Sunday will be the most important and anticipated regular season game for the San Francisco 49ers this year. A win over the Seattle Seahawks will allow the Niners to hold onto the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs and keep their hopes alive of winning the NFC West. A loss to Seattle will diminish San Francisco’s chances of making the playoffs and hand their hated rivals the NFC West title.
While players like TE Vernon Davis are wanting to seek revenge, but keep their composure against the Seahawks, Jim Harbaugh does not see the game that way. At his press conference on Monday, Harbaugh was asked if revenge is a message he will need to say to his players or do the players already know that. He replied,
I’ve never taken the revenge approach to be honest with you. Validation. We want to play well. We want to win. All these games come down to that. You want to, your goal is to win the football game. There’s times earlier in the season where you want to win, that’s most important. And that’s really all consuming. You want to win the football game. And you want to get better when you play a game. Those two factors.
Harbaugh is definitely trying to make it seem like, at least to the outside world, that this is just another 49ers game and it is just as important as previous weeks. He said in preparation for the Seahawks, “we’ll go about our regular business.”
One issue of importance Harbaugh talked about in his Monday press conference was the injuries to the offensive line. The two injured starting offensive linemen are Pro Bowlers LG Mike Iupati and LT Joe Staley. Iupati missed his second straight game last week with a knee injury. Staley left San Francisco’s, 23-13, win over the Rams during the team’s first offensive drive. Staley did not return and was replaced by Alex Boone, who is the starter at right guard. Backup LG Joe Looney filled in for Boone at his position for the rest of the game.
In Harbaugh’s film review of the offensive line, he was impressed with the play of Boone and Looney, and how they dealt with shifting positions during the game. He also praised backup guard Adam Snyder for how well he has played filling for Iupati since he was injured.
When the 49ers head coach was asked about the status of Iupati he said,
Today will be an important day. We’ll check in with him, see how things are tightening up there. Have good hopes.
On Staley’s status:
Again, same thing, wait and see what his exam reveals. But, I’m very hopeful. Always hope for the best, plan for the worst.
The Seahawks have one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the NFL. So the 49ers will need their two starting offensive linemen on the left side to protect Colin Kaepernick and open up running lanes for Frank Gore. Defenses in the last three games have held Gore to just 121 rushing yards which averages out to about 40 yards per game. With the Seahawks having the league’s No. 1 pass defense, Gore will need to rush for at least 100 yards for the 49ers to pull out a win on Sunday.
Another noteworthy topic Harbaugh talked about was his dad, Jack Harbaugh, who will be in town all week. The younger Harbaugh said he and the elder Harbaugh will watch film this week on the Seahawks. With the way Seattle beat up on the Saints on Monday night and in the previous matchup against San Francisco, we will need all of the help we can get. Jack has over 40 years of coaching experience at the high school and college level.
Here is the full transcript from Harbaugh’s Monday press conference:
How did you feel about the play of your offensive line after, with two Pro Bowl guys out of the lineup?
[Harbaugh] “A lot of positives there. [G/T] Alex Boone going out to tackle did a very good job right from the first play he moved out there. I thought he was blocking some good players. But, he was good. Good in pass protection. [G] Joe Looney did a good job. He was confident. He went right at guys. I thought he played very well. Both were really good with their assignments. [G] Adam Snyder did a nice job. I thought he improved in his pass protection and some other areas. [T] Anthony Davis was very solid again, going against a very good player in [Rams DE Chris] Long. And [C] Jonathan Goodwin had a solid game.”
Looney hadn’t been active for, what, 10 weeks? You put him in there instead of G/C Daniel Kilgore. What made Looney your choice there?
“He’s been getting a lot of reps at guard. Daniel gets reps at guard and center, because Daniel is the backup center. So, there’s just more that was Joe’s position. Especially that guard position, that right guard position.”
Do you expect him to practice as the one at right guard this week heading into Seattle?
What’s G Mike Iupati’s status this week?
“Today will be an important day. We’ll check in with him, see how things are tightening up there and have good hopes.”
Does he have an MRI scheduled?
“I don’t think it’s an MRI, but I could be wrong. I know he’s got an exam though.”
And with T Joe Staley, is there some relief that it’s not going to be a long-term type of injury?
“Again, same thing, wait and see what his exam reveals. But, I’m very hopeful. Always hope for the best, plan for the worst.”
Did he just have, Joe Staley, just have an exam this morning?
“I believe that’s, yeah, taking place.”
A coach in this league once said, “you are what your record says you are.” How do you feel about that statement, first in general about any team, and then specifically about your team right now?
