Q: Coach, last week you guys capitalized on Philip Rivers, who is more of a risk-taker. Now you guys are facing Alex Smith who is more of a game manager and makes shorter throws. How different will that be?**
Coach Tarver: I've been around Alex for a long time. He's great. He's an even better person than he is a football player. He does a good job of throwing the football where the coaches want him to and taking what the defense gives him. We need to make sure that we challenge in coverage, that we're tight when we're supposed to be tight, that we control the pocket how we want to because he does a great job of pulling the ball, feeling the pocket and taking off. Those are a little different playing this week versus playing last week — different type of quarterback. He'll get out of the pocket more. He can run. He can make throws when he's on the run, so we'll vary our looks accordingly.
Q: Philip Rivers had 350 passing yards in the second half of last game. Is that just a case of giving them the middle and protecting a lead, or could you have tightened that up some?
Coach Tarver: We need to execute in all situations. Now one of the favorite things in the media forever is prevent defense. There wasn't any of that going. We need to execute our pressures well. It was 24-3, so we play top down anyway. That's our rules regardless of what the coverage is — regardless of whether we're bringing three, four, five, six, seven, eight guys. We won't bring them all. We'll probably stop at eight. We want top-down coverage. That's our job, and we've got to understand where the leverage is and our communication. What happened a little bit was we had a couple of communication things that needed to be cleaner. They've been addressed. The guys know it. You can't miss communication against Philip Rivers. He'll find it. When it was 24-3, there was a 51-yarder. That's unacceptable. That was a communication error. It can't happen — been corrected. We're ready to go. That's more of what it was. We rushed different numbers of guys on almost every play of that game. Sometimes we rushed three and on the first third down, we hadn't rushed three on the first third down of a game before. We rushed three, [Philip Rivers] threw the ball up and we made a play. We'll continue to vary our looks. That's what we do.
Q: Why is 'prevent defense' such a dirty word for coaches?
Coach Tarver: Because 'prevent' means you took your foot off the gas. We don't take our foot off the gas. We play. That's what we do. Our job, regardless of what's going on, is to tackle the guy with the ball, get the guy on the ground, play top down coverage, play on our correct leverage, swarm and get the ball out. You're starting to see those things happen, and it's because of the way the guys have worked and what we emphasize together — coaches and players together. Our emphasis is second guy in pulls at the ball. Well the second guy in, third guy in hit the ball, and then you know who [Charles Woodson] picked it up — dove into the end zone. That was good. We need to continue to do that. We're doing a nice job of ball-searching and swarming. Now there are some times where we could tackle better. That was what else happened in that second half. Knowing where our help is when we tackle is a big deal too. We drove these things from Day One, and that's what we need to do as a defense. We need to continue to make those things happen. Like we said in here last week, it is contagious, and it does come in bunches. Once you have it you've got to continue to stress it and feel it because that feels good as a defense — when you are just pulling at the ball and they know that that's what you do. We need to continue to make that happen.
Q: Coach, in two games last year you shut down Jamaal Charles. He's off to a great start this year, running and receiving. What do you have to do to stop him?
Coach Tarver: He's a great player. He's very explosive. He can go to the house whether he's running the direct stretch cut run that they're running or putting his foot in the ground and going at the back side, so your defense has to be good on the front, back and middle of the play. We were able to do that at times a year ago. It's a new year. Every game is its own deal. We need to be that consistent where we fit in our defense — front side, back side integrity, knock back, stay on our feet on the inside of the defense, using our hands — same things we talk about all the time. You've got to get your hands. You've got to get extension. You cannot — holding is illegal in the NFL — you can't let them hold you. You've got to get off of blocks and make sure he stays where we want him to say. It's a lot easier to say and harder to do. That's where we need to go not only with him but with all of their backs and their quarterback. They're good runners.
Q: Do you want Jamaal Charles to stay in the middle of the field? Is that where you want him to go?
Coach Tarver: Well it's knowing where our help is. There are certain stunts or pressures designed so that he may bounce out to a forced player, and that forced player need to force the ball. It's not as much as just, 'Well there's this edge over here, and we're going to keep that all the time.' Most of the time we're going to keep that edge, but then all of the sudden we might bring that guy underneath and then force the ball to go. Then we've got to understand when we do bring that guy underneath that next guy's got to do his job. You can vary the looks enough where hopefully they don't know where we are every time.
