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Coach Sparano Breaks Down Loss to Rams


Q: How do you move on from a game like this?

Coach Sparano:"Quickly. Actually just let them out of the building here a little while ago. We watched the tape, made the corrections, moved on and getting on to San Francisco. You move on quickly. You move on just like you do every other game. We've been in this position before and our guys have bounced back, they've handled it well and we'll continue to do so."

Q: Does the fact that you're playing the 49ers, with the rivalry, make it easier to put that game behind you?

Coach Sparano:"We've made a habit here of trying to put each one of these games, obviously we've only been on the winning end of these things one time, but to put each one of these games behind us fast. I mean, the rivalry, Raiders, 49ers, that's obviously a real big thing and we're excited about it. Excited about the opportunity. I think when you come off a game like last night, to know that you have that opportunity this week, in your stadium, with your fans out there, it certainly gets the players excited. We had a good meeting today and like I said, made a bunch of corrections and our players left here excited and ready to go, as we get going here for this week's worth of work."

Q: Has there been any thought at all to maybe giving Derek Carr a break?

Coach Sparano:"No. I mean there hasn't been really any thought about that. I didn't get a lot of those questions last week, so there really hasn't been a lot of that kind of thought. There was a thought about that in the fourth quarter of the game or whatever it was last night when I decided to do that and that was purely my decision to do that at that point. There was just no need to keep Derek out there at that point any longer. Give Matt [Schaub] an opportunity to go out there and let Matt play a little bit and that was that."

Q: How would you evaluate Derek Carr's play?

Coach Sparano:"This game? Well, that's a good question. I would say that there were periods where Derek played well in this game and there were periods where I'm sure Derek would tell you that he felt like he could have some things back, some things maybe that, either balls that got away from him, those type of things, or obviously any time you turn a football over I think those kind of throws, those type of things, Derek would talk a little bit about some of those things. Whenever you turn a ball over like that, it's going to fall one place usually and people are going to say it's the quarterback but there's a lot of factors that went into that. Derek had some people hanging on him. We didn't do a very good job last night of stopping their rush and quite honestly I didn't do a good enough job preparing him."

Q: Did you think he looked rattled?

Coach Sparano:"No, I didn't feel like he looked rattled, but I thought that as the game went on and you're in one of those kind of games where you have to throw the football, handing the football off at that point isn't a huge option. I mean, I suppose you can, but that isn't the kind of message that I want to send my team. I don't want to send my team a message in the fourth quarter of one of those football games that, 'Hey, we're just trying to get out of here.' That's not what you're trying to do. You're trying to go out there and score points and compete. But, I think in that period, when it's just pass rush rep after pass rush rep after pass rush rep and those kind of things there, that can get a little bit tight for a quarterback in those situations where the pocket starts to collapse. That isn't on Derek, that's any quarterback being in that situation. It's not ideal. That front we played last night, I mentioned it during the week, they've done that to some pretty good teams. I watched the tape, I've seen them do it to a lot of good teams."

Q: Were the Rams a good prep for playing the 49ers front seven this week?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah. I think it was a good prep in that you get a chance to really look and say these are the things that throughout the football game, and there were some things that, individual plays, those type of things that were handled well, particularly from a pressure standpoint. We didn't have any run-through pressures that just hit us, that came through clean. We did have some one-on-one matchup issues and I think that those kind of things, yeah that can prep you in some of these situations because you're getting rushers that are similar and how you want to handle some of those type of one-on-one matchups and maybe what you put out on film this week, what will your opponent see. In other words, how is your opponent going to view you. They probably think a lot of – I'm sure they think they're similar in their rush ability, so they're going to take a look at what [Robert] Quinn did or what [Chris] Long did or what [Aaron] Donald did, those type of things, so our players need to understand that too."

Q: Do you think that George Atkinson III was just too amped up?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, listen, I think it's a young player in his first game. It's not an excuse, it's the 12th week of the season. We try to grow these players on the practice squad and get them ready to play in them ball games. We don't keep players on our practice squad – we don't keep them with the intention of not ever thinking that they're going to be active. That's happened a couple of times. Obviously, [Ricky] Lumpkin came up and he played in the game and Denico [Autry] has come up and he played in the game and in the past Lamar Mady, a year ago, had to play in games and now George had to play in a ball game. We try to prep them to a point where they're ready to play in the game, but I think in that scenario there it was just – when the game went the way it went, I felt like a lot of guys were pressing, trying to make a play and I think that that's natural. You're a young guy out there, you want to try to make an impression in that situation. The problem is, you've got to use good judgment and we have to learn from that. There are a lot of things that we can learn from here and George is a young player and I think he's going to be a good player for us."

Q: What's the key to converting more third downs?

Coach Sparano:"We had three three-and-outs, and I think one of the things that we have to do a better job of obviously is our first-down offense. I think first down has to be a better down for us. What we did is we got ourselves into first, second third, first, second, third, first, second, third, it wasn't first, second, first. We never got one of those and we've got to do a better job on first down I think. In that scenario there, making a few more yards, making some of those third down situations more manageable for us if they occur, but we've got to try to accumulate more first downs on first and second down as opposed to getting to those third-down situations. Last night, the Rams only had, I believe it was, eight third down attempts in the ball game. They had eight third down attempts in the game, well they were one for eight, in the football game on third down conversions against our defense. That's kind of where you want to – obviously, you want to get to that point where you're converting more first downs on early downs so that you're not in these three-and-out scenarios and then we've just got to continue to do a better job on third down, when we get to third down, and you're going to get to third down. When we do get there, we've got to do a better job of handling those situations. A week ago we're up over 55 percent or whatever it is, this week, we're not. That's a deciding factor in the game. We had 81 [75] plays or whatever it was in the football game this week, so we ran a lot of plays, our defense wasn't out there very long, but we didn't do a good enough job on third down in that ball game."

