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49ers' Harbaugh, Smith Discuss Saturday's Game


49ers HC Jim Harbaugh's Conference Call
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What are your impressions of the Saints?
"They are scary good. They are an outstanding football team. Starting with the defense they do a tremendous job with their scheme and pressure to stop the run and pressure to create heat on the quarterback. Their coverage is very good. They are a very good coverage team when they want to be. They get pressure with only four rushers. They get pressure with their corners. They are very competitive. They compete on all balls. Their safeties are very involved in the run game and blitz packages. Their leading sacker (Roman Harper) is a safety. They do a really good job of up front in rotating and using all of their defensive linemen. They all play a role. They do an excellent job with linebacker personal. They use all their linebacker personal to create different looks. Each linebacker brings something different to the table and they use them effectively. I think it is the best group of linebackers we have played all season. They are an outstanding group with the way they play together in the framework of the defense and with their understanding of what they are trying to get done defensively.

"Offensively, they are the best we have seen. (Drew Brees) is at the top of his game, top of anybody's game that has ever played the game. He understands how to attack defenses and the weakness of the defense. He has a great ability to buy time and create throwing lanes. He gets the ball out faster than anybody we have seen and with great accuracy. They have a fine set of receivers that do a tremendous job of competing for the ball. They are in every route. They always running and always alert. They get great matchups with their tight ends and how they deploy all their receivers. They have an outstanding running game with their three different running backs that come after you. They get favorable matchups and looks because of their passing game and yet there running game helps their passing game immensely with the play action. The offensive line is as good as it gets with the guards, two tackles and their center. They play very well together. They can move people and protect. It's a great use of all their personal. They are very confident and they are scary good.

"Their special teams as well. This is a team that can win in multiple ways. Their return game does a great job in establishing field position. Their kicker is outstanding and has a very strong leg. They are solid in their punt coverage and their punting game. Everywhere you look at this team up and down they have tremendous ability in multiple ways.

There was a report back in the preseason that the reason the Saints blitzed your team so much in the preseason was because there wasn't a call made by you to establish a gentlemen's agreement with Sean Payton prior to the game. Was that a misunderstand? What is your take on that?
"I Have addressed it as far as I can possibly address it. You never know what we are even talking about. I was asked by our media if I violated a protocol by not calling Coach Payton in the preseason to create a gentlemen's agreement over how the game would be played. Here we are five months later and I am being asked about it. I didn't know about any gentlemen's agreement going into the game and I still don't know about any. What I said yesterday was that I asked my brother John who coaches the Ravens and has coached in the league for four years and he had never heard of one. I think I have addressed that as well as it can be addressed."

So you didn't think the Saints blitzed too much in that preseason game?
"They are allowed to do that. That's football. That's who the Saints are. They are a team that blitzes very expectedly and it's part of their scheme. You can evidence that by the way they have played this entire season. Their blitz percentages numbers this season are high. They were high in that preseason game but they were high all year long. I took no offense."

Can you talk about how you guys have been preparing QB Alex Smith for this playoff game?
"We tell him a lot of things. That's what we do as coaches. We are in the advice giving business. Hopefully it is sound. The main thing is we are trying to be really good in our preparation and really understand our opponent. That's what we do every week. Multiple things were gone over."

What would you credit to Smith's improved play this season?
"To Alex and his ability as a football player - his work ethic, intelligence and experience."

Is the most difficult thing in preparing for the Saints defensively how many players and sets they use?
"It's definitely one of the things. They do a great job with using their players and putting them in position to be successful. They teach a high volume of scheme and their players do a tremendous job of understanding their assignments."

How has C Jonathan Goodwin done for you guys this season?
"We felt like (Jonathan Goodwin) was someone that could help us at the center position. He has exceeded expectations for us and done a great job communicating and really orchestrating what we do on the offensive line. He is an experienced player that gives great feedback. He has played all 16 games for us. Every play he has been available for this entire season. He has had a tremendous season for us."

Do you think Goodwin has played a role in Smith's development this season?
" Yeah, I think there has been a role that in all our success that Jonathan has played in this season. I don't think there is any question about that. It's a team game like no other. Football is the most dependent-on-each-other sport that there is in my opinion. All the ships contributed to raising the level of the tide."


San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith
Conference Call
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How are you mentally preparing for your first NFL playoff game?
"Really I'm just relying on my routine.  There's no question the stakes are higher since this is a playoff game.  I'm falling back on the routine I've had the whole year and really for a few years now and just continuing to put in time and prepare myself throughout the week and focus on that."

Were you a little surprised at how many times the Saints blitzed in the preseason game?
"Yes, I was.  It's my seventh season now.  I've been through a lot of preseason games, especially the openers and the first preseason games.  I've seen a lot of different types of games.  Some you come out and it's a lot more like a scrimmage with teams just playing very vanilla and not doing anything, not showing much on both sides of the ball.  It's a game and you have to be prepared for it.  I don't know of any unwritten rules as far as that goes.  They wanted to pressure and work on that and get that going, and that's their right.  We weren't very prepared for it at the time going into that.  We'll have to be more prepared going into Saturday."

Did those blitzes prepare you for what you'll see Saturday?
"It was such a long time ago going back to that game.  Obviously we've had a whole season of dealing with pressure and blitzes and things like that to help prepare us.  Looking back where we were then, obviously it was very early for us.  I go back and look at that a little bit, but both teams have changed quite a bit since then."

How would you say Jonathan Goodwin has helped your development this year?
"First off, he's such an intelligent player front and center.  He has played a lot of football and seen a lot of different things.  With the calls, he sees things so well and operated at the line of scrimmage and obviously that makes my job a lot easier.  He's just a really good player.  The guy just consistently, constantly does his job and does it at a high level.  It's such a great support for me to have a center of that caliber that I can kind of lean on especially with all the calls, run and pass."

Do you notice any difference among fans in San Francisco right now?
"I don't get out that much during the season because I'm here at the facility quite a bit, but the little bit I've gone out I've seen people appreciate it since we've started winning.  Everyone's enjoyed it, fans included."

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