Q: You saw Alex Smith at times where things weren't going so well for him. What did you see about the way he carried himself during that time?
Coach Tarver: Well number one, we drafted him when he was a very young man. He is a great person, and he handled himself professionally. I was there for a lot of his growing up process, and I can't say enough about the young man. He's a great young man, and he's overcome a lot of stuff. You're proud of him for that. We're looking forward to the opportunity to play him because he's done some things. This is a great opportunity to see how we do against a guy who makes good decisions. Let's see if we can be disciplined and of course use our hands and shut down the run and then be disciplined enough to be in the right spots when he does try to throw which they do a lot early in games. This system and coach have shown a lot early in games throughout his career because they try to get their quarterback warm, and completions and those things.
Q: There were some extra wide receivers out there against San Diego that DJ [Hayden] played like 68 snaps, got the interception. How much growth did you see from him?
Coach Tarver: I say that a lot. I know that I say it up here every week, but the kid — he learns all the time. DJ needs to consistently challenge. He's a great athlete, and when he sets his mind he can do anything obviously with what he's already overcome in his life. He needs to just challenging. Just keep challenging, understand where your help is, listen to the guys helping him make his calls and be on the correct leverage. When you're supposed to be outside, be outside. When you're supposed to be inside, be inside. What's nice about him is when things happen to him the week before, he learns and those same things don't get him, but as you're learning how to play this game these offenses are pretty good. They're going to show you a couple of new things every week, and as long as you can continue to lock in on the new things, keep his leverage correctly and challenge — play physical and challenge — he'll keep growing, and he did. He made a heck of a play, and you heard the quote from the quarterback. He said, 'I had the rest of the defense where I wanted, and then the kid made a great play.' He did. He really did. That was a great play, and we hope he can build on that momentum because that was a great football play. You saw all the guys go get him right away. That's how much they like him and how well we're starting to celebrate and do things as a team. They're coming together.
Q: With what Nick [Roach] and Kevin [Burnett] did last week – flying around, making tackles, how much of that is just the matchup vs. the Chargers, and how much of it is them settling into the defense and being comfortable with what they're supposed to be doing?
Coach Tarver:I wouldn't say that they are settling in. Both of those guys have learned this game, and given themselves to this game. I think what they both did very well during that game is that they both used their hands. They got off of blocks. They did not stay blocked the whole game. And Kevin [Burnett], that was the best he's done since he's been here. He's been a great player throughout his career. He's a great player, he's very smart. He did that very well, and of course found the ball, and Nick [Roach] did that well too. And that's what you have to do as a linebacker. Your job is to finish the down unblocked. Both of those two produced at a high level during that football game, and that's why we liked them so much, and that's why we're glad they're here.
Q: It seemed like you and Kevin [Burnett] had a nice little exchange in the middle of the game there …
Coach Tarver:We were discussing a play. (laughter) He's very thoughtful of what's going on and what's happening, and like I said, we're glad he's here. When those two [Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett] play like that – when they use their hands, and work with each other to cover things, that's some good linebacker play; that's what we need.
Q: Regarding DJ [Hayden], how important is it for him to get the confidence back to be able to get that ability to bump and run in those first five yards to alter receivers, rather than just play the coverage?
Coach Tarver:With a corner with ability, it's a lot of just trusting in yourself and just challenging; and just feeling what they're doing; and just continuing to work that technique. He's been good at times, and then he's learned other things. It's the same thing. As long as he learns what's happening, and challenges and competes, gets up there and uses that great ability, moves his feet and get his hands on guys, we'll see what happens. And when he's done that he's played pretty well. When he hasn't, he's learned from it. So if he continues to do that, he's going to be just fine. That's where we want to see him go. As long as you're – and this is for any position or anything you're doing; football, life, whatever – if you're totally engaged, and do what you're supposed to do, then the learning accelerates. If you're thinking about something other than what you're supposed to think about, well, then chances are you're going to lose, but you're going to miss out on that learning moment. And that's when you need to stay in the moment. That's what the great cover guys have, 'Come on, it's you and I. I like it like this. Let's go.'