Coach Sparano Breaks Down Win over 49ers


Q: What can you do differently this week than the St. Louis week?

Coach Sparano:"Man, you went right for the jugular there. Actually I'm taking some steps here this morning to try to change some of the things that we do this week. One of the things that we are challenged with, it's not an excuse, but the game there, we travel Saturday and the game there is played there really at 10 a.m. again, that whole thing. So there are some things that I'm trying to do here that are a little bit different right now. Last time we did that, Thanksgiving was kind of stuck in there so I had to make some different arrangements, so there were a few arrangements to the schedule which wasn't the norm for the players. Those are some of the things that I didn't feel like I handled well during that week, probably could have looked at that a little differently. Short of that, as far as the approach to the team, today was their 'atta boy' day and when we get in here on Wednesday we'll be moving right on to Kansas City, so I don't think you'll get many questions answered about the game this week from them because they're going to move on to Kansas City here really fast and that's going to be the approach. So, good solid week of practice, which we had last week. I told you guys here the other day I felt like practice was good and hopefully at some point it will rain during the week because that's worked out pretty well a couple of times."

Q: Sio Moore is getting a lot of attention about his post-game post on Instagram. Is that disheartening to hear especially after the win?

Coach Sparano:"Honestly, and I have to be really honest about this, I really wasn't familiar with the whole thing. I didn't hear about it, I wasn't familiar with it. That would be what I would tell you with it. I'm not sure, I guess it has kind of got out there and it seems to have gotten some attention, but I just know that Sio plays with a lot of passion. A young player, plays with a lot of passion, and that part of it I like. I need to sit down, I need to visit with Sio, find out exactly what went on, but I know there was a lot of jawing going on out there and it wasn't just one-sided."

Q: Could this be another teaching moment for him?

Coach Sparano:"There are a lot of those. There are a lot of teaching moments and then those will be things that we'll talk about, honestly, your point is very good. To answer your question, yeah, sure it is, but these are also grown men and it gets, in a game like that, last night, it kind of got pretty emotional and I was down on the field. It takes two to tango and there was a lot of talking going on out there at different points during the course of that game and it wasn't just Sio."

Q: Any time you go against your former team you want to play well. Tarell Brown played a pretty good game but also suffered what looked to be a horrific injury but game back just two plays later. How tough is Tarell Brown?

Coach Sparano:"He's pretty tough. I had seen it on the field and I immediately thought the worst and when I had seen it on film this morning, it wasn't really a great thing to look at. We'll keep Tarell away from that clip if we could. It's amazing to me because the guy went  back in the game and not only did he play well for us, but he drew a penalty rushing a kick, which is something that really shows the character of – and I'm not just saying that because it's my team. A lot of people gauge what kind of team you have on whether or not, on how sometimes you rush a kick or you do some of the things that kind of fly under the radar so to speak. This guy does it every single time. That's the second penalty he's drawn that way and it was a critical penalty because it took points off the board at that point, forced those guys to punt. For him to bounce back and do that and to play the way he played, because he really had a productive game for us yesterday, was really something to see because that looked like it could have been worse, so thank God it wasn't."


Q: Yesterday you said, "We'll decide when it's over." What did you mean by that?**

Coach Sparano:"Well, you're referring to is that people had us dead and buried last week. I mean, we were done. It was 52-0, everybody quit. Everybody, not people – well, yeah, people in general, whoever. That's not the case. This team is a resilient team. I've said it all along. For some reason or another, nobody wants to listen, but I've been saying it. This is the type of team they are and we'll decide when that time comes. That time is not now. We have three games to play right now. We're going to play every one of those football games. We're going to play them the best way we can play them. I don't have a crystal ball in my hand but I just know this football team."

Q: How good was Greg Olson's game plan yesterday?

