Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

What Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Richard Hightower said ahead of 49ers-Rams

Jan 26, 2022 at 1:52 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Head coach Kyle Shanahan, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke with reporters before today's practice. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Opening comments:

"Alright guys, the injuries for today. [RB] Jeff Wilson Jr., ankle, will be limited. [T] Trent Williams, ankle, won't practice. [CB] Ambry Thomas, knee, will be limited. [QB] Jimmy Garoppolo, thumb, full. [RB] Elijah [Mitchell], knee, won't practice. Go ahead."

I just want to ask you about WR Deebo Samuel. Obviously his role as a running back has been very good for the team and him as far as he's set records and shown everything he could do. But I was just wondering, is there an element of sacrifice to what he's doing as far as the way he runs and often between the tackles? Maybe it's not, I don't know, but the physical punishment he's taking, is it a sacrifice in some ways and is it ever something you had to kind of discuss with him?

"Yeah. It's something that you talk about before you do, you talk about it during it and always talk about it, but yeah, the more you get hit, of course, the more it's a sacrifice. And the more handoffs we give him more, the more passes he catches, he's going to take some hits, but Deebo's handled it well. He's one of the main reasons we're here and I think it's one of the things that's given him the opportunity to be one of the best players in the NFL. So the more you do that, the more risks there is, but I think our team and Deebo are very happy how far he's taken us here so far."

You didn't mention the shoulder with Jimmy. Is that no longer an issue?

"I'm just reading what's on this injury report, so I'm sure it's pretty good. I hear about the thumb more than the shoulder, so that's off the injury report now, so I guess we're good."

As you look back at the season thus far, what has been the biggest surprise to you about this team?

"I don't sit there and have a lot of foregone conclusions. I don't decide things before they happen. I try to live in the moment and we just go as hard as we can. I can't say I was surprised how we rebounded. You go expecting that and that's why we try to stick the course. I think some of how the younger guys, the way they started out, what I've talked about earlier, guys like Ambry and how much they've come up later in the year. He did surprise me with that, so I'd say that was one of the bigger ones, especially how drastic of a jump he made. But yeah, not much else."

The other night after the game, you mentioned that one of the reasons you think your team is able to kind of fight back in adverse situations is you have a bunch of guys who love football and you've talked about that before in the past. When you're trying to put the team together, what are the things you're looking for that help you identify what a guy who loves football looks like?

"I think usually it's how they look on tape. Just how they play. There's a certain style to it that you can tell the energy they play with down-in and down-out that they're not doing it. because a coach asked them, they're not doing it to earn a scholarship, they're not doing it to try to make money and get in the NFL, they're doing it because they have a passion for it. And usually you can see that passion on film. Sometimes you can hear it from people, but you can also get fooled with that. The tape usually says it all and I'd say that's where we start with."

What are you seeing out of the pass rushes for both your defense and the Rams defense for how well they're playing this postseason?

"I think we've done a real good job with it, and I think we've gotten stronger as the year has gone and I thought we did a hell of job versus them last game, which was huge for us, especially in that second half. Their past rush it's as good as it gets also. The individuals that they have, especially. It all starts with [Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald] 99 who is just a generational talent and what he attracts to give someone a chance to stop him. You have to worry about that, but then you add in all the guys around him and some pretty good coverages with it. So usually the teams at this point in the year all have good pass rushes. I think it's pretty hard to get to this point when you don't have one. But I think we're two of the top."

What's your communication been like this week with Trent Williams and how is he feeling? And as a second part of that, Week 18, when you had to turn to OL Colton McKivitz how impressed were you with how he was able to step in, first time suiting up for a game this season?

"I haven't seen Trent yet today, I'll see him here in a little bit when we go out to the field. Trent's the same as he was that game. In Trent's mind, there's no way he is not playing. Now that's why he was so crushed last game because he believed he would and his body wouldn't let him. So hopefully we'll have some better luck this game. But I know he believes he's playing and so do I, so we'll see how that pans out as the week goes. If he can, he will. And Colton was unbelievable that game. I was living in hope, thinking Trent was going to be able to go and finding that out pregame and just going right up to Colton, Trent was sitting with me and we were like, 'Colton, you ready?' And just the look on his face. He looked ready, whatever that is and Trent and I both laughed and were like, 'all right, we're good.' And then he went out and played like that. And the other game that he played the year before was versus the Rams. He ended up having to start at guard for us when we went there the year before and got that win, right before we went to Arizona. So Colton stepped it up huge and we wouldn't be here right now if he didn't play the way he did in that game."

