Much of Monday’s talk inside the locker room at 4949 Centennial Blvd. centered on Justin Smith’s latest hustle play to remember.
Coach Jim Harbaugh spoke glowingly of the well-timed play by one of his team leaders. More on that in a bit.
But before Harbaugh took the podium for his weekly noon press conference, players first discussed the defense’s play as a whole. The 49ers were outgained by the Giants (395 yards to 305 yards) on Sunday, but ultimately, San Francisco held New York to a pair of touchdowns and field goals. That was in addition to the two forced turnovers (interceptions by league leader Carlos Rogers) and Smith’s game-deciding tipped pass which turned the Giants over on downs.
The 49ers, who entered Sunday as the league leaders in points allowed and rushing yards allowed, played their brand of stingy defense throughout the closely contested game.
In the end, the 49ers allowed 20 points and 93 rushing yards. It was enough to win, and that’s all that matters to starting outside linebacker Parys Haralson, who recorded two tackles in a winning effort.
“Our main purpose is not to give up points and give our offense the ball,” Haralson stressed. “That’s what we do.”
In fact, the 49ers defense has been so impenetrable as of late, the unit hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown in 43 consecutive quarters. Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams plunged in for a 1-yard score on Dec. 26 of 2010.
Haralson couldn’t recall the last player to have a rushing score against the defense.
“I don’t care too much about that to be honest,” he said. “We just play football.”
With a simple, selfless approach, the 49ers have excelled in their first year under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Sunday’s win against a potent offensive attack serves as proof of the unit’s strides in just nine games together.
Across the board, Haralson is pleased with the play of his teammates. He knows his defensive backs aren’t getting enough credit for the overall success.
“To me, our secondary is doing a great job,” Haralson added of the unit which leads the league with 66 pass breakups.
As long as the 49ers don’t give up points, they’ll be fine according to Haralson.
“Our biggest thing is not giving up points. I don’t care how long a drive is, they had an eight-minute drive, and we gave up three points.”
New York’s opening drive took 14 plays to get a 23-yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes. Later, Tynes’ other made field goal from 25 yards out, ended a 13-play drive that took 6:20 off the clock to start the second quarter.
Seeing the opponent settle for field goals is welcomed by Haralson and company.
“I don’t need stats to confirm anything,” Haralson said. “We all know how we’re playing. When we put on the film, we know everybody’s playing together as a unit, playing together, playing their responsibilities and its showing.”
Notes and Quotes
On Sunday, Smith tried to play off his game-clinching tipped pass as luck. But Harbaugh revealed the truth to Smith’s heroic play a day later. Not only was it a well-timed play by Smith, but the 49ers two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle had a feeling the ball was going to go through the B-gap. He warned teammate Ray McDonald to play the gap between the guard and tackle just before the two jogged into the defensive huddle. And as it played out, Smith was right in position to get his hand on Eli Manning’s fourth-down throw. “Like a closer in baseball,” Harbaugh said of Smith, “There he was… He was thinking it through. He’s been a great player, a consummate team player, doing a great job.”
Rogers, who is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions, was happy to get the best of his matchup with emerging Giants wideout Victor Cruz. The second-year player has been a favorite target of Manning, especially on third downs. Rogers gave up a few plays to Cruz, but to his credit, Rogers competed throughout the game to get the best of the matchup. “When my number is called I just want to be there to win most of the battles,” said Rogers, who celebrated his first takeaway with Cruz’s signature salsa touchdown dance. “I know he wasn’t too happy about that. I know he wanted to get in the end zone.”
Harbaugh said injured running back Frank Gore would have his knee checked out. “There’s no expense spared when checking things out with Frank,” he said. Harbaugh did rave about his running back depth. “We feel we have a stable of backs.”
Harbaugh also made waves in applauding the work of his coordinators. He said Brad Seely (special teams), Greg Roman (offense) and Fangio (defense), should be considered as future NFL head coaches.
Tags: Carlos Rogers, Frank Gore, Jim Harbaugh, Justin Smith, Parys Haralson
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