Harbaugh: Playing it safe? No, playing to win

Harbaugh: Playing it safe? No, playing to win
September 12, 2011, 9:44 pm
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Sept. 12, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEO
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- Coach Jim Harbaugh disputed the widely held belief that the 49ers played it safe Sunday in their 33-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

RECAP: 49ers win opener thanks to Ginn's two return TDs
A strong argument, of course, could be made that the 49ers were very conservative. There was no denying, however, the plan was successful. After all, the 49ers did not turn the ball over. They yielded no quarterback sacks. And, most important, they opened the season with the victory over an NFC West opponent."So, you may look at it as safe, we look at it as playing to win," Harbaugh said.But, clearly, the 49ers expected more from their run game. Running back Frank Gore gained just 59 yards on 22 rushing attempts. Six of Gore's rushing attempts resulted in no gain or yardage losses. Harbaugh was not able to pinpoint a reason for the problems with the team's ground game."Internally we'll figure that out," he said. The 49ers head into Week 2 with the 27th-ranked offense. But they club ranks fourth in the league in total defense.
Here's the entire transcript from Harbaugh's day-after game press conference, courtesy of the 49ers' public relations department:Q: When you watched the film, what stood out to you as the most positive aspect of that win?
Harbaugh: "A lot of things. Same things we talked about right after the game. Seems very much the same as the way it looked on film is the way it looked yesterday. A lot of good things we liked. Especially, I'll start with the special teams. Career day, record setting day by WR Ted Ginn Jr.. Phenomenal performance by Teddy, and all the members of the special teams that contributed to that, including Assistant Head CoachSpecial Teams Coordinator Brad Seely. Tremendous job. All the same guys we talked about yesterday. LB Blake Constanzo, and TE Delanie Walker, and great job by the specialists, P Andy Lee. Career day for Andy. Fifteen points from K David Akers, four for four. Excellent job on the kick off. Starting there. And then outstanding performance by our defense, hitting just about every goal, really, that the defense had set for itself in terms of objective-wise going into the ball game. So, I'm really pleased there as well. And same thing as we talked about yesterday with the offense. (They did what they had to do. Brightest spot, made plays, and did not turn the ball over. They got points when they were in the red zone, so all those things."Q: How much time do you devote to special teams during the week? And do you think it's more than other teams ... I know you don't know what other teams do - but do you think it's more than what other teams do?
Harbaugh: "I think it's up there, it's a lot. You talk to other coaches, we give it what the importance that it deserves. We're not out there just rehearsing it. We are actually practicing it. Brad does a great job. That's his element. So, yeah, meeting time, practice time, we're devoting a good share."Q: If Ted Ginn had to have a bigger role at wide receiver, would you minimize his role on special teams, or is he going to be your kick and punt returner no matter what?
Harbaugh: "Well, after yesterday's performance you sure hate to take him off the field right now in those roles. He means a lot to us on the offensive side of the ball as well. We weren't really going to have him return the kicks. That was close to a game day, day before game decision, to let him roll on the kickoff return, but glad we did."Q: Why did you make that decision?
Harbaugh: "His experience more than anything else. Wanted a guy back there who's going to have a cool head and make good decisions. That was the reason for it."Q: There hasn't been a player that has ever had to take a pay cut like that as he did we talked about yesterday, what is that like for a player, and how does he handle that?
Harbaugh: "No comment on that. I don't really get in to talking about contracts in the media."Q: He said he's a team guy though, that's kind of the words that you like to hear. Those are some of your same words we hear from you, that we heard from Ted last night.
Harbaugh: "He is a team guy. Ted's a stud. There's no doubt that he's a heck of a football player and a great guy. I think nobody would be disputing that."Q: What's a stud? You once said Joe Staley was a stud. What's a stud for you?
Harbaugh: "It's a real football player."Q: A real football player?
Harbaugh: "Yeah. Courageous, talented, hardworking, great teammate in all regards."Q: I was looking at some of your quotes from yesterday, and it seemed to me, they were very interesting, and in some of them you left out the first-person pronoun "I" ... just verbs and verbs, and it was very dynamic. Is that how you talk, or is it a philosophical thing, we're a team, I don't use I?
Harbaugh: "It's about us. It's about we, ours."Q: So you intentionally leave out the "I" or leave off the "I"?
Harbaugh: "We think of it that way. We do, we really do."Q: Does that mean that you talk to the team about it as well? That if I talked to some of your players, they might not say "I" also because they are thinking of "we"? This isn't a trick question, you're doing good.
Harbaugh: "No, it's not a trick question. No, we tend to think of it in those terms. Us, ours, you know."Q: Jim, you mentioned the blue collar aspect yesterday, and you implied that the way the defense played kind of dictated that. Is this the way you might look all year? Play a little safe on offense if the defense is playing that well, or would you like things to open up a little bit more as the season goes on?
Harbaugh: "I don't know that we'd say that we were playing safe ..."Q: Well, some handoffs on third and five, those sort of things.