As far as Jimmy and some of the throws to the sideline on Saturday, how do you balance his desire to make plays in those instances versus being safe with the ball and sometimes maybe just throwing the ball away and taking the incompletion? And if that was an issue, did you discuss that with him after the game?

"Oh yeah, you discuss it every, that's what coaching is. Any play that you don't think was the right play, you speak about it and you point it out. Sometimes they make unbelievable plays that you don't think was the right play and you tell them great job doing it, but you also say, 'Hey, if you keep doing this, it's eventually going to cost you.' So that's just how you watch film and evaluate guys. And that's why Jimmy's fun to coach. He knows the answer before I get to him. He knows that he shouldn't have let that ball go. He had it early, but he couldn't. People were in the pocket and then he tried to get it there late, which he knows that he was too aggressive on that play. But that's something you work with all those guys on. And it's going to happen at times, they're the quarterback, but they're the ones that are responsible for it and sometimes the best play is a sack."

You still hear some of your players talk about last year, the stay in Arizona in December as like a unifying moment. It could have been horrendous and maybe there was a unifying thing about that. Do you remember your emotion, your reaction when you heard you were going to have to stay in Arizona for a month and do you think it was something that kind of helped bind the team together and maybe still has an affect this season?

"Yeah, I was not in a very good place when I found that out. It didn't make sense to me and it took me a while to accept it, but I had no choice. But I do think it has affects on us this year. At the time I didn't, I didn't think it was the best bonding experience. I was afraid we were going to hate each other more, because we were stuck in a hotel and couldn't get away from each other and things weren't going that right with the season as it was. So it was just such a challenge like mentally, physically, everything. That was a really tough month, which I think everyone will tell you about. And a lot of guys, it was hard on everyone, but some people it was a lot harder on than others. And I don't think anyone was in a great state there. But looking back on it now, I feel like it helped us so much because I feel like it hardened our team. It hardened so many individuals and then now coming back the year following you realize the whole team was hardened in a good way to where we made that run in the Super Bowl where we started 8-0 and not many things went bad that Super Bowl year until the end of the Super Bowl. And I think everyone came back so fired up and thinking it was just going to be a fun year again and it quickly turned out to not be. And then to end it with Arizona, it kind of reminded guys that man, this isn't always that fun and this can be a challenge and that's kind of what I think is good about it because I don't think football ever has to be fun. It's what you're supposed to do. It's a challenge. And when you succeed in something and you can pull together and pull it off, that's what's fun. Kind of once you accomplish something and you can look back and just feel something and be proud of who you became and who your team became, but that doesn't mean it has to be fun. And if you're going to change when things get bad, then you're not going to be able to overcome anything. And I think looking at us when we were 3-5 this year, no one was having fun. It wasn't fun to come to work. It wasn't fun to deal with a lot of that stuff, but people didn't look at it like it had to be fun. We just had to focus on our job. We had to get better at what we're doing and we still have time to do it. And man, that's a hell of a lot easier when you're doing this here than being stuck in a hotel in Arizona. So I feel like that stuff hardens you and allows you just to be stronger, more battle tested and I think that was individually. And when you get a bunch of strong individuals, then it does end up affecting the team."

How many times has Deebo actually called a shot maybe that we don't know about with you? And how do you marvel at what he's doing outside the tackles as a running back right now? He's leading the league in yards per rush outside the tackles with nine touchdowns outside the tackles.

"I think Deebo right now is playing like one of the best players in the NFL. So just to be able to do what he is doing, he's obviously talented, but the will that he has it's unbelievable. And Deebo is one of the most respectful players I've ever been around. He wants the ball because he believes he can change it at all times, but I think what he said to me actually was, 'Kyle, I got you.' And if he's got me, I'm going to give him the ball. And Deebo is a very good person that our team loves and he cares about everybody and that's why he is fun to watch because he does it the right way. He's aggressive in everything he does, but yet he's not out of control in anything, because that's who he is. He doesn't have to get himself real amped up for a game, which some people you see play with the physicality he does. They're borderline blacked out on gameday. You can't even talk to them because they have to go to a certain level just to get there. And Deebo doesn't, it's who he is and that's, to me, what allows him to play at such a physical level, but to do it at a higher level than most people do. And that's why he doesn't really call a shot much. He just inspires. And he inspires me and he inspires our team and that makes it a lot easier to call plays."