Q: Would you think about using Marcel Reece to carry the ball more considering how well he did against Kansas City?

Coach Sparano:"Would I? Yes, I would. Sure. It just depends on who's healthy, who's up. The plan this week was to use Marcel some there as well. When we lost [Brian] Leonhardt during the course of the game there, that forced Marcel to have to do a few other jobs. He had to do a little bit more tight end type of job, which is that hybrid position that he plays. But going into the game, it was trying to get him involved running the football, too, knowing Latavius [Murray] wasn't going to play in the game. I think if you get Latavius back, if we're fortunate enough that that happens this week – we'll see how it goes, but I would always think that right now I would use Marcel in some situations like that."

Q: Do you anticipate having Latavius Murray back this week?

Coach Sparano:"We're still not there yet. We're close, but we're not there yet, so I'm hopeful."

Q: Menelik Watson limped off the field at one point and I don't know if he ever came back.

Coach Sparano:"He did not."

Q: What is his situation?

Coach Sparano:"We're still gathering information on that right now, but he didn't come back in the game. He was pretty sore."

Q: Was it a foot?

Coach Sparano:"I think it was an ankle – somewhere in there."

Q: Brian Leonhardt suffered a concussion in two straight weeks now. Is that a concern?

Coach Sparano:"That's a concern. Obviously it's a concern. We'll have to see. It'll be a long week that way, because we don't have the extra days. We had extra days last week with both he and Latavius. In this situation here, we really don't have that kind of time and it's two weeks in a row. So it's a concern for us."

Q: How do you think Gabe Jackson held up in the game?

Coach Sparano:"Gabe held up fine in the game – just a little sore today, normal soreness. But quite honestly, he played like he hasn't played in a few weeks. He needed to get out there. He needed to get that time. My intention was to play Gabe no matter what. I was going to get him involved in the game. I didn't think it was going to be to the tune of 56 plays or whatever it is that he played. But when Menelik went down, we moved Khalif out [to right tackle] and moved Gabe in."

Q: When you're watching all the missed tackles on their big plays, what goes through your mind?

Coach Sparano:"I've got to do a better job."

Q: Is it just execution or is it your defense just isn't fast enough?

Coach Sparano:"No, I don't believe that, because I believe our defense was pretty darn fast a week ago. I think our kids run well on that side of the football. I've got to do a better job from a fundamental standpoint of getting these guys – it's something that you can lose sight of. We have technique periods in our practice. I try to force-feed it, but when you're not out there and you're not in pads and you're not doing those kind of things, those are things you have to over exaggerate a little bit in practice. I have to do a better job of that, because fundamentally last night, quite honestly that was an issue. We missed 19 tackles last night, so I have to take responsibility for that. Those kind of things from a fundamental standpoint – not tackling, not running a route at proper depth – those type of things are all things that we can continue to get better at here. As I said to the team, this team's always been great about bouncing back and they're really good about being resilient and they're really willing. That's one of the things I love the most about this group, is their will to kind of fight back. I don't anticipate that being a problem this week, but we will get work in."

Q: A lot of missed tackles are just angles, right?

Coach Sparano:"Angles – sometimes angles, sometimes body position – how you arrive at the ball. I think sometimes you can arrive at the ball and kind of break down a little bit early and that puts you in a bad body position. Being in bad body positions, being out of control I think at times. Some of them are angles, but sometimes it's just being out of control. I thought a few times last night a little bit of both occurred. We were out of control and we took some bad angles in a few of those scenarios."

Q: It looked like on the screen pass that Tre Mason had, correct me if I'm wrong, but it looked like DJ Hayden made a very half-hearted effort to get him out of bounds.

Coach Sparano:"Are you talking about the first touchdown? I have seen a couple different things there. I didn't think that any effort was half-hearted. I don't believe that. I did think that on that play, the ball got outside us. I think it was Charles [Woodson] that was underneath it and DJ that was over the top of it. The kid outran us down the sideline. That's one situation there, when I was watching the film, that I did think we took poor angles from the backside. You spend a lot of time working on pursuit, and we have to take better angles to the football there when the ball breaks the line like that and I didn't think we did."

Q: On the long touchdown run, was there some miscommunication?

Coach Sparano:"It wasn't really a communication issue, it wasn't a mental error, it wasn't any of those things. They ran the same play later in the football game and gained a yard. It was a fundamental issue. That fundamental issue where you fit in the grand scheme of things, anybody will tell you that on defense, but where you fit and how you fit in some of those scenarios creates creases. This crease just happened to be on the back side. We didn't close it. They did a good job in a scheme where they fanned the tight end out of there and brought the ball back. We needed to fit that differently on the back side. Our kids understand the fit, at that point we just didn't execute the fit."

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