Coach Sparano:"Here's what I thought Greg did really well yesterday and I mean, I thought that we had some challenges during the week with our parts. When I say that, I mean, obviously Brian Leonhardt not playing, that was a challenge in that scenario there. We had Menelik [Watson] not playing that was a challenge there. The uncertainty of really how long, what we were going to get out of Latavius [Murray] yesterday, because he could have been in the game for five plays yesterday and instead he ended up playing 50 plays yesterday. We weren't sure with some of those different parts and how some of that was going to go and I thought he and the offensive coaches really did a good job with kind of using Marcel [Reece] in a few different ways, using [Mychal] Rivera in a couple different ways. I thought we tried to do the best job that we could with our match-ups. I've said this before here and I think Greg does a great job up there, being able to do those things and trying to put people in position to make plays. Now, we haven't always made those plays. Some of it is on us, some of it we've got to look ourselves in the mirror as players sometimes. But, like yesterday, a one-on-one match-up, Rivera in the corner in the end zone, he wins that match-up and I think those are the critical plays in the game. 'Mike' [Mychal Rivera] making a play in the hole down the middle of the field, or uncovering or [Andre] Holmes making a play the way he made a play yesterday on the sideline. Those were critical plays in the game that I thought were made and I'm speaking strictly offensively here and not defensively, which we made a bunch of that led us to have a good day and help Derek [Carr] along the way. I just think Greg did a good job of staying convicted to the run game yesterday. It didn't matter whether or not it was two yards or it was four yards yesterday. We were about 47 percent, I think, efficient in runs yesterday in the game, but that didn't matter in that kind of game. What we wanted to do was get to manageables on third. We didn't want to be third and really long in a ball game yesterday and that ended up being 50 percent third-down efficiency, if you take the last drive out of there, at that point we were more worried about the clock."


Q: What did you like about bringing Matt McCants in as an eligible receiver?**

Coach Sparano:"I think any time you bring an offensive lineman into the game like that, and we've been doing it all year, but yesterday Matt played a little bit more, he played like 20 plays yesterday in the game. What I like about it is the fact that it brings a little bit more power into the football game. You can move 'Mike' or you can move Marcel [Reece] around, you can do some different things that way. Obviously, what you don't like about it is, unless you're talking about the case of Donald Penn, they're not all going out for passes, so it's pretty predictable, but there does come a point where you've got to block. We've got to be able to put a guy in there to be able to block those defensive ends. They were doing it themselves yesterday and some of those ends are handfuls. You're not going to block Justin Smith every time with a tight end out there, that's not a good match-up."

Q: Latavius Murray seemed to push the pile yesterday. What did you see out of him?

Coach Sparano:"When I watch Latavius play, I see really active feet. He's a guy who's really active in the hole with his feet and he doesn't always, he's not a guy that gets arm tackled a lot down there along his ankles. He can pick his feet up and get through some things at times and he leans forward. So I mean, he's a big back that leans forward. So the two-yard runs end up being four-yard runs. The four-yard runs end up being six-yard runs because the way this guy leans. Those are the things that I saw. When we started to see the progress coming through practice, and the only way you can see that was really the padded practices, which they're few and far between. That's the thing people don't understand is that, those are a thing of the past, the padded practices. That's really the time you can see it best."

Q: Defensively they seemed relentless and seemed to turn it up another notch when you took the lead 17-13 and really get after Colin Kaepernick. What went on from the sidelines onto the field?

Coach Sparano:"Honestly the thing that was the greatest was what our veteran players were doing at that point. I thought Antonio [Smith] and Justin [Tuck] and [Charles] Woodson and Tarell [Brown] and those guys, they were super on the sideline, really, really good on the sideline. We had that one series there where we came out and we didn't score or we didn't get a first down I should say, I think it was a penalty, beginning part of second half, it was actually a penalty on the kickoff and backed us up. We didn't get a first down, we had to punt it, they went down there, actually [Brandian] Ross makes a really good stop there around the two-yard line, forces them, and that was really a big set of downs for us. A big swing. When they came off the field I just noticed a different type of energy. We had talked all week long about the fact that when you get into a fight like that, eventually somebody is going to let go of the rope and it's going to be our job to stay on the attack. The kids, the men, bought into that and I mean, they were really good. They were relentless out there with their effort. As the game went on I thought the pass rush got better and better and better and that's natural. I think when you're in a game where you've got to throw it now. But, our guys were really relentless that way and I thought the back end did a good job of plastering receivers and covering guys. We actually made those uncovered plays. We talked about that during the week in here, like the play that Colin [Kaepernick] is very good at, you can get out of the pocket and kill you that way. We made some of those plays, you can see Carr waving Rivera over to the hole and he made that play. Our guys were pretty disciplined in the back end yesterday and to a point where it ended up being a big interception for us. Charles was really disciplined on one of those and was able to intercept the ball. When you watch it and you see the effort, it's unbelievable effort in there by a lot of people. Antonio Smith and Khalil Mack in several situations, it was really something to watch."