When Jimmy Garoppolo throws an interception, you often say you'd prefer him to take a sack or throw the ball away. I can't think of many instances of him throwing the ball out of bounds in his career. Is that something you talk to him about? And is it something you would like him to do more of?

"Yeah. I always want him when no one's open and there's not a good play there. What are your options? If there's a lane in the pocket, please scramble and pick up what you can, which I think he does has done that a number of times. I think one of the hardest things with Jimmy is when people are covered, he believes he can just put the ball in the right spot, which he does a lot. That throw that he threw to [WR] Jauan Jennings on third-and-five, we were hot, he didn't have time to throw that ball and somehow, he created it, which is one of the most talented throws I've ever seen. And Jauan ended up dropping it. That was unbelievable. Was it the best decision? It was because it was right on the money, but that's the stuff that not many people can pull off and that is risky. So that's a fine line when you have someone who is as talented of a thrower as Jimmy. He doesn't feel the same way always in the heat of the battle, that he can't make that throw. Now when you watch it on tape and stuff, then he'll see it. But you're not thinking about that when you're playing a sport, you're just reacting and those are the things that I try to put him in better situations. And sometimes when it doesn't go the right way, yeah, it's disappointing. But I can't tell you how many times that I don't think anyone's open and there is no play to be made and we need to make one or the game's going to be over and he finds a way to make it. And I'm not then saying, 'Hey, don't do that.' I'm thanking him for that. That's playing quarterback in this league, so it goes both ways."

Obviously, you guys and the Rams have played each other a ridiculous amount of times over the last few years. Is there an element of when you play a team three times and you guys know each other so well, is there an element of not overthinking things or trying to gain an edge, but not getting away from what you normally do?

"I believe so. You know each other so well. We hadn't played Dallas for a while, so it takes a little longer to get a feel for the tape and whatever you watch, eventually when you get through the week, you're going to feel different because you soak a team in more and you can't do that in one or two days. It takes all week. But when you're going against a team, like us going against the Rams or them versus us, there's not much to soak in. We knew what the tape was going to look like before we turned it on. And they are the exact same way, so when you have something like that, I think it makes for a little bit more fun of a football game, because it's truly what it's about. It's just a football game and everyone's going to go out there and a lot is on the line. We're going to play as hard as we can. They're going to play as hard as they can and we are going to see who makes the most plays and who makes the least mistakes."

What have you seen out of the Rams pass rush since they acquired Los Angeles Rams OLB Von Miller? How has he kind of changed that dynamic and how has he even enhanced kind of what Aaron Donald is doing?

"They were so good without Von, so I think it was the first time we got to play him, it was hard to even take that in because their rush was so good anyways. And then you add Von Miller and just watching him throughout the year, you can tell he keeps getting healthier. I know he was a little banged up when he came over from Denver. But you could tell he keeps getting healthier, is getting more comfortable and they've got as good of a group as I've ever seen. And to add Von Miller with the people they already have, with their scheme and everything, everyone saw it last week versus Tampa and that's usually how it's going to look. So hopefully you get them to play some other stuff and we can make it a different type game, but that's what these guys are made for."

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

The other night, obviously your unit was integral to the win. What kind of confidence does that give you and how satisfying was that after for a few weeks of it being a little bit tougher on you guys?

"Well, anytime you have a chance to play for the NFC Championship, it's exciting. Obviously proud of the guys and what they did in that game. Coming out basically start with [DB] Jimmie Ward blocking that field goal before the half. That was outstanding effort by him, as well as [DL] Jordan Willis and [CB] Dontae Johnson. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] had some kickoff returns in there that helped us along with [RB JaMycal] Hasty. And I think the guys really feel good about that. I mean, Jordan Willis made maybe one of the biggest plays of his career. And I know a lot of the guys are saying it's one of the biggest plays in 49er playoff history. So I really am proud for him. I am excited for him. I'm excited that [S Talanoa Hufanga] Huff had a chance to scoop and score it there and having great awareness and then [K] Robbie [Gould] and [LS Taybor Pepper] Pep and [P] Mitch [Wishnowsky] being in there with great operation, along with the protection to kick that game-winning field goal. So the guys did a nice job swinging momentum. They did a good job there. They are fired up about it and they should be and we're looking forward to playing in the NFC Championship and be excited. So it is just a testament to their resilience. It's a testament to things that they've been through. I tell them all the time, everything may not go the way you want it, but you've got to keep pushing and keep fighting. And those are the type of guys that [general manager] John [Lynch] and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] have here. I think it speaks to the character of the men that we have in our locker room. And we just don't want our season to end. So I hope that answers your question."