“I’ve heard it said that way. Don’t really have any profound follow-up to it. Pretty catchy. As far as where we stand, not where you’d like to be, but we’re in a position where we control our own destiny. Sure, we’d love to be 12-0 right now. But, certainly our fate is in our hands. And, we’ll go heading into the last four games of the season, it’s good to remember that.”
Are you an 8-4 team, or do you feel like you’re better than an 8-4 team?
“How relevant is that? I don’t think it’s that relevant. What’s relevant is fate is in our hands. It’s good for all of us to keep that in mind at all times.”
Your team is really good at focusing on the next game, but this game has loomed large for a while.
“Thank you. We want to be about that.”
Do you have any concerns about it becoming too much? Obviously, you still have three games after this game, but this is the game that’s been such a focus ever since Week 2.
“Concerns about being too much? I mean, these games are–.”
Too much emphasis on this one game?
“You could probably say that for every game we play, there’s too much emphasis. We put so much emphasis on every game that we play. I guess you could make the societal argument; do we post too much emphasis on these games? I don’t know about the rest of society, but I know we do. I know we do. Those people that are playing in them have stakes in them. I know the relatives and family, a lot of people do. So, I don’t know if we put too much emphasis on them, but we put a lot on it.”
Specifically Seattle week, is there a chance your guys could come out too high, too hyped-up, that it’s taking on more importance than just being one of 16?
“Our players, I believe, confident, will put the appropriate amount of energy and focus into the preparation this week and to the game on Sunday.”
Along those lines, TE Vernon Davis sort of guarded, he said last night you know there’s going to be a feeling of wanting to seek revenge, but we must keep our composure. Is that a message you’ll even need to say, or do these guys know that this week? He certainly said it.
“I’ve never taken the revenge approach to be honest with you. Validation. We want to play well. We want to win. All these games come down to that. You want to, your goal is to win the football game. There’s times earlier in the season where you want to win, that’s most important. And that’s really all consuming. You want to win the football game. And you want to get better when you play a game. Those two factors.”
How did WR Michael Crabtree come out of the game? He played a lot of snaps yesterday. How’s he doing today?
“I haven’t talked to Michael today.”
Is that something to, then, you’ll be–.
“The day’s young.”
“The day’s early.”
Is that something the medical staff will be intent on seeing just how he responds after that first game?
How do you think he played, looking, after watching him on film?
“I thought he did a very good job. I think he was really into the game, wanted the ball and he got it and made some things happen. So, the big play, the big conversion on third down. Did a lot of good things. Competed.”
Do you think the first two penalties he had, do you think that was kind of penalties born out of eagerness?
Did you have to talk to him at all early in the game to kind of keep the emotions under control?
“No. We didn’t talk about that. Maybe we should have. I think Michael’s a professional. He’s played in many of these games.”
In the last month, DT Ray McDonald of course went out, he came back Sunday, but DT Tony Jerod-Eddie was filling in at his position and he’s played very well. Has it felt like this is a real blessing that he’s came in and stepped in to compete?
“Tony? Absolutely, and thanks for pointing that out. Tony played very well in this game. And, that has been, just to watch him get the football-callus now and be a real contributor, consistently good each week, is really good for our football team.”
You said after the game yesterday you really wanted to watch DL Glenn Dorsey’s film. After seeing it, did it live up to your expectations?
“Yeah, he played really well. Really did a good job. He had knockback. He had two-gap. He had tackles. He had pressure. Just played really well.”
He missed a little bit of time early in the season, but has he been kind of a stabilizing force to have him in the middle with injuries to the other guys?
“Yes. Very much so in the game that he missed. I mean, he was back right after that. Missed one and was right back in there. A quick healer on an injury that could have had him out longer. But, that speaks to his desire to contribute and to play. Can’t say enough good things about him.”
What’s he like out there? He’s kind of quiet in the locker room, but very thoughtful when you do talk to him.
Yes. What’s he like on the football field?
“He’s that way. When he does talk, it’s well thought out. It’s very insightful. Kind of deep. But, he’s a good guy. Around the team, there’s no drama. He avoids drama, but he’s extremely competitive and strong. Good worker every day in practice. Sometimes you’ve got to take him out because he wants to keep playing.”
RB Frank Gore has just about 120 yds. in the last three games. Is that a reflection of how defenses are loading up to stop the run or are there other factors involved there?
“Well, this game, there were some things that were muddy in the run game. We didn’t get the run game clicking as we would’ve liked.”
Because the Rams were loading up the box?
“Well, that occurred. They do against all teams they play. They’re very stout against the run. A lot of teams put an extra man in the box. Yeah, they just did a good job stopping the run and we countered with the pass, which was very effective. That was very much a positive.”