Q: Are you hopeful that management would look favorably at bringing you back and the core of the team back if the team continues to play the way you played yesterday?

Coach Sparano:"I can't speak for anybody else, I really can't. Honestly, I kind of knew that question was going to be coming down the road here and it's a question for somebody else. It's not a question for me. I was given a job to do several weeks ago, trying to do the job the way that I know how to do the job and I know, I said this after the game yesterday too, I know where our players are. I know what they think and I know how they respond. I can tell by their response, so I feel really good about where we are right now. I love this group of guys and I like coaching them and I love this team, so, that's all I'll say to you."


Q: Did that Gatorade shower catch you off guard? **

Coach Sparano:"You know what's funny, I happened to catch, I'm assuming it's one of these blog guys, but I saw one of those things and they said '[Coach Sparano] didn't even respond to Antonio.' Absolutely it caught me off guard. It was freezing cold running down my back. I didn't expect it. In my mind, I was thinking that was already over because we had already won a game, so they're not going to do that now. Actually, the conversation that Antonio and I had was pretty interesting. He quoted a quote back to me that I've said to the team on many occasions. It was a good moment."

Q: Was Round 9 your idea?

Coach Sparano:"Round 9 was my idea."

Q: That's the Arturo Gatti/Micky Ward…

Coach Sparano:"You got it."

Q: The emphasis was a battle, a fight to the end?

Coach Sparano:"If anybody ever watched Round 9 of Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward's fights, they would see what I'm talking about when I say that in the middle of a battle, all of a sudden, somebody is going to let go and somebody is not going to let go. Those guys fought a lot. They fought a lot of rounds, similar to that. Round 9 was an epic round. We spent a little bit of time on Round 9 and the guys got to see a little bit of that."

Q: You showed it?

Sparano:"Oh yeah."

Q: Prior to last season, the team had won six straight at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. What's going to be the key to beating the Chiefs in their home stadium this week?

Coach Sparano: "Well, we're going to have to, first of all, match their intensity. Playing in Arrowhead is always tough. Playing in there at this time of year is tough. Knowing that we won the game the last time we played them, we know that they're going to be 100 percent ready for us when we walk into their place, their building. I get that. Our football team needs to concentrate on us and we need to concentrate on going down there and trying to stack a couple wins together here. It's something we haven't been able to do. To go into a visiting stadium and win a ball game like that and put some of these other demons to rest, so to speak. Whatever you make of the 10 o'clock thing, or any of those things. I don't really make much of that but it is the fact, it's what time we play the game I guess. We need to make sure that we just focus on us right now going into this. We need to understand and learn from what happened to us two weeks ago. Like I said, there is a reason why I said, 'Don't forget this feeling' because here we are again."

Q: You mentioned earlier how people were counting you out last week. Was there any point, after losing by 50 points, where you thought things weren't where you thought they were?  

Sparano: "No, only because… I mean, I get it. We lost by 52 points, it wasn't like it was a two-point loss. I think I read something that Justin Tuck said. He said something like, 'If I'm going to lose, it's a loss. You can lose this way or lose by three.' All of the losses hurt and all the wins don't last very long. The losses leave scars, but they don't define you. I think at the end of this thing, I have this huge belief that our team is built differently. I know it doesn't say it in wins and losses, I get it. I realize that yesterday we didn't play the Super Bowl or any of those types of things. I tried to say that during the week. I understand the rivalry and I understand all of that, but it was a game for us, too. It was about us going out there after a 52-0 game. I just had this feeling that this team has been that way all along. They've been really resilient and easy to refocus. When you're asking them to go out there and practice, it's not a chore. They're going to go out there and do it for you. They're going to say, 'Coach, what else do you need me to do?' I respect that in this bunch of guys. That's why I like coaching this group. That's what made it easy for me to say that. I realize it's not easy for everybody to believe."

Q: Going off that, last week you guys had a quote on everyone's locker and it said, "This is the part where you find out who you are." Have you found out who this team is?