Harbaugh: "Yeah, that's attacking in our mind. And there are things that we knew we would going into this game come out of it liking. And some other things going, well we don't like that so much, and those things we're going to have to work really hard to improve and the things we're doing well, definitely, devote as much reps to those as we can and keep doing them. But, we wouldn't categorize it as playing safe. We are playing to win at all times. And our guys made big plays. They made plays when we had to have them. Guys stepped up. QB Alex Smith really played a very good football game. Very tough. Very effiecient. Cool decisions, and didn't turn the ball over, and that was a big difference in the football game. So, you may look at it as safe, we look at it as playing to win."Q: You said that you didn't know some things about the team going in obviously because you haven't played, you were going to learn some things. What are some of the things you can say that you learned about that team?
Harbaugh: "When you see guys play 60 minutes, play full games. When the pressure to perform is on them and is great. To see the guys that respond. And I thought that was across the board in the way our guys competed. Really liked the energy on the sideline too. Thought our men were into it. There was an excitement there. Even when guys weren't in the ball game, playing vicariously through another man at their same position. All really good things. Lifting guys up when they were coming off the field. Definitely things to clean up and get better at, but I thought we learned that about our football team, and that bodes well for us."Q: You talk about Ted's experience and given where the game was, it was a two-point game before his kickoff return, does he have the discretion to either take it at the twenty and just down it in the end zone, as opposed to running out, do you leave that up to him, or the play was you're coming out regardless?
Harbaugh: "No, we have a plan that we talk to him about, and Brad does the talking. Other than saying that, we won't get into hey, this is what we tell him, and this is what we tell them in each specific situation, because that really gets into the scheme and what the plan is. So, I'd rather not share that, but Brad Seely tells him."Q: Did you celebrate at all last night, a nice dinner, or were you right back to work watching the tail end of the Cowboys game? Did you enjoy yourself?
Harbaugh: "Yeah, it was like I said, it was fun. You realize you can't get to win number two without getting the win number one. Just went home and watched the Cowboys game. Kind of flipped through the channels, the NFL network, and highlight express, and the ESPN blitz. Never caught one highlight of the 49ers on any of those, so I just watched the Cowboys game."Q: Did that bother you?
Harbaugh: "No, we know it. It just kind of documents what you know. What the perception is of our team around the league and around the country. Some people can say that's not fair, it isn't right, but do something about it. And that's our mindset. That's our approach." Q: Is that an advantage for you to kind of be under the radar, be an underdog?
Harbaugh: "Like I said, it'll be up to us to do something about that. We can take control of that and that's something we're willing to do."Q: You guys didn't show a lot on defense, not a lot of blitzes and especially not a lot of exotic blitzes we've heard that Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio specializes in. Is that an advantage going into the second week that it was mostly your basic packages on offense and defense? You didn't reveal a lot to the Cowboys.
Harbaugh: "I wouldn't agree or disagree with that. I wouldn't even say you're on the right track or not. Liked the way our team played defensively, liked the way we pressured with the stunts, the blitzes that we had. That's again part of scheme, are we a coverage team? Yes we're a coverage team. We're a rush-three, drop-eight. Are we a blitz team? Yes. We're a blitz team. We're a run-stopping team. We aim to be all of those things. You need to be good at them all."Q: The hit that S Madieu Williams had drew a penalty. What were your impressions on it when you saw it on film because the officials said that it was his shoulder into the player's helmet. Did you see that on film? Were you okay with what he did?
Harbaugh: "No, I just need an explanation on that one. Really felt like it was a clean hit on Madieu's shoulder to the back area of the receiver. So that I can be able to tell our guys what to do. Looked extremely clean to me but of course I don't profess to know everything, not even nearly close. I'll need an interpretation on that one."Q: How is WR Michael Crabtree's foot?
Harbaugh: "Have not talked to Michael today. We'll see on that. Like we've talked about a week ago, when you come back from a long period of being out and then you're right back in there, there is some soreness, there's some rust. We've seen that with every player that we've had on the team, be it new guy or crusty veteran who's played a lot of football. I think that's where he is, he's working through some things there."Q: Why weren't you guys able to run the ball as effectively as I'm sure you would have expected to?
Harbaugh: "Everybody's going to want to know the why's and where's and would have liked to see us punch the ball in on the goal line when we were first-and-one on the one. We sure would have liked to have seen that, too. That's an area that we want to be good at, we want to get better at. Nothing profound right now to tell you on the exact 'why'."Q: There had to be a reason. Were they outnumbering you guys up front? Were guys not blocking well? Was RB Frank Gore not hitting the hole?
Harbaugh: "No, internally we'll figure that out."Q: You seem to have a pretty strong appreciation of history. Going into this week with the 49ers rivalry with the Cowboys ... is that something you'll draw upon to help inspire your guys?
Harbaugh: "Don't know yet what will be the theme, the message this week and what our guys will rally around. Right now it's trying to figure out how to get old number 94 Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware blocked and a few of the other fellows over there. They're a good football team and it'll take a great week of preparation for our squad."Q: You were obviously a player in the mid-90s when the Niners and Cowboys were meeting every year in the NFC Championship Game. What do you remember about that history?