Two things. Hindsight, obviously you of course want Talanoa Hufanga to score the touchdown, but is the first rule to taught just to cover the ball? And then also a lot of players spoke about you giving you props after the game. How does that make you feel about your unit standing up and kind of giving you sport?

"Well, I think that it depends on the situation to answer your first question with Huff. Where the ball is. If it's blocked behind the line of scrimmage, if it's blocked beyond the line of scrimmage, you want to get away from it. Because if you touch it, then it becomes a live ball. Behind the line of scrimmage you always wanna scoop and score it. And then it just depends on the situation. How many guys are around you? If it's in a crowded area, you definitely want to jump on it, if there are Packers around. But he was in a good situation there where he could scoop and score it. And he has great awareness and he's a really great kid and he's just, I'm just happy for that guy because he worked his tail off for that moment and he deserves it."

Just a lot of your players spoke up, giving you props after the game and how you had a great game plan. What does that say about your unit and how they support you?

"Well, I mean, it's really not about me. I mean, I appreciate that. It's really about the team and how we can help the team. And I have faith in the guys and we have faith in each other and I have confidence in them to be put in those situations and to make the plays when it's time to make those plays. But for me, I mean, it's not really about me. I mean, to me, I've always been a man of faith and my grandma always told me he may not come when you want him to, but he'll always come on time. So that's, it's not about me, not about me at all. It's about the guys in the locker room and I give all the glory to God."

After the game, Jimmie Ward recognized Dontae Johnson and Jordan Willis for his field goal block. He also said that was something that you picked up on and pointed out to him the week before the game. What is it that you saw that you could exploit on that play?

"Yeah, I mean, like we do every week, it's really nothing that we've done differently than what we do every week. We always look at our opponent and see where we could have an advantage on them. And we thought on that particular play that we would have a good chance of getting pressure. And Jordan did a phenomenal job. He's six-four, he has long arms. He went in there and pushed the guy back and got his hands up and made one of the greatest plays of his career. And I'm just hoping that we can do something special this week to help the team. We're just excited about playing in the NFC Championship."

As great as you guys did on Saturday night, you've got to do it all over again on Sunday. How do you do it? What challenges to the Rams pose to your units?

"When I look at the Rams, they're a very, very good unit. We've played them twice, obviously. They have a really good returner and [Los Angeles Rams WR Brandon] Powell, he's outstanding. He's averaging over 15 yards a return right now. They're doing a good job of blocking for him on punt return. [Los Angeles Rams P] Johnny Hekker is a phenomenal punter. He does a really good job of limiting returns. So he's a challenge. He's been good for years. [Los Angeles Rams K] Matt Gay their kicker was the Pro Bowl representative this year. He's outstanding. And he does a great job on kickoffs. He does a great job on field goals. He does a great job limiting returns and making it tough for you. So we just have to do what we did last week and do what we do every week and it's play technique and fundamentals and go out there and give our best effort and just be resilient and fight to the end. That's what this team is. That's what we all are, are fighters. So we'll just fight to the end and hopefully the ball bounces our way."

Just wondering if the blocked punt was a result of a technique or a weakness or something you scouted during the week or if it was sort of a phenomenal effort by Willis? Just could you take us through the block punt?

"Yeah, I think it's all of the above. I mean, I think our coaches did a good job of looking at what they struggled with and what we thought would be our strength against what they do. And I think the players did a good job of showing disguises on a lot of different other returns. And we used it when we needed it and Jordan executed the technique perfectly, just like he's supposed to do. And he got his long arms up there and he blocked the kick and the rest is history, you know, Huff scooped it, and I'm just happy for those guys. I'm happy that it happened for them because they work so darn hard. And sometimes the results don't always show, but they never change. They come to work every day. I've got so much respect for those men in the locker room. They come to work every day, they hold their head high, they try to bust their tail and they to make sure they give us the same effort every week. So I'm just happy for them."

You just used the phrase we used it when we needed it. I assume that's similar to what you do when you put Deebo Samuel at kickoff return. What is the process for kind of figuring out when you want to deploy him in that role?

