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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan previews 49ers-Cowboys Divisional Round playoff matchup

Jan 18, 2023 at 3:12 PM

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters as the team prepares for its Divisional Round playoff matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening Comments:

"Alright, injuries for today. [QB] Jimmy Garoppolo will not practice. [CB] Ambry Thomas, no practice. [WR] Jauan Jennings, limited, ankle. [DL] Samson [Ebukam], limited, ankle and [DT Javon] Kinlaw, limited, knee. Go ahead."

Are T Trent Williams and DL Nick Bosa resting?

"No, they're good."

LB Dre Greenlaw had to come out of the game briefly, what was the upshot of that?

"He's good now."

What were your impressions of watching the Cowboys on Monday night and what they're coming in with offensively?

"They're a good team. They've been it all year. Probably looked at their best on Monday night, which you expected them to just with atmosphere and everything, but they've been good by it for a while and just watching them this week, it's reminds me of their team from last year and they only improved."

When you think back on that game last year, what strikes you? What you did circle in your mind?

"It was a big win for us. I hated how it ended, how close it got at the end. I thought we made a few mistakes that made it closer than needed to be at the end, but not much. I don't relate it much to this year."

What stands out about their defense?

"I think starting with their D-line, [defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn jumps off the tape to me there. The way he gets those guys to move, they have some really good rushers. Everyone knows about [Dallas Cowboys DE Demarcus] Lawrence and [Dallas Cowboys LB Micah] Parsons, but there's not one bad one there. The way that they stunt, the way they can create one-on-ones, there's a reason they're number one in getting to the quarterback with sacks and pressures and it does jump off the tape."

Do you feel like it helps knowing a coach or is every matchup sort of unique?

"No, I think every one is unique. I don't think that matters much. If you've been coordinating in the league for a while, whether you know someone personally or not, you have an idea of what gameday is like with him just from film."

How much has he evolved schematically since you worked with him?

"I think Dan's done a great job just adjusting like he always does. They've evolved a lot coverage wise. They used to always do their three-deep similar to ours. And now it's more of a match three-deep, which is a little bit different, but coaching the front that same way and getting them to play and just mixing coverages a little bit differently."

On WR Deebo Samuel' s long run and just a lot of the big chunk plays in particular, WR Brandon Aiyuk was leading the way with some of his blocks. What makes him such a good blocker at the receiver position?

"I think it always helps when you have length and size and I think he does have that. I think it's the mindset of all our guys though. I think we do have a lot of good players. What I like to say separates us from other teams with good players is our good players really block too, whichever one of our five guys has the ball, the other four are blocking as good as anyone. And Brandon does that as good as anyone, but I think all our guys do also."

You guys are obviously very effective with yards after the catch. How much do you consider that as you're making play calls? Are they designed not just to get a guy the ball, but to get him the spot where he can maybe gain after?

"Yeah, always. It depends on your personnel, what guys are better at. It depends on how people are playing you. I think we're pretty balanced from a personnel standpoint that you have guys that are good at underneath stuff, guys that are good at over the top stuff. Guys who are good in zones, guys who are good at man, so we do that schematically and teams play us a lot of different ways, so you kind of just let them pick their poison."

How much does that make RB Christian McCaffrey even better?

"Anytime that you're a threat on zone check downs and you're a mismatch in man coverage, that's ideally what you want from all three of the positions who catch footballs, tight ends, receivers, running backs."

We've heard Nick talk about when you kind of dinged him and the defensive line before the Miami game and the huge performance from him. You've talked about like showing someone Trent's bad plays sometimes. How much are you doing it for pure motivation? How much of it just kind of happens in the moment? How do you go about that kind of thing?

"I think most of it just happens. I think maybe how you do it can sometimes get a reaction from people. It's very simple with me because it all just goes off of what I see on tape. And I'm pretty consistent with that. If I see something good or bad, I just start coaching, so it depends who's in the room. Defensive guys aren't always in the room. I get that the most on Saturday nights. I get it on our team meetings on Wednesdays and Fridays. The offense gets it all the time, but I am pretty consistent with that, but when you don't get talked about much in front of the whole team, and guys do, it's crazy. You have a lot of grown men that they hear their name in a big room and they get really nervous, which is crazy. They talk nonstop and then you ask them to break down the team one day and it's just like crickets. I think it's good practice for everybody to be in those situations."

Are you thinking when you said that to the D-line, I don't know if you said Bosa's name specifically, okay, now I'm going to light a fire under him? Is that kind of what you did?

