Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media for 18 minutes on Tuesday afternoon. Here is what he said about 15 hours after the win over the Falcons on Monday Night Football:
What were things like after the game last night?
“Happy, happy, great thrill of winning, wonderful feeling of victory. I was, and still am, happier than a pig in slop.”
How did you come out of the game health-wise?
“I think pretty good. It was a physical game, though.”
Is Tarell Brown OK?
“Yeah, I believe so.”
How do you motivate the players after such an emotional game, Christmas week? What’s the message?
“I don’t know. No message.”
Are there obstacles?
“No. They’ll be tremendously motivated. Next game. It’s the biggest game of the year. Most important game of the year.”
What’s your plan for practice this week? Lighter?
“Yes, in some respects it will be.”
In what respects?
“Played the Monday night game, they’ll be off today, tomorrow they’ll be able to enjoy Christmas during the morning, then we’ll bring ‘em in at 2 o’clock for meetings, and it will be meetings all (day).”
How did Tukuafu fare at fullback?
“He did well. He came in, he had fresh legs, fresh mind and he was really (executing) his assignments. He played well and we can build on that.”
Why is the next game the most important one?
“That’s just the mind-set we have, the mantra. The next game is the most important game.”
Will you keep an eye on other games Sunday? Does it affect your approach?
“No. No, it doesn’t. There’s too much at stake, too big of a game. Somebody from the media asked me that last week. Will we approach Monday night’s game differently. I said no at that time. Too many things can happen and there’s too much at stake.”
Have you started looking at Cardinals tape yet?
“They’re continuing to play very well. A very aggressive defense. Very stingy defense. Attacking defense. Offensively, they’re playing very well. Improving, ascending team.”
Vernon Davis’ poke in the eye affect his role?
“Well, it affected him because he missed some plays. We made sure that through talking to him that things cleared up before he went back in.”
Why isn’t Michael Crabtree on your hands team?
A: “It’s probably something that we could add.”
What was NaVorro Bowman’s role on on-side kick?
“The ball took a bounce, as it sometimes does, being oblong, spheroid thing it is. It took a bounce away from him.”
Was there a team grade from Donte Whitner’s hit on Jackson?
“What was the grade? Everybody saw it. It was nationally televised, it was played back and forth many times. I’m not going to comment on the grade. Everybody has commented on it, everybody has seen it across the country. You don’t need for me to comment on it.”
How many players have leeway to change play call besides Gore?
“Well, [Kaepernick] trusted Frank [Gore] enough to change the play. As long as it works, then they’re right. So, how many have that influence with Kap? Frank Gore does.”
Do you encourage that kind of ownership?
“I like it when it works, definitely. When a player feels strongly about something, we tend to agree with them unless we have evidence to the contrary. As a former player, I realize that when you put your opinion on the line like that, you also make it work. They did again last night.”
Explain Bowman’s blitz [on the interception]. What was he doing in that spot?
“Yeah, he was occupying the center and saw the ball released and then he tracked it and ran to the ball and made the play. In terms of football plays being made in a game, I think back to Justin Smith’s play that he made against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 when he was rushing the passer, they threw a receiver screen, the receivers 15, 20 yards down the field. Justin is tracking the ball, running to the ball and then clubbed it out. It secured a victory for us on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles in that game. I’d equate this to play to that. These are two football plays, just remarkable and just so, so good that what makes a football player. Sometimes you see the ball released and you make a couple steps, but what makes him think in his insticts, whether it was Justin or NaVorro in this case, the instincts that he could go get it on that play when it’s 10 or 15 yards away. His training, his instincts, just make him go. He ran to the ball to make a tackle. And then T-Brock had snapped on that slant route and you couldn’t make a better play than what Tramaine made in breaking up that pass. And then ball pops up like a lollipop to NaVorro. But it’s that instinct and training that he has to see the ball released and then track it to get it on the tackle. I don’t know what the percentage of athletes that can do that or would do that, to have that kind of instinct and ability. But NaVorro Bowman does and Justin Smith did a couple years ago. I don’t know how many kind of plays a coach has like that in his career. Probably so few that you’re just going to remember them your entire coaching career. That was one of those memorable plays.”