Sparano:"That's a great question. I just know that this team is a really resilient, tough-minded bunch of guys. I know that when you lose 52-0, you could say how tough-minded are they, Tony? They're not really that tough-minded if they lost 52-0… but I disagree. I think it takes more courage to do what they did yesterday than it does in a lot of situations. In other words, to bounce back from something like that, that's tough-minded, it really is. It's tough-minded, it's focused, it's all the things that you really want. We've got to be able to do those things consistently. We can't come back out this week and… it's not going to change my opinion of them. I just know this team better than that."


Q: You've been part of rivalry games before, whether it be with the Jets, Cowboys or Redskins. Was yesterday kind of unique?**

Coach Sparano:"I'm going to say this in all honesty, and I've been in a lot of games: Listen, you guys see me for what I am, so I don't just really say things. But I don't think I've ever been in a situation like that yesterday. The environment in that place yesterday was unbelievable, it really was. The atmosphere, the environment was so electric in that stadium yesterday. I've never been part of a Super Bowl. I've never been part of one of those things. I've been coaching a long time and not everybody gets a chance to do that. I'm not comparing that game to that, but the electric atmosphere that was in that building yesterday and the energy that was in that building yesterday was just tremendous. I mean, it really was. It was probably one of the most exciting things that I've been a part of. I feel today like I played in the game. It was really exciting and I was happy to see our fans respond the way they did yesterday. They were a huge factor out there a few times – a couple of false starts, a couple of those type of things. It was a big factor in the game and our players feed off of that. They feed off of that kind of energy. It was really something to be a part of."

Q: There was some fear going into the game about the two fan bases interacting, but it seemed to be pretty positive energy.

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I thought so. I felt it was on the field anyways. I didn't feel anything else. I felt like it was positive – just a good, hard-played football game out there. Everybody has those type of games on your schedule. It's just knowing that you're not too far away from each other like this, you rarely get those opportunities like Jets-Giants or those type of things. So this was kind of neat."

Q: You said it was nice to see the coaches who have not been in a Battle of the Bay really take it all in. What was that like for you?

Coach Sparano: "Yeah, the moment was pretty interesting. For me on the sideline, I like to watch and kind of see these guys. To see the energy that was out there at that point and to see the energy that was in the stands and the energy on the sideline, it was really something to watch. I loved every single minute of it. It was fun."

Q: Yesterday, Derek Carr had great protection from the offensive line.

Coach Sparano:"Thank you."

Q: Can you talk about the line and any adjustments you made?

Coach Sparano:"That group played pretty good yesterday. They played pretty well and that's a hard challenge, it really was. It can't not be a hard challenge today and it was a hard challenge all week last week. It's been a hard challenge for a lot of teams. I thought they rose to the occasion yesterday. Aldon Smith's a tremendous football player. Justin Smith's a tremendous football player. I went to sleep last night thinking about [Chris] Borland and those guys. (*laughing) *They just have so many players and they keep coming at you. I felt like those guys handled it well up front. There was a lot of times – I went back today through the film and whatever it was – the bottom line is Derek's pocket was clean a bunch yesterday. If we can do that, that helps some of those chunk plays down the road when he can uncover a receiver or when he can do something like that. I thought those guys played really well. I thought Donald Penn had a good, solid game yesterday. I thought Gabe [Jackson] actually played really well yesterday, which was good to see because a week before that, I felt like he was a little bit rusty coming off of the injury. But he bounce back and played a really solid game for us yesterday. That group played well."

Q: When you drafted Gabe Jackson, did you know that he had this edge to him? He seems to have a bit of a mean streak in him.

Coach Sparano:"Oh, yeah. I knew that. It didn't take long to watch the film and to see that with Gabe. I'm fortunate that [offensive quality control coach] Justin Griffith, my assistant upstairs, is a Mississippi State guy and this guy – we know a little bit about this guy. It didn't take long to watch. When he pulls, when he does all the things that he does in line, to see that he's pretty nasty kid. Now, when you meet him, it seems like you've got the complete other guy. But he can play really tough and nasty. In fact, he finished a lot of blocks in that game yesterday, so I was really pleased to see that with him yesterday. He's had to block J.J. Watt lining up on him pretty consistently throughout that game, and he's had to block a Justin Smith lined up on him pretty consistently. So this is good for him and it's really good for us. We've seen it and we're seeing it now."

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