Is this much of a different team than what you faced in Week 1?
“Not really. They’ve still got a great quarterback, a great group of receivers. They’ve got a lot of offense to defend. They vary their offense. They can have anywhere from one receiver out there to four. And they mix it up pretty good in what they’re going to do. And they’re a great challenge.”
You were in dime for so much of that Week 1 game. Have they been doing less with four wide receivers and just running in recent weeks?
“They’ve mixed it in there. They probably played it the most against us in the first game. But, they still mix it in every now and then. But, they did play it more against us than they did the other games we studied.”
Do you think they did that to keep one of your best players, LB Patrick Willis or LB NaVorro Bowman, off the field? Do you think they anticipated that?
“I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Is DT Justin Smith closer to full strength and how’s he looking out there?
“He’s doing fine. I don’t think we’ll know for sure until Sunday comes.”
But, what has he shown you in terms that you think he might be ready?
“Well, he’s told me he’s ready and he’s ready to go. And that’s enough for me.”
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was saying that just having him out there elevates the character of the defense, just his presence. How so?
“Well, he’s a leader both by example and verbally, and more so by example. So, he plays with atenacity and an effort level that’s second to none. And it’s just contagious to everybody.”
I’m sure he’ll want to play. At what point do you look out and say he can’t play? How do you stop a guy like that from playing if—?
“I’m not involved in that decision. That’s between him and the medical people.”
OK. But, if you’re watching—you know we had a situation Sunday where there was a question if guy’s hurt. His performance, was it hurting the team, helping the team? Will you be involved in that sort of thing?
“Well, from my point of view, if he’s not playing up to his standard or close to it then we’ll put the next guy in. Because it’s always been my experience, somebody at 80 percent is not as good as the next guy at 100 percent.”
Is there any way to gauge his percentage from what he’s done in practices so far?
This Green Bay team is a lot different in terms of health than it was three or four weeks ago with that receiving corps. How do you game plan for that group?
“Well, it’s tough. The good news and the bad news is the good news is there isn’t one guy you’ve got to stop. And that’s also the bad news. There isn’t only one guy you’ve got to stop. He’s very comfortable spreading this ball around. You’ve seen the stats, got a bunch of guys with 50, 60 catches, over 700 yards. So, he’s going to throw it to the open guy. He doesn’t have a favorite it seems to me, which like I said, is good and bad. It’s not one guy. Hey, if we take out [WR] Jordy Nelson we’ve got a great chance. No. They’ve got three other really good receivers. And they’ve got their new toy with [WR Randall] Cobb who came out in our game. They’re doing a lot of things with him. He’s lining up as a back, as a receiver. And they’re doing things with him that are a little unconventional. And they’re utilizing him good.”
In that first game, CB Perrish Cox played a lot on him. He hasn’t played, I’m sure that’s the most he played by far in the season. How have you seen him progress and learn the defense better through the entire course of the regular season?
“Well, he’s done well. Obviously that game, just because of the matchups, he played more and he was prepared to play more, because we kind of had the feeling that the game could evolve that way. So, he had a lot of practice time. But, he’s done well with limited practice time. Gets his handful of plays every play and he’s ready to go.”
From a coordinator’s standpoint, is it a tough decision, a tough call, how to match them personnel wise when you have to make the call whether to sit Willis on the sideline or not?
“It is only from the aspect that you don’t want to take out one of those inside linebackers if you don’t have to. But, when it becomes a matchup that an inside backer maybe can’t handle, or is at a deficit that somebody else can handle better, then you always do what’s best for the team.”
I want to ask you about Jim Harbaugh. We always describe him as being intense, as being maybe quirky sometimes. You know him very well. How would you describe Jim and his personality?
“I don’t know. I’m not going to go there. You guys can have fun with that on your own.”
In the first game, Bowman had a really big interception in the fourth quarter. Looking back on it, how big of a play was it in that game and kind of as the season’s gone on?
“Well, it was a huge play in that game obviously. I believe that was their next series after they returned the punt for the touchdown, I believe. And they kind of had a lot of momentum at that time. And that play got us the ball in great field position. I believe we went in to score. So, it kind of snuffed out the momentum I think they had from the punt return for the touchdown. So, it was a huge play in that game.”
One of their new running backs was selling cars in November. Does [RB DuJuan] Harris look like a legitimate running back to you?
“Yeah, he must not have liked selling cars because he’s running hard. He doesn’t want to go back there. And he’s running like a man who likes the current job he has and he wants to keep it. He’s running very good for them. They’ve stumbled on to a good running back and they’re running the ball better now than they had been earlier.”
In your experience in the playoffs, is it harder to face a team that’s coming in with, for a lack of a better word, just momentum. The Super Bowl winner Giants, they were on the road Wildcard. The Packers, they won on the road Wildcard. Now kind of a similar situation. Is that when you had the bye week to meet that intensity right up front?
“Every week’s a new entity. You’re talking about Green Bay having momentum. Last week, I’m sure when they were talking about the Green Bay/Minnesota game, they were saying how they’ve lost their momentum because they had lost in Week 17. Momentum’s very fleeting in this business. It lasts for six days, or like we spoke about earlier, they had momentum after that big punt return. We get a big interception and now we have momentum. It comes and goes very fast.”
In your defensive scheme, how integral is the physical play of your safeties, S Donte Whitner and S Dashon Goldson?
“Well, physical play of all 11 guys out there is integral, not just those two guys. We’ve got to do a great job of tackling in this game. These guys kept throwing a lot of short passes that they like to get their receivers to catch and run with and break some tackles. If we don’t have a good game of tackling, we probably won’t have a good game defensively.”
How good is Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on the secondary plays when the play breaks down? And how do you look at that chunk?
“Yeah, he’s awful tough to defend. After watching him a lot in the offseason once we knew that was our first game and now going back to that, he reminds me of [former Miami Dolphins QB] Dan Marino in the pocket with his quick, accurate release. And he reminds me of [former 49ers QB] Steve Young out of the pocket. And that’s a hell of a tough combination to defend. And we’ve got to do a good job in our rush lanes of not letting him get out too much. We’ve got to do a good job of plastering in coverage that if he does run around we don’t lose our guys. And try to limit the big plays that he can make on the move. I don’t have a great answer for you. We’ve just got to try and not let it happen.”
Jim Harbaugh the other day said that LB Aldon Smith was one of the guys that really can benefit from the rest from the bye week. What have you seen from him as the season came to a close? Was he starting to get fatigued do you think out there?
“I really don’t think so. No more than anybody else has. He played very well in the New England game. He didn’t have any sacks, but he had a lot of great pressures in that game. He had a chance for some plays in the Seattle game that he usually makes and didn’t make. And he played fine in the last game. But, I’m sure he’s tired, or was tired just like everybody else was after 16 games and playing as much as he did. But, he’ll be fine now. He’s only 22 or 23 years old. He’s ready to go.”
Why would you not take a chance to describe Jim?
“Because we don’t have enough time. I think Jim, I’ll give you one sentence. And I think it’s a good statement. He’s very serious about his job and his profession, but he doesn’t take himself seriously.”
Source: San Francisco 49ers Media