That’s obviously not a unique strategy against your offense. With WR Michael Crabtree back, do you think teams will have to kind of maybe rethink that strategy?
“I think it definitely helps to be effective. Make people pay for moves that they make or to be able to counter it. ‘Well, here’s how we’re going to stop you.’ Well, here’s how we’re going to counter that. That’s just like being in an argument with somebody. They make an argument, you counter. Then they’ve got to counter back. It’s similar to that. Good to have a good counter argument. State a case.”
When your next week’s opponent is on Monday Night Football, what’s your routine? Do you guys watch the game as a staff or do you just wait for the film and go about your regular business?
“We’ll go about our regular business.”
You won’t all gather with popcorn?
“No. There’s TVs around the building. I’m sure we’ll look in on it as we’re going about our regular business.”
The games between division rivals always are higher in emotion and it kind of reflects in penalties. You see that yesterday, the most penalties since Week 4 when you played the Rams. Which player on offense and defense do you kind of turn to to keep the players emotions in check in those types of games? Is there a leader in that respect?
“Well, which ones are you referring to? Players are going to play with emotion. That’s just–.”
Right. It’s just if you look at the season, obviously the games against Seattle and the Rams are the ones with the highest amount of penalties, not only just the little ones, but also personal fouls, roughing and all those types of penalties. And so, if you expect an emotional game against Seattle or say even Arizona, I just didn’t know if there were a player or two on offense and defense who’s just really good at playing and getting the perforating aside and kind of keeps his teammates in check when the emotions get high? Cause there was a lot of chippyness in that game yesterday.
“Yeah, there was.”
But, there’s not a player you kind of turn to to take the temperature of the team as far as that?
“No. As far as having them take the temperature of the team? No. Address the team in that manner? No.”
When you guys play Seattle, we know what kind of game we’re in for to watch, and I know they play tonight, but have the two teams changed at all since the first time you went at it this year you think? And if so, what ways?
“I’m sure they have changed. I’m sure we’ve changed. I’m sure they’ve changed in some ways. Not prepared to say what those are yet. We’ll take a good long study of it today and tomorrow and then put our plan into action.”
The last three Super Bowl winners have been teams that were lower seeds. They were not teams with the best record in the league. Do you have any theories about why that is?
Want to share them?
“No, I don’t really want to share them.”
Frank Gore’s been on the injury report since after the Titans game. Is that one of the reasons he’s had just 120 yards the past three games, rushing? Has that affected him?
“Could be. It hasn’t been, what he’s had on the injury report does not, to my eye, affect him or our running game. But, you’re never in anyone else’s body, so you don’t know for sure. But, looking at it? No. What’s on the injury report doesn’t appear to be affecting the running game to answer your question.”
To have your receiving corps in tact now, how much fun is that to have all of those different options and just be able to spread the field to so many different guys?
“It’s good, encouraging. I thought [QB] Colin [Kaepernick] did a very effective job of doing that in the game and receivers were catching the ball, getting open. It was a good day in the passing game. It needed to be. Teams can sometimes take away one phase or another, but it’s like my dad was asking, “Why didn’t you run the ball better at the end of the game? It was kind of some tough sledding there at the end of the game.’ Could have risked a throw at that time. I get it from my dad too.”
He called you last night?
“Did he call? No, he was at the game. He was there. He was at the game.”
Will he stay for this week, your dad?
“He’s staying for the whole week, yeah. He’ll be here for this week and the game.”
Usually there’s a phone call, will you have a person-to-person kind of meeting regarding the film review?
“Yeah, he’s playing with the grandkids this morning, but he’s coming in tonight. He’s going to watch film tonight.”
Do all your players now have permission to jump over opponents or is that just something that you think TE Vernon Davis could do?
“How many have got 40-inch vertical jumps?”
It’s a risky move, right?
“I just thought Vernon really played exceptional in the game. A few minor things to clean up, but he’s just really dialed in, really excited to play and he did a fantastic job.”
You don’t worry about an injury that could happen if you get up that high?
“I don’t know. You always think I’m going to tell these guys something like, ‘What’d you tell him? What will you tell him? Should you have told him something?’ Like, did you tell [former NBA player] Michael Jordan not to take off from the free-throw line? I doubt [former NBA head coach] Phil Jackson ever had that conversation. These guys are pro football players. They do what they do. In some cases, they do only what they can do. It’s why we love watching them compete on Sundays.”
Vernon did a good job in blocking a player, I don’t remember yesterday. I think he set the edge on Chris Long. He’s a guy who can block and run past defensive backs. In your experience in football, have you seen a tight end with that skillset before?
“I’m sure there’s guys that have done it. Can’t think of anyone that does it quite as well as Vernon Davis at this time.”