Head Coach Kyle Shanahan Press Conference

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Press Conference – November 22, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Alright guys, the injuries, [CB] Davonte Harris, he had a knee. His MRI was good, hoping to get him back in practice this week. [OL] Laken Tomlinson, he had an ankle, should be limited this week. Go ahead.”

Two things about RB Elijah Mitchell, where does he stand for this week? And how close was he to being available yesterday?

“We thought he was going to have a chance earlier in the week, but we could see he wasn’t close by the time we got to Sunday. I’m not going to guess this week. I know he couldn’t go today, so we’ll see how he is on Wednesday and just take it day-by-day.”

When you look at that game yesterday, what are going to be the teaching points or what were the teaching points when you talked to the team?

“I thought there was some real good things that we did, just the way we came out on both sides of the ball. Obviously, the long drive the offense started with, just being able to throw the ball like that and make some third downs. But we lost the ball on that first drive, which we had a great fumble recovery. I think it was the first drive, it might’ve been the second by [WR] Jauan [Jennings]. We had a number of penalties that we need to get better at. I thought we were fortunate on the last play, scoring to [TE George] Kittle, I didn’t think that we were in a legal formation. There are things we’ve got to clean up. By no means was it perfect and we have to play a lot better this week out there.”

DL Nick Bosa has been producing every game obviously, but how invaluable has he been just in this comeback season for him?

“Bosa is a special player and he’s just as valuable this year as he was his rookie year. He was the difference for us in 2019 and we missed him greatly last year. And you guys can see why again this year. I think he’s getting better each week. And I think he’s playing his best ball right now of the year.”

What about your defense as a whole, obviously a very poor game, maybe the worst of the season against the Arizona Cardinals. But then the last two weeks has been very good. It was a very abrupt kind of turn around back to the form of 2019. What do you see from them and how confident are you that they can continue going forward?

“I just think we’ve done a lot. Going back to the game three weeks ago, the Cardinals played good game. They played hard, they played tough, but we gave them a number of big freebies, is how we look at it. We let them get to our corners in our run game. And another big run earlier that went up the middle and we had a guy out of a gap. Great play that they got on us. There was another number of big plays that we gave that that we didn’t make them earn everything. And then these last couple of weeks, I think we’ve haven’t made any mistakes. We’ve been very on it and we’ve made everyone work for everything they’ve gotten. And we’ve also found a way to get the turnovers and the turnovers have been huge.”

What prompted the move from OL Jaylon Moore to OL Tom Compton at right tackle and where does that position stand entering this week?

“Nothing prompted it. That was the plan going in. We were going to rotate them and play both of them. I didn’t even know until after the game that Tom played the whole second half and I asked [offensive line coach] Chris [Foerster] why that happened and we just didn’t have that many plays. And by the time we got the ball back, he kept it that way, but I see it not changing so far. We’ll see how practice goes this week, but both of those guys are about at the same pace for us. One’s got a lot more experience, which makes him a little more consistent, but we also believe in Jaylon and what he has done and what he can become. So, we’re trying to play both of them until we see a bigger difference.”

Obviously, you guys have some injuries at the running back position, but RB Trey Sermon got 10 carries yesterday. Has he put himself in a better position to be able to step up and fill a backup role?

“Yeah, I do. I think he’s better now than when he was given the last opportunity and I know I get these questions about Trey a lot. So, he’s been doing it each week. He has been earning stuff and improving each week, but there is a pecking order with backs. You can only give so many guys the ball. Elijah’s kind of solidified himself as our starter this year. [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] has done it since he’s been here and [RB JaMycal] Hasty being on the bench and then Elijah getting hurt this week opened up an opportunity for him to get some reps again. And I thought he came in and showed what he’s been showing in practice, he’s been getting better and I thought he did a good job in helping us win on Sunday.”

WR Brandon Aiyuk’s catches, many of them were contested. Do you see him really thriving in that position? It seems like he almost enjoys that more, the competition.

“Yeah. I think B.A. has been playing at a real high level here these last few weeks in all aspects of the game. Just his physicality in the run game, his physicality when he’s got the ball in his hand, and his physicality when the ball is in the air. His game has become a lot sharper, he’s not hesitating on anything and I feel his confidence growing and you can see the quarterback’s and his teammates’ confidence growing around him.”

And also, did you talk to Jauan Jennings after the little scuffle that he had? What actually went down over there?

