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On Wednesday, the media took part in a conference call with Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren and linebacker Julian Peterson. Here are some key points they hit regarding the game on Monday against the San Francisco 49ers.
From the Holmgren call:
When you looked at the schedule in the preseason, did you expect this game to be a 4-4 team against a 2-6 team?
"No, I didn't. I think both teams had hoped for a better record at this particular time, but it is what it is. It doesn't take any luster away from the game, as far as we're concerned. It's a very, very important game still and I'm sure San Francisco feels the same way."
Does it surprise you that the 49ers have lost 6 games in a row and have the worst offense, statistically, in the league?
"If you look at it, they've had some injury situations. That's happened to me before and sometimes that's a little tough to overcome on offense, it really is. Some key guys get hurt and all of a sudden it changes the things that you can do well, but now all of a sudden it's not happening, because of the changes. I think that's been the biggest thing. They were a very good offensive team last year, against us in particular. I hope our defense can play a good game against them Monday night. They have to."
How much does Vernon Davis change the dynamic of that offense?
"Anytime you have a tight end with his skill level, I think in our particular offense, our tight end is very important. You don't see many guys with his combinations of size, strength and speed, in fact, very few. I think he's a special player that way and you can, if you choose to, set up the offense that way. Yeah, he's a vital part of it."
Would you say that Julian Peterson is perfect for covering a tight end like that?
"I think if you had to put a linebacker on a tight end Julian would be the perfect choice. But I still think it's a tough duty for the defensive player. In one on one situations, when we got to training camp, I expect the tight end to win that. I think if you're going to do it, you can't do it too much and just put a guy on a tight end, particularly a linebacker. I think that's asking a lot of that young man."
On 49ers challenging teams to run the ball and if Seahawks see that as a challenge:
"Yeah, it's a challenge. I'm still going to do what I think we have to do to move the football. It depends who those people are, too. I remember in the old days, when I was coaching in San Francisco and Fritz Shermer, the defensive coordinator with the Rams, would open up the game with what he called "big nickel." The thing was that big nickel wasn't that much smaller than their base defense, but it is something that the other team is telling you to try. Can you be successful trying it? That's the chess game that takes place."
If you were an executive at ESPN would you not be looking forward to Monday night's game between Seattle and San Francisco?
"No, I wouldn't say that. I suppose with the flex scheduling that takes place during the season, that's one of the things they try to avoid; having two teams that are down on their luck playing. It's too early in the season. It's a division opponent. And it's a good rivalry, it has been a good rivalry. There are people in the game that are marquee type players. I don't think they're worried too much about the game."
Is it surprising to see a team that's 2-6 only two games out of the division lead?
"No, it just shows you what the division is doing so far. We had our chances to gain a little bit more ground, and we didn't. We lost it in a tough game in over time. We've had our chances this year to win a couple more games, realistically, and we didn't. But that's the nature of football. Now it boils down to everybody. It's an eight-game season. It's not a 16-game season anymore and it's still close enough, so everyone has hopes."
Did you consider not practicing today?
What was your thinking on that?
"We're going to keep our normal schedule. We played and I thought it was important to come back in and practice today. They had yesterday off."
Does Alex Smith look like a different quarterback than the one you saw in Seattle last year?
"To be honest I haven't seen him too much. I spend most of my time looking at the defensive side of the ball. I know he's a tough guy because that injury he's played with is a tough injury, particularly when it's on your throwing shoulder. So I know he's tough. And he still moves and he gives our defense the same problems that he did before. Is he playing the same? I wouldn't be a good one to ask."
What was your impression of Patrick Willis?
"I think he's a fine football player. Every once in a while you have one of those youngsters, and he comes in and makes an impact right away. He's a really good player. I like the way he plays. Tough to prepare for."
What makes him tough to prepare for?
"I don't know. I guess he's got a great motor. He's got good speed, tackles well. And he plays the game you would hope all your players would play the game. He plays kind of relentless. I just like him."
From the Peterson call:
Are you surprised that at 4-4 you are still at the top of the division?
"Our division is struggling right now. We had a couple of rough games from everybody in our conference. With that, we are still number one, but it won't remain the same if we don't address some of the issues we have right now."
Was the first 49ers game the best game the Seahawks have played?
"I don't think so. That was one of our better games, yes. But I would say one of our better games was against the Rams."
Are you surprised the 49ers are at 2-6?
"Yes, I thought they would be better as far as record indications. But the struggles they have go for any team in the league. There are only a few teams that are peaking right now. It really doesn't matter how strong you start out. It's all about how you finish. Right now they are struggling, but any game can kick it off and hopefully it's not against us. That goes for any team."