"Yeah. I have to tip my hat to coach Shanahan on that one. Coach Shanahan has a great feel for that stuff. And we go through it and talk through it together on the sideline and throughout the week. And he lets us know when, 'Hey, you can use Deebo.' And Deebo is a team player. That dude loves football. And he told me before the game, he was like, 'I got you this game.' And he really means it. I mean, he really means it. I still remember when he was in college and we went to the Senior Bowl and he would ride with me. A little quick story. He would ride with me to practice, to do the return. He'd come with the specialist to do the return period, because it started before practice and he would go out there, and he obviously was a great kick returner, but he had never caught punts on a consistent basis. And it just showed me he wanted to go out there and try to catch punts. I wanted to try to do anything coach I'll do anything. And most guys won't do that, they don't want to embarrass themselves. But he's a tough son of a gun. And you obviously saw it on that play."

Just about Jordan Willis, DL Nick Bosa after the game mentioned it, he's a quieter guy and takes a little bit longer to get to know. And I know when he said a few words in the locker room after the game the team went totally bananas. Can you, I don't know, just explain a little bit about his personality and maybe what kind of guy he is?

"Yeah. Jordan Willis is a wonderful person. He's a quiet person and I think Nick's 100-percent right on that. Nick Bosa has a great feel for our team and great feel for personalities. I think that's one of his other strengths along with obviously his past rush. Jordan is really, really quiet. But Jordan's really cerebral. He'll send me a lot of notes on different things he sees on tape or he'll ask very, very detailed questions. And that's why the locker room went crazy for him because he's quiet and he never says much, but they respect the way he works and they respect what he is and what he represents. And I do too. And I'm glad he is on his football team."

Heard you quote your grandmother earlier. Just wanted to ask you maybe what lessons, what memories you still carry with you from your time growing up in Aldine? I know it's still a special place for you.

"Yeah. I mean, I appreciate the question and I appreciate the question, especially from Houston. But it was a great time for me growing up there. Just learned so many lessons and you're just fortunate to be around people like my grandmother who instilled a lot of faith in me and just taught me to keep pushing. And I had a lot of coaches in that Aldine district. They always talked about playing snap through whistle and putting some on tape you can be proud of. So that's all I try to do is emulate those guys. And hopefully I make my coaches proud and this football team makes our coaches proud and the people from Houston proud because I know we've got a lot of 49er fans down there."

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

A couple of your teammates after the game on Saturday night mentioned the amount of crap that you take. And I was just wondering, do you have a strategy? I know some guys shut down all social media in the playoffs. Do you have a strategy for keeping yourself protected from that? I know that even if you don't look at things, sometimes friends will say something, your brothers, whatever. What's your strategy on handling the crap?

"Well, yeah. Friends, family, they always seem to remind me of those things, but I don't know. I think just knowing yourself and knowing who you are plays a big part of that, because if you get lost in it and start believing some of those things, it could take you down the wrong road. So I don't know, I think it's just about knowing yourself as a player, as a person and as long as these guys in this locker room have faith in me and belief in me, that's all I really care about."

How do you approach a week like this, where you're so familiar with the opposition? Do you just try to go into each week where you play the Rams with a blank slate or how much carryover do you begin the week with?

"Well, I think you always go back and watch the prior games. That's kind of where it starts and then you kind of just take it from there. The games that they've played recently you take into account, but you there's a lot of football that they've played throughout this whole season, so you don't want to bog yourself down and be too overwhelmed with all the stuff. So I think there is a fine line of you want to study the tape as well as you can. And we know these guys as well as possible, playing them for a third time now, nothing will really surprise us, I wouldn't say."

Kind of to tee off of that, do you get a sense in the pocket of where Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald's coming from? What moves some of these guys like to do? How has the, I don't even want to say trash talk, but is there like a dialogue that's kind of gone over from game to game where you know these guys that closely?

"Yeah, absolutely. Any division opponent is always like that, but yeah, especially these guys, we know each other pretty well. Coaching staffs know each other. So yeah, as far as maneuvering in the pocket, I think that kind of just happens naturally. You always have an awareness for where Aaron is pre-snap, but after that, you're trying to read the defense and just react as the pocket allows."

You guys after that Week 18 game made it clear how much you enjoyed having so much red in the stands. What does it actually do for you throughout the course of the game and besides potentially getting false starts and making the other team go silent count, but just in terms of energy, what does it do for you guys?