“I just told him great job, now put your helmet on, which it took him too long to hear put your helmet on. But I thought from what I saw, he was competing as hard as you can compete on a run play and just playing through the whistle. And obviously, the other guy got upset with him and did some things to Jauan that I was a little worried about because Jauan gets very excited and I was just proud of him that he was able to keep his composure, especially after he got hit in the face with this helmet off. And for him not to retaliate because regardless of what happens, you’re not allowed to hit someone back either. So I was just proud of him for doing that and getting us a very important 15-yard penalty because we had just got stopped on third-and-three on the jet sweep. So it was a huge play by him and it was twice there in the red zone that he led to us getting first downs. Or really led to us getting points that didn’t have much to do with him in the play. And that was the first time recovering the fumble that Jeff had and the second time was he got that penalty.”

It seemed like you guys were in a little bit of a rut, just as far as like a play caller. Just since then, it seems like you guys have found your identity, what’s changed for you? Was it as simple as just you guys playing smash-mouth running game, you leaning on your playmakers, QB Jimmy Garoppolo being effective on third downs? Can you just kind of walk us through your process during these past couple of games where you guys have had three 30-point games in the last four games?

“I just think we’ve all gotten a little bit better in what we’re doing. It’s not much of a new way that we’ve been going about it. I think we’ve just been doing it at a consistent, higher level. When we haven’t ran the ball as well, which we haven’t, yesterday at times and verse the Rams. But we’ve been able to move the chains on third down, which allows you to keep smashing the ball as you say and playing smash-mouth football. But it’s not like we’re just gashing people in the run game. We’re finding a way to stay out there. Whether it’s been the run or the pass game. And I think at the same time, our defenses have been stopping guys at a higher level. I also think we’ve gotten turnovers on special teams and defense. And it also has been very big that these last couple of weeks our offense hasn’t turned the ball over at all either. So when you do all that stuff, you do get a lot more plays, a lot more drives and that helps everybody. Coaches and players get in a better rhythm.”

Following up on the defense question earlier, the secondary in particular has had some bumps this year with the pass interference penalties and such. What have you seen specifically from that group these last two weeks that is encouraging?

“They haven’t had the same amount of penalties, which is where it started. They’ve also found a way to get the ball. They haven’t been given up the big plays. It’s that all that stuff hit us at once pretty hard and so I know the spotlight got on it and it was well-deserved, but the guys haven’t shied away. They kept working at it and right now they’re doing better.”

On the Jimmy Garoppolo pass to Jeff Wilson in the end zone, was Jimmy Garoppolo trying to throw over defenders? Is that kind of why the pass was off target?

“I don’t think so. I just think he missed it. I didn’t really exactly ask him because it’s probably what he would say. He just missed it. Guys just miss throws sometimes. Jimmy’s got a real quick release and he just ripped it out there because it kind of flashed on him. We weren’t thinking of hitting him right away. We were thinking of hitting the front side and we came out of the huddle and they got confused on who they had with the formation we were in. So they just dropped Jeff and I think Jimmy got a little surprised and saw him at the last second and missed the throw.”

You brought in QB Trey Lance for the final series for obvious reasons. Did you give any thought to bringing him in a series or two before just to get Jimmy out of there and give Trey Lance a little bit more of that game-time experience you say he needs?

“No, I didn’t. I don’t think about one person in those situations. I think about our whole team. I’m not just playing one person for his own experience. I try to make a decision on what’s best for the team and how to win that day. And I think it was a three-score game until I did take everybody out, not just Trey. Once we kicked that field goal, I think it was when we got 30 and at least made it four scores. Then I did it first on all the defensive guys and they went on a long drive, which I think went from like six minutes to three minutes. But then I did it on all the offensive guys too.”

Do you have any initial thoughts on the Vikings? Have you dug into them a little bit? And obviously, Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins is playing pretty efficient football with only two interceptions this year.

“Yeah, no, I haven’t. This is my last thing that I do with this game. And as soon as I’m done with you guys, I get started. But I’ve been seeing how well they’ve been doing all year. I know how well head coach Mike Zimmer does on defense and he does a great job. I know how good of a quarterback Kirk always is and their receivers are great. I know they have a great running game, so it isn’t a surprise to me that they’re playing really good ball right now and it’ll be a hell of a challenge this week.”