"Yeah, but it's also with everybody, it's human nature. We've won a lot of games in a row and done some good things and I think it's easy to look over things, but your goal isn't just to win those games. Your goal is to be the last team standing and you have to get better each week at that. And sometimes human nature, when you've won so many games in a row, people stop looking at how to get better. They think they've arrived and you need to show them on the tape and you need to speak it because players aren't always seeing it that way. They watch their assignment, what they're doing, but they don't always see the big picture. And it's our job to show them that what they need to do to carry out their job at the highest level. And I want every single person to play to the top of their ability and nobody's perfect, so I'm always striving to get guys to play better."

You guys played on Saturday, they played Monday night. How much does that give an advantage as far as timing purposes? There's a little like extra time for you guys to prepare, don't have to travel, they have to travel, that kind of thing.

"I think it can be an advantage, sometimes it can be a disadvantage. I know the obvious ones, that you get less rest, less time to recover. I love having more time, but sometimes you feel like you can't play those Thursday night games and you get to it and your team is just off the wall because they haven't slowed down at all. And by this time, I don't think it is about recovery. It's about detail and it's about executing and it's about playing at a high level. Once you get to games, especially in the playoffs, that recovery, people forget about pretty quickly and just watching the Rams last year, they beat the Cardinals as good as anyone and then they flew all the way to Tampa and I think they were up 28-0 at halftime, so I don't think that means anything."

How big of a challenge is defending Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott? He's had kind of an up and down season, but he looked really good the other night.

"Yeah, Dak has always been a challenge. When you're a pure pocket passer who can make all the throws in there and read the defense really well and get the ball to the right spots and do it accurately. That's why he's had the career he has and when things do break down, he's got a knack for how to get out of that pocket and make some off-schedule plays and that's why he has had such successful career so far."

How would you assess S Talanoa Hufanga's season? He had some real flash plays early in the season and got popularity going and wound up being a Pro Bowler and all that. How do you think he's played throughout the course of the year?

"He's had a hell of a year, that's why he's gotten everything he deserves, but just like that question with Nick earlier, he's plays on the number one defense and has made a lot of plays for us, but in everything we're challenging him to get better. All those guys go up and down through some stuff. I thought he had a good game last week, but I still want to see his best football and I think that's ahead of us."

How much of a challenge is Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz? He had two touchdowns in their last game.

"He's a good player. He does a really good job of stretching the defense vertically. He gets down the seams very well and Dak does a real good job of hitting him when he is open, so when you have the route running ability and the hands that he's got and the quarterback he's got, he's a problem."

Your offensive players talked about there being more meat left on the bone. How much more progress have you gotten towards that?

"I think we've gotten a lot more, but still saw it a ton. Last week, it was a good game, on eight of the nine possessions, but sometimes you have to make some big plays to overcome some things that we should have done a lot easier and I think we did that a number of times through the game, so I think we overcame a lot of stuff, but I still feel the same way."

What was the one play that you broke down into the offense this week.?

"Is there one play from that game? No, there's, there's a lot of plays. Sorry."

What one was the one that was the most challenging that you were most frustrated after watching?

"There's like seven of them probably tied. I really wanted to hit that post. Or Deebo across the middle. There's a couple things on defense, one on special teams, but I'm not going to get into any more detail than that."

K Robbie Gould is obviously a very good kicker, regardless of regular season preseason, but he is 25-25 in the playoffs in his career and 38-38 in extra points. Does that tell you anything more about him that when the pressure is the highest he's moving?

"He's been one of the best kickers in our generation. He's been extremely consistent. You see how long he's been doing it and when it comes to the playoffs, that's the most important thing and I feel like he's always going to make it regardless of what game it is. That's how he's given us that feeling in these six years and I guess it makes sense that I even feel stronger in the playoffs about it."

OL Spencer Burford has started almost every game for you this year, how has he grown and what did you see from him just being a rookie at this point?

"We were excited with how he came in and really tried to get that spot, especially with some guys hurt, he got a ton of reps at it back to OTAs and training camp and he's come in and been thrown into the heat of battle, had one setback with an ankle injury about a month ago, but he's also had a real good guy behind him in [OL] Dan [Brunskill] and every time Dan goes in he does a good job too, so he's been pushing throughout the year and I think it's been great for Spencer to make it through all this year. How long it is for these rookies to do it at a high level and I think he's continued to get better and I still think he can get a lot better though also."

You've talked about the rivalry from the '90s with Cowboys and Niners. Do you think now getting to play back-to-back years in the playoffs has sort of rekindled that?

"Yeah, I think that's how rivