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On the Phone with Smith and Finneran

Posted by Sam Good on September 29, 2010 – 1:51 PM

Brian Finneran said he can barely remember what he had for lunch yesterday, so of course the Falcons wide receiver will be a little shaky when asked to conjure up seven-year-old memories.

But still, Finneran recalls when 49ers new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson was Atlanta’s play caller for the final two games of the 2003 season. The details are a little fuzzy, but Finneran said Johnson was a “competitor” who has an “aggressive kind of mindset.”

“He’ll find a way to match his guys up where he wants them so they can try to make some plays against us,” Finneran said in his Wednesday conference call with the Bay Area media. “The No. 1 thing is he is just a competitor and he loves to win.”

In Johnson’s two games as the play caller, the Falcons went 2-0 and then-quarterback Michael Vick had two of his three highest passer ratings of the season.

And those two games weren’t Johnson’s only game-planning experiences in Atlanta. Finneran said Johnson installed the Falcons red-zone and third-down plays in 2004 and 2005 under then-head coach Jim Mora.

Finneran’s relationship with Johnson goes back to 2002, the year when Johnson was Atlanta’s wide receivers coach and Finneran had by far the best season of his 10-year career.

“He was sound in his coaching technique and the things he taught us,” the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder wide receiver said. “The thing that stuck out was he really wanted his players to compete.”

So while Atlanta head coach Mike Smith may not have much game film to figure out Johnson’s mindset and tendencies, he said in his conference call that he will talk to Finneran to gain any advantage he can.

“Of course you’re going to do your due diligence,” Smith said. “But I think really at the end of the day, on Sunday afternoon there in the dome, it is going to come down to our guys playing against the 49ers, and the team that executes the best is going to be the team that comes away with the victory.”

Smith said the biggest challenge in facing a new coordinator is not knowing his tendencies in certain down-and-distance situations. So while it will be difficult for the Falcons to predict what plays Johnson will call on third down and in the red zone, Smith believes the core of what the 49ers do will remain the same.

The Falcons still expect the 49ers offense to run though running back Frank Gore, and they know San Francisco has weapons in the passing game with tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. So despite the 49ers 0-3 record, Atlanta is not letting its guard down.

“Early in the season, I don’t think you can put any stock in what a team’s record is,” Smith said. “I was very impressed watching the tape on San Francisco. They have a lot of very talented players on their team, and they really outplayed the New Orleans Saints. I know they didn’t get the outcome they wanted, but they are a very good football team.”

Click here to listen to Smith’s conference call.

Click here to listen to Finneran’s conference call.

Posted in Game Preview | 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “On the Phone with Smith and Finneran”

  1. By tom on Sep 29, 2010 | Reply

    If Mike Johnson can create match up roblems, what Jimmy Raye failed to do,Our offense should be able to excel even with average quarterback play.I’d like to see Westbrook and Gore in the backfield together more ,why did you bring Westbrook in for? sit the bench? Both the guys can catch out of the back field and could be good check down options when crabtree and davis are covered. That with the right play calling to get A Smithcomfortable early can be huge. It also looks that Delany Walker creates mismatch probs as well, another guy not used enough. No excuse time for rest of the season. Every team is hip to the factyou stop gore you win! Don’t be so predictable! Be consistent with execution not the play calls!.

  2. By stephen galetti on Sep 29, 2010 | Reply

    Die-hard NINER fan,hope to liveNOT die this wknd in HOT ‘Lanta…

  3. By 49erFXinFull on Sep 29, 2010 | Reply

    Let’s see all hands on board! We want to see the 49ers win and follow through on their drives. There should be a battered Falcons line by the end of first half… hit’em!!

  4. By martinez on Sep 29, 2010 | Reply

    mike johnson lets go ouy there and mix it up and use all our weapons , if we do that and the defense plays like there capable of like they did v.s the aints , we should come out with a victory easily

  5. By John Perez on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    This will be a very touph game for the Niners this weekend,but if our defense keeps Matt Ryan in check we can win. Our defens has to hold their running back to under 100 yrd rushing and the D backs have to bump the wide outs at the line. Keeping the pressure at a constant will be key. As for our offense Mike Johnson has to call a near perfect game. Use Westbrook and Davis mix it up keep their defense guessing. Crabtree needs to be fed the ball try putting him in the slot. Alex needs to be in the shot gun more to allow more time to survey the field. O line needs to protect Alex. Five sacks allowed last wk will not be tolerated by coaches much less NINER FAITHFULL. This season is not over yet.LETS GET THE JOB DONE AND EARN THIS WIN!!! NINER NATION STAND UP AND BELIEVE!!!!!!

  6. By TDOGG on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    I don’t know why Alex Smith is still the starting QB. If they really want to take the team in a different direction that where it needs to start first. When the QB lose the locker room then the team doesn’t play with the same effort on either side of the ball. Sing need to stop watching so much film and listen to some of his key players.

  7. By Jay Wick on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    FORTY NINERS, WHAT IS GOING ON! You need to go out and show the NFL the past three weeks is a fluke. The talent on the team is unmatched but the confidence is shaky. Alex Smith has been given another chance to lead this team to a “W”, take it. Confidence is the main thing lacking form this team right now. Once one mistake occur’s it’s a snowball effect and the next thing you know it’s 31-3. I hope the new change in coaches reenergizes the gaol to take the division. I have been a Niner fan for over 20 years, I will be at the Georgia Dome sporting my jersye talking trash to Falcons belivers. I want to be able to leave that dome, head high, and looking forward to the rest of the season! 49ERS FOR LIFE

  8. By Danny Bilski on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    All great stories involve overcoming adversity. It is time for one of the NFL’s greatest franchises to put another stamp in history and overcome a 0-3 start and win the west. It starts this sunday when the 49ers travel to Atlanta to play a tough Falcons team. One game at a time, one week at a time, and before you know it these 49ers could end up with a winning season. Go 49ers. Open up that playbook and make this thing happen.

  9. By Samuel Payne on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    I believe that we will overcome this 0-3 start. we need to settle down and hit people in the mouth. stop calling the same play. we got good reciever but neither one has a TD. “why”, because of dumb play calling. let’s speard the defense out and throw the ball down feild to cradtree or davis or ginn or walker, and you will see how the run game will open up for gore, westbrook or dixon. Let’s win the last 13 I believe we can do it “GO NINERS”

  10. By Johne Baker on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    GO NINER’S, you’ve got nothing to lose and everythng to prove! Go have fun in Atlanta and lets see what Mr. Alex Smith is really made of….no one believes more in him than himself…so let it rip Alex…its your last chance…again!! GO Niners!!

  11. By SSAHI on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    The Niners will right the ship and it starts this weekend in Atlanta. Calling it right now Niners go 10-3 down the stretch and win the west.

  12. By FalconNut on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    All I can say is it’s going to be a long airline ride home for the 49’ers. Alex will throw a few picks, maybe a fumble here or there by you RB’s, give us a short field and an early lead you will be playing catch up; then, come the 4th quarter we’ll introduce you guys to Michael Turner and Jason Snelling…Atlantra by 14 easy.

  13. By Tyrone on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply


  14. By cbking on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    lets go mike and mike!!!! lets start winning!

  15. By cbking on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    gooo niners!!

  16. By Basil on Oct 1, 2010 | Reply

    I like the way MJ talks about his plans for our offense, getting everybody involved in the game, putting players in position to make plays, to help our team win games. I never thought it was all Rayes doing that got us in the deep hole, yeah I do think its a deep hole. Not just because of the 3 loss’s, but because this team knows, what we’ve seen NO GAME PLAN! But when I read what MJ had to say, it had a ring to it, it sounded like Bill Walsh. And what I mean by that is MJ talked about getting everybody involved in the game, putting players in a position where they can be successful. And one thing he said that really stood out, that really got my attention, was that we’re going to make the defense cover the Whole Field. Before when other teams put 8 guys in the box, 8 guys got their hands on Gore, now if they put 8 guys in the box, they can turn around and watch Davis running down field with the ball.
    Yes we’re still in the hole, but now we’re trying to get out with a Shovel (Raye) because we have a Ladder (MJ) if, if singletary will let him do his job!

  17. By Basil on Oct 1, 2010 | Reply

    correction: should have read !
    Yes we’re still in the hole, but now we’re ‘not’ trying to get out with a Shovel (Raye) because we have a Ladder (MJ) if, if singletary will let him do his job!


  18. By paul stom on Oct 2, 2010 | Reply

    quite possibly the def. coordinator will be next. as talented as the offense is; so
    is the def. (supposedly). your off. may not be scoring more than 10-17 pts. but
    an outstanding def. can add 3-6 pts. on their own while snuffing their opponent.
    looking at personel one could make the argument that the niners actually have
    the best of both worlds. mike johnson needs to use the 49er wco. this actually
    will help alex smith. so will the “killer” defense. def. co. needs to look similar to
    mike singletary’s 80 Bears. nfl has changed so adj. the 80 Bears to the 2010
    “ninelators”. gotta stand up and make some noise and lay down some bodies.
    go niners.

  19. By Ro on Oct 3, 2010 | Reply

    Im a “Die Hais rd” 9ers fans but is it that hard to make a QB change!

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