"The Faithful? They travel tremendously. When you can get your fans behind you like that on a road game and we knew it before the game even started, there was a lot of red, you could see it, but once we started making plays and they started getting loud, it just changes the momentum of the game, I think. And you could feel it on the sideline. It's not something that you could really put your finger on and you can't see specifically, but you could feel, you could hear it. And our team responds well to that. So hopefully the Faithful will be out there loud and proud. And I know they're trying."

In the last game against the Rams when T Trent Williams couldn't play and OL Colton McKivitz played and he hadn't played all year, obviously he performed admirably, but initially were you like unsure of how that was going to go? Was there some trepidation from you or just the offense about what might happen?

"You have an awareness for that stuff, obviously, especially as the quarterback just knowing who's on your blindside. But Colton came in and did a hell of a job. Like all the guys, we have faith in whoever comes in. Unfortunately, Trent couldn't go, but it's just kind of the team that we have. Whoever has to be in there you have faith in them, you learn that through practice and being around these guys every day, you just know the kind of person they are. So when that happened, I wouldn't even say it was panic mode. It was just, alright, next guy's up. How do we approach this? What do we have to do? And you just take it from there. You don't want to make it too much bigger than it already is."

You mentioned the other night that you felt you guys were in control of the game the entire time, and that there was a calm. Is that a feeling you guys have in every game, is that why you've been able to win all of these games and deal with such adversity?

"I wouldn't say you feel it in every game. Every game's different. So the feel of it, the flow of it, last time we played the Rams when we were down 17-3, it didn't feel like we were in control of that one. So I think each one has its own flavor to it, but you could feel it, it's kind of like the momentum thing I was talking about. You can't really put your finger on it. There's no statistic for it, but there's a feel to it during the game. And I think the coaches and players, especially the guys on the field, have a feel for that. And you kind of get into a rhythm of it as the game goes."

Also in regards to feel, head coach Kyle Shanahan was talking about sometimes the sack is the best play. How do you find the balance between maybe taking a sack and then trying to make a play, a big one and obviously, sometimes there's an interception, but where's that balance?

"It just comes with being a quarterback, I guess. You kind of learn as you develop as a quarterback, what time in the game is it? What's the score? Everything that that's going on. You're always keeping track of these things in your mind. And the game in Green Bay is obviously a little different than some other games, just dealing with the weather and things like that. So you're taking a lot into account. I know I just listed a lot of things there, but that's just the job of a quarterback."

I can't think of many instances of you throwing the ball out of bounds, which is often like the conservative play. And I asked Kyle Shanahan about it and he said, your aggressiveness is one of your best qualities. What is your philosophy about throwing the ball away?

"When it's necessary, you've got to. I think each play, whether it's first, second, third down, I think all that takes into consideration. But the Dallas game we had to do it a couple times, I can remember. But yeah, if you don't have to throw it away, you want to take a chance to a certain degree, but that's a fine line. Some of those amazing plays that people make, some of those should have been throwaways, but they decided to try and make a play, so there's a balance there."

Whether it be K Robbie Gould punting in Week 18 or what DL Jordan Willis did or countless other contributions, it seems like you guys are getting just really clutch, pinch-hit appearances, if you could take a baseball analogy. Going back to your days with the Patriots, I know you guys won a couple titles there, have you ever seen anything like this team-wide where guys, seemingly people haven't heard of the week before, are stepping up and getting the job done in the absolute clutch?

"On a consistent basis like this? Not really, to be honest. Every postseason that I've been paying close attention to over the past years, there's always somebody who you won't expect to make the play, make the play. And whether it's our team, another team, it's just something that I've noticed over the years. And when guys can do that, because you already have your A-players and they need to play like A-players, but when someone else can step up in those key moments and do something like Jordan this past week. What he did was incredible and he played a huge part in winning that game for us, so when you have guys do that, that's what makes for a good team, man. That's what makes you tough to beat."

You get the ball out at an extraordinarily quick rate against this Rams front. How much of that is by Kyle's design? How much of that is you feeling the pocket? It's like two seconds and it's gone. Just describe what that pocket feels like against this front?

"There's some plays where it feels tight and some plays where it feels normal. It just depends what they're trying to do up front, but I think there's a balance of it. Kyle is aggressive in nature, so our gameplan usually dictates that a little bit, but as the game goes, you've just got to feel the pocket and you never want to go into the game saying, 'I have to throw it in two seconds, I have to throw it in three seconds,' it's more of a feel thing. As the game goes, you get a feel talking to the O-Line on the sideline, how they're feeling about it, all that stuff. And it all is played into consideration, but if you get the ball out, it makes everyone's job easier."


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