Was that an NFL defensive play of the year type of play?
“It was a great play. I’ve said it before, I think it’s sure not going to hurt him.”
Did he feel a sense of redemption after the game?
“I think he’s, you can talk to him about that. But he made a tremendous play. I’ll remember that until the day I die. I got it at 50. I couldn’t have had a better birthday present right at the halfway point. I’m shooting for 100 so I got it right at the halfway point. Happier than a pig in slop.”
Did you look at Cardinals tape in Seattle?
“Great fight by them. Great football fight by them. They fought right to the final gun, much like our team – that’s what we’re most pleased about our team from this game. The fight that they had to win. The importance to give great attention to every snap and fight to the end.”
Patrick Willis had 18 tackles last night. Is this the healthiest he has looked all season?
“Could be. Could be. Yeah, he had a great game. Some big plays, some hard, rough tackling. Really good in coverage. I would say a typical Patrick Willis-type of game. Outstanding.”
Do you know if those numbers went up after film review?
“I don’t know that...(inaudible)”
Will Tukuafu and Anthony Dixon had an even split at fullback, is that how you envision it going forward?
“Yes, they both did well. Anthony was in on some of the really big runs that we had. Kendall’s run, also Frank a couple times there. He did a great job adjusting, using his athleticism when he was in space to block linebackers. I thought Will was very good and physical. You can use both those guys. They both did very well. We can build. We can build, add to what each does going forward.”
Are they very different fullbacks?
“Yeah, one’s 290, one’s 245. They’re different.”
Do they match the style of the different running backs? Will to Frank and Anthony to Kendall?
“No. I don’t think so. I think they both run similar plays. They both block similar plays. And Anthony was in, like I said, a couple of Franks really good runs.”
You mentioned the Justin Smith play from a couple years ago. Vic Fangio likened it as the defensive version of “The Catch” play. Did you talk to Vic last night and what were you guys talking about after the game?
“[We had] high fives and all that. That's appropriate. It's the defensive equivalent to as good as it gets in a football game. It’s the best thing I've been associated with that's happened to my team.”
Can you compare if that happened to the opposing team? If that happened, would you think it was special?
“I was thinking about it a little this morning thinking of something else that's been that good. I can't think of something that bad either. In the situation of the game, you got to imagine that, who knows how many people were rooting for us to lose? [They could have been] rooting for the underdog getting redemption after last year's NFC championship or [or this game] affected some teams and their playoff implications.”
“I'm sure there were high-fives in different grills across the country when that onside kick sneaked through there. The [Falcons] hit a couple passes, then all of a sudden, [Tramaine Brock] and NaVorro Bowman make that play.”
(Improvising): “We're moving onward to the Cardinals!”
Are you saying this ranks higher than "The Catch III" by Vernon Davis from the NFC Divisional playoff win over the Saints?
“I'm not ranking anything. I do compare it to the Justin Smith play in 2011 though. Great instincts, great determination and athleticism. To think that they could go make that play, I just don't know the percentage of athletes who would first make that effort. From believing they can make the play and pull it off.”
[In the first half], the team scored three points and the they wanted to start fast. When you look at the first two quarters, what strikes you about that?
“We had one possession in the first quarter which resulted in a field goal. Atlanta had a first down or two, then we didn't convert on a third and one. We thought we had a shot to change the tendency with a big pass play.”
“It didn't work out and we had to punt. We had couple of series we didn't convert and then there were four that [we] did which were all scoring plays. A couple [passes] were misfired and that was the end of the half.”
There were so many Ex-49ers at the game, did you have time to talk to any of them beforehand or afterwards?
We talked a little bit before the game and afterwards they were doing their thing. [I] would have loved to have seen Willie Mays. I did catch his interview and it was wonderful. He looked great and he had great things to say. ‘Hey that was 40 years ago!’, which made everything better.”
Does that make the 50th birthday better with one of your idols there watching your team win?
“Oh yes, A++. It was good to have it at the halfway point. It’s going to be something to look forward to in the next 50 [years].”