Does it matter to you that you will be facing one of the worst offenses in the league?
"No we aren't concerned about. Our main thing is to slow down the run. Frank Gore has been successful in the past. I know with their last game, they did a good job of setting up the tempo against the Atlanta Falcons. Even though they didn't get the win, but I think they accomplished what they wanted to in the run game. So we just need to take care of the run and everything else will take care of itself."
Is there anything else on offense that is a cause for concern for Seattle's defense?
"They definitely have big play guys. You have Arnaz Battle, Darrell Jackson, and Alex Smith can get it going once he gets into a rhythm. I think they have a three headed monster when it comes to running with Frank, because the other guys, Maurice Hicks and Michael Robinson, are more than capable. So they have a nice unit, but we just need to take care of the run first and everything else will take care of itself."
Why don't you think the 49ers used you more in the 3rd down pass rush?
"I think we just had a different situation in San Francisco. In San Francisco, we had a lot of rushers already. We were struggling when it came to coverage. We had corners and safeties go down. We were missing critical guys to play 3rd down in space and with that somebody had to adjust and that was me. I didn't mind that. I did whatever it took to help the team out. With Seattle, we have a lot of good cover guys which gives me the opportunity to stick my head in on the pass."
Do you like your role in Seattle better than San Francisco?
"No, it doesn't matter. I just don't want to be labeled as one guy. Usually whatever opponent we are going against is my biggest thing. If it's an athletic tight end, put me on the tight end and put someone else on the rush. Or if you need pressure as a pass rusher, stick me at defensive end. But that's my only concern with all that."
What kind of obstacles does Vernon Davis present with his game?
"I think the biggest thing is his speed and size. He's a 4.4 guy. He gets separation down the field. Him and number 46 (Delanie Walker), both do a good job of stretching the field to help out the quarterback. Most teams don't have a big enough safety to take some of these big athletic tight ends, so we have to make sure that we use our athletes to counter that and to help out in certain situations."
Who would you compare Vernon to in terms of tight ends you have covered?
"His size and speed is similar to Jeremy Shockey. Shockey is more of a consistent route runner and catcher, but the size and speed factor remind me of Shockey. Vernon is definitely faster."
What are the challenges of going against Jonas Jennings versus Adam Snyder?
"I am familiar with both guys going against them in practice. Snyder is more well rounded on the offensive line. He can play all positions of the offensive line. He's a solid blocker. We just need to make sure to attack him very well and get him off his game plan and focus of what he needs to do. We just need to apply pressure on him and let him know we are attacking him every time."
Will you be assigned to cover Vernon?
"Occasionally, but there is no particular guy right now."
When you guys played before, Rocky Bernard had that big hit on Alex Smith. How much does that do to fire up a defense?
"It sets the tone. But our mentality was to do whatever it took to get the win. Both teams were 2-1 and 2-0 in the division. So it doesn't matter who is in the game. We are going to apply the same kind of pressure and enthusiasm."
How much did you guys think about the 49ers beating you twice last year during the off-season?
"We didn't really focus on that. The biggest thing was that we needed to refocus more. There were some comments made in the media saying this would be the game where they would get their run game back and things of that nature. Anytime you talk like that a week before a game you better be prepared to know that team is going to be ready for you next week. My advice is don't say anything (laughing)."
Do you remember who said anything?
"No, I can't remember. It was probably a number of guys. Like I said, they were feeling good about themselves. They were 2-1 and 2-0 in the division."
How much better are you guys as far as run defense goes?
"The biggest thing is that everyone is at their gaps and they know what their assignment is and trusting the guy next to them. If I have the inside gap, the next person has to come over the top. Nobody is peaking at anybody else's gap and that's the biggest thing to our success in the run defense."
Is it still special to face your former team after three times?
"It is special to me. I like it. I get to see a lot of the guys I played with and get to go against them. We get to talk about it later on and that's the fun part for me."
On it seeming like he was playing in front of a home crowd the last time they played:
"That was my whole point to let everyone know I am still the same guy and don't listen to everything they read saying once you get an injury you won't be the same. That's all I wanted to prove."
To have that kind of performance against your former team, was that about as special a regular season game can get for you?
"Definitely. Like you said going against your team and in front of the former home crowd. I usually get the crowd into it. They booed me and that made me feel good because they knew exactly what I was doing and they responded to it and I got the reaction I wanted."
After every sack, you pointed to the back of your jersey. What were you saying?
"No matter what the number is, the name is still the same."
What do you think of that number?
"I still hate it, but what can you do."