“Before we start just wanted to say, everyone knows the tragic stuff we dealt with yesterday, losing Tony York. This game was definitely for him. Getting to know the Yorks the last two years, the one thing that was so apparent to me about Tony, the times I’ve been around him, he was the biggest Niners fan out of any of them and really out of anyone I’ve been around since I’ve been in San Fran. Yeah, he is an owner, but just the true fan he was for the Niners always was so fun to watch. That’s what was so cool about him. For us to have a win today with what happened to him yesterday, it means a ton. I know it means a lot to the York family. He was a special person who will be missed a lot. Prayers are with all the Yorks today. Jed was able to come and we just had a special moment with him in the locker room. I know his parents weren’t and we’re there with them and I hope everyone’s prayers are for them.
“The injuries today, [DB Tarvarius] T Moore, he had a stinger but he returned and [CB Ahkello] Witherspoon had an ankle, but he returned. Alright, go ahead.”
When TE George Kittle is getting those kind of plays, are you just calling his number to take advantage of this or was it just happening naturally?
“We always try to call Kittle’s number, but it depends what the coverages are. They played a ton of man coverage and he definitely beat the guy who was covering him. [QB] Nick [Mullens] made some good throws that got him some good yards after the catch. But, I wish I called his number more in the second half though.”
What happened there?
“We definitely called his number, but some coverages are different. We didn’t stay on the field long enough. Didn’t do as well in the run game or the pass game and just didn’t get the opportunity in the second half that we had in the first.”
Did I see you apologize to him when you guys were walking off the field for not getting him more catches?
“I told him he needed to apologize for not getting 215 in the first half. No, I’m just joking. I definitely apologized to him. We were definitely debating on how we could do it there at the end. I didn’t think it would have been a problem, but I wish that he did get it. Because, to have that all in the first half and only be five yards away, he had an unbelievable day. It sucked that he didn’t get it.”
Did someone notify you what the NFL record is and what Kittle had?
“Yes, they notify me.”
“I don’t remember. Probably like seven different people. I heard it plenty. I’m like a fan, I wanted it to happen and we would have forced it to happen if the situations played out differently. But the way the game was going, I wasn’t too worried. I thought it would happen naturally, but the times we did have a chance, I think we got a ball tipped, I think twice ones to him and had a couple, I think we had some pressures. We just didn’t stay on the field long enough to get it done.”
What’s special about Kittle? When you’re calling plays and you know, what’s special about him to you?
“The thing that he’s doing better, that I can say he’s done better than any tight end I’ve ever had, is what he’s doing after the catch. He does a good job beating man coverage and does a good job in his routes and does a great job blocking. But, when that ball is in the air, the play is just starting. He’s trying to catch it and he runs angry and he runs confidently that he expects to score on every look. I think that’s why it’s been easier to get him the yards he has.”
You were at the Broncos when Pro Football Hall of Fame TE Shannon Sharpe was at his best. Any similarities in your mind the way it changes an offense when you have a tight end can do stuff like that?
“Always. You’ve got to have one. You have five eligible and there’s a bunch of different ways to use them, but anytime you can have a tight end or a halfback who can beat strong safeties and linebackers consistently, it does more than I can explain for an entire offense, not just for the tight ends and the halfbacks, but also for the receivers and the quarterback.”
What happened in that second half? You guys were so good in that first half, but the second half you had such a difficult time moving the ball.
“They are a good team. They played a ton of man coverage, so they didn’t change too much up. Couldn’t get our run game going. They got good edge players and very big, stout inside players. Couldn’t create enough space in that. I didn’t study the stats or anything, but when you don’t run the ball very well and you do bad on third down, which I believe we really struggled on third down in the second half, you’re not going to stay out there long.”
Is there a level of concern for something like that or what are you, I mean how worried are you for something like that when you’re having that kind of difficulty?
“That’s what your concerns are every single game. They held us very well the second half. I’m glad that our defense made some big stops, because we didn’t get enough points. We didn’t get any in the second half, so thank goodness our defense played well so we could still maintain our lead. You’ve got to catch the ball on third down when you’re open to move the chains and then a bunch of things change after that. You can’t have false starts and you can’t have some of the setbacks that we had.”
You had a lot of young guys on defense today. What do you make of the way they played?
“I thought they played hard and with passion. We’ll watch the tape and we’ll be hard on them. We’ll watch everything, but I thought our guys came out today and I just really wanted them to have fun playing football and the only way you have fun is if you play with some passion and you play together. When I’m looking up and just the energy you feel, I thought our guys really enjoyed the day. I know I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second half, but I enjoyed the ending. I like how hard the guys played and very physical it seemed like.”
Were Nickel D.J. Reed and S Marcell Harris in particular some of the guys bringing that energy you’re talking about?
“Yeah. Definitely. I don’t see every single play out there, but definitely when I was looking up I saw both of those guys make a number of hits and did a good job on coverage too.”
DeForest Buckner said the defense was lackadaisical last week. It didn’t look lackadaisical today, what did you see from the front seven in particular?
“I thought they were rushing hard and going all day. That’s what I saw from them last week too. They had more success this week. Did a good job in the pass game. I thought we handled the run game much better. We struggled with our edges last week, which got us a number of explosives. I know they tried to hit us with a number of the same things and the guys did a much better job.”
You had a number of off sides in the first half. Was that Nick and his voice inflection and what was behind all the neutral zone infractions?
“No, it’s that [Denver Broncos OLB] Von [Miller] is going to do that every time until you show him you’re going to go on two and it was frustrating for us for a little bit, especially the first time we did, I want to say it might have been on the third play of the game, I forget. But, the first time we went on two, we jumped and that’s what’s hard as an offense. These guys are teeing off the ball, we’ve got to come off and if we jump and you’re not allowed to use cadence, good luck versus that pass rush. So, we jumped a little bit early so I assume they think we’re not going to use it as much and if Von guesses right you can’t do anything about it. So, he guessed wrong a number of times in a row, which was a better job of our guys keeping their poise than they did earlier.”
What happened on that victory formation there? Was there a little bit of miscalculation? You should probably be able to run it out, right?
“Yeah, definitely. We thought it was dead even and then it was off one second. The play clock and the game clock were off one second. So, when you get to fourth down you have to have what we call a slow clock, where the quarterback comes back, pause just one second before he takes a knee. Which Nick was very ready for and very ready to do, but he just snapped it with six seconds left on the play clock and took a slow knee. But, it stops on fourth down, so it was a good rookie mistake and rookie rep. That was good, because he’ll learn it forever and it won’t happen again and it didn’t cost us the game.”
Can you take us through the long third down play to WR Dante Pettis?
“The one that got tipped? It was tipped, right?”
It looked like it might have been.
“We were very fortunate on that because it wasn’t a look I liked or wanted and I called time out right before it. Fortunately, the ref didn’t hear me, which I started to get very worked up about. But, then it was a helluva job of him not hearing me. I was very happy and it worked out well.”
How do you assess Mullens performance?
“I thought he played well. He did some real good things and was one of the reasons I won.”
T Joe Staley celebrated that catch that lost five yards, is there a fine involved for something like that?
“There better be. I mean not from the NFL, but his room better fine him. We show that stuff every week. When balls get tipped, we always tell the O-lineman to knock it down. Their reaction is catch it, so we always show what happens when they do catch it, they usually get their legs taken out and it’s not fun for them. But, Joe refuses to fully believe he’s an O-Lineman. He’s always trying to show us how athletic he is and that was his time so he got excited, but he hurt us. We lost five yards. So, it was not a smart play.”
Was Pettis the designed target on that play?
“You’re high-low on an inside player where it depends. I definitely didn’t watch what happened, because I was starting to yell, not yell at the ref, talk to the ref. It depends on what the Mike linebacker does. He’s got a chance to be number one. He’s got a chance to be number two. It depends what the Mike does.”