man coverage. We won a few times with Vernon getting the separation and making the big run after catch. In the first quarter when we got our first touchdown, similar play to what Jimmy Graham made there in the fourth quarter.

Q: When you were practicing that play to Vernon, were you thinking that that could be the go to play for a situation like that?
We wanted to call it. We felt like thats the look we would get. It was really good game planning by Geep Chryst. He drew it up. He showed everybody how they would play. Got a good simulation of it in practice, at least two or three times. Worked on it. That was a great throw by Alex. He had made that similar throw in practice, too. The interesting thing about it though is that every time we practiced it, we practiced it going right. That was the first time we threw it going left, was this ball game. That was the best one. That was the best one of all of them, right there.

Q: When did Geep draw that up?
I think we installed that on Wednesday.
Q: How do you sense that thats going to be the kind of play that would work?
Just what he saw on film. Thought that that was a look that we would get. S Roman Harper would be on the goal line. Soft peddling into the end zone. Vernon would cross face and we would make the throw.

Q: So, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman decided at that point to go to it? Or was that your call?
Geep called it. Geep came over to the headset and called it. I relayed it in to Alex.
Q: When you hugged Vernon, what did you tell him? It looked like you whispered something into his ear?
I said hes a great football player. Theres a special place in your heart for players that play great in the big games. You love them all. You really do. You love all the players. But, the guy that plays great in the big game. Boy, theres just a little extra space for them. Thats what I was telling him, that hes a great football player.
Q: When you said it might be time to give Alex some credit, what did you mean by that?
I think exactly what I said. Time to give him some credit.

Q: That Alex run on the QB-9 play, is he reading anything on that play or he just gets it and sprints to the left corner?
Its to circle the defense. Its to get it outside to stretch it from hash to numbers to sidelines. He got a great block from WR Kyle Williams. A great, physical block. Thats Kyle Williams, number 10, blocking their defensive end. That set the play off. We got two good blocks on the perimeter as well. It was pretty free sailing. He had free access to get past the first down line. Alex has got great athletic ability, great running ability, and then took it down the sideline for the score.

Q: Youve been involved in a lot of big NFL games. How does this rank?
Right now, it feels like the best. It really does. Like I said before, I cant recall a win like this in this kind of spectacular fashion, as this by our football team. A great team win. Our defense played phenomenal football. Our special teams, the coverage units, they are the best in the business at what they do. The LB Blake Costanzos, the LB Tavares T-Goodens, FB Bruce Miller and CB Tramaine T-Brock. I know Im leaving somebody out, but they run down and cover kicks. They had a lot of opportunities to do it and they did a phenomenal job.
Q: What was it today that made you guys steer so heavy towards the pass and away from the run game? At least numbers-wise?
I thought we were pretty balanced. We got some good gains in the run game as well. We knew that they were going to turn it into a blitz game on the second and third downs. We were going to have to make plays. Both teams made plays. Both teams made plays defensively, offensively, special teams. We knew there would be an ebb and flow, but we would prevail and make more plays. Our guys executed it.

Q: How is that different as a player than as a coach? You did it as a player, these big NFL wins, but as a coach how is that different? Do you embrace it differently? Does it mean more?
Yeah, I would say it does. It means more. It means that these guys are my heroes, these players. I grew up dreaming of being an athlete. Wanted to be an athlete. Those guys that were athletes were my heroes. Pretty much burnt up my childhood days thinking about that. That times past me by now, but my heroes are still these athletes. Our guys and the way they play. Im just really proud of them. Loved the way they competed and fought today. This was an all day sucker and they prevailed.
Transcript courtesy San Francisco 49ers media relations.

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