Harbaugh: "Remember two great football teams going at it. It seemed like yearly, like the way the Cowboys and the Dolphins used to go at it and the Steelers and the Packers, those two teams were ones that were meeting at the end of the year to decide who was going to the Super Bowl."Q: You said that on 3rd-n-five running the ball was an example of attacking. What do you mean by that? How is that an aggressive call?
Harbaugh: "Well if it works it's an aggressive play call. If you come up short of the first down, the easiest thing to do is to say 'they should have thrown it'. But if you throw it and the quarterback gets hit and the ball pops up then Seattle media is saying 'they should have run it'. It's making a decision at the time what you think gives your team the best chance of success on the down and in the football game. Don't really get into second guessing what we thought was best at the time. It's easy to do once the play is over. Hey, we came up short, we should have done the other thing ... that's an easy observation."Q: It seemed like it was more of a philosophy, because it's not an attacking play to us? Or am I reading too much into that?
Harbaugh: "We're back to the earlier question about being safe; I don't think we're safe. I think we're attacking and I think we're playing to win. That's what I live by."Q: You mentioned earlier too about no sacks. I was just curious on your perspective in general, not this game, but how much of that is on a quarterback, sack avoidance, in general in football?
Harbaugh: "Quite a bit. It's on everybody really in the unit. It's backs picking up in protection, it's the line obviously, they're the tip of the spear when it comes to picking up protections and not having sacks. That's a credit to them first and foremost. Receivers running routes, getting open. Quarterback making cool decisions and sometimes pulling the ball down and running like in Alex's case. Three four, five times in the ball game where he turned what could have been negative plays into positive gains and in a couple cases, big gains. Not just with his feet but rolling out, buying time, hitting TE Vernon Davis. One time down the right sideline, one time down the left sideline. Those help you win football games and don't show up as sacks. Definitely the quarterback plays a big role in that."Q: Your father said this weekend's Michigan win was said to be one of the greatest game's ever witnessed. Did that contribute also to your sleepless night. Were you wound up from watching that game with him and where does that rank with some of the games that you've seen?
Harbaugh: "It was a great football game. Great historic win for the University of Michigan. Tip of the hat to all of those men that got that done. It was great to watch it and the setting was phenomenal with the crowd and the way the men played."Q: When you first came to the 49ers in January, when did DT Ray McDonald first come on your radar? He hasn't started any of the past two seasons. When did he first catch your attention, that he could be your starter at that left end?
Harbaugh: "Very early. Met Ray and liked him right away as a guy and as a person. Watched the tape on Ray and we all felt that here's a guy that's just about ready to explode onto the scene. It's kind of like there have been some tremors, some earthquake tremors have been reported and sighted on the Richter scale and here's a guy that the big one could be coming. That's why Ray was such a high priority for us to re-sign and get back on our football team. He had a marvelous game yesterday."Q: What kind of harmony did you feel working with Alex during the first real game? It seemed like you guys were in tune and he was responding pretty well with what was going on.
Harbaugh: "Yeah, really good. Alex was very prepared for the football game. His alignments, assignments, and everybody else's, and adjustments. Thought he was on point throughout the ball game. Like I said before, I thought he made good decisions. Played cool and it was easy for us to work with him. He was on point."Q: When you were introduced to us as the coach in San Francisco, you said that day that you were bringing back the west coast offense to the 49ers. Was what we saw yesterday, was that a version of the west coast offense?
Harbaugh: "Yes."Q: Could you help me a little? I'm a lay person. It didn't look to me like what I saw Bill Walsh doing in the old days. Could you help me a little bit to understand how it was the west coast offense yesterday?
Harbaugh: "Like we talked about even back then, you're not going to see a replication of what the team did in the '80s or '90s. Similar terminology and verbage. Very similar. The west coast is a big, big system. It can encompass the talents of your players to be used in a variety of ways. Not the exact formations and play calls, but principles, terminology, absolutely very similar."Q: Why the decision to switch the players' day off?
Harbaugh: "That's really, to me, how it's done. You play the game and then the next day is the day off. Just like in the training camp."Q: Is that permanent?
Harbaugh: "I wouldn't say anything is set in stone."Q: Following up on that, my impression from covering NFL teams, usually Tuesday is kind of a coach's game plan and then you get them on the field Wednesday. With this schedule do you get any of that stuff done maybe on Tuesday that was traditionally done on a Wednesday or is it pretty much the same as far as from the player's end on game planning?
Harbaugh: "It's the same. It's pretty much the same. There's only so many hours between Sunday and the ball game to Wednesday when you start and those are infinite, unchangeable hours. Players will come in on Tuesday, the same amount that they would have been here on Monday and I'm hoping they'll get a lot of sleep. Want to see some sleep and recovery, and we'll get them back and first day of practice will be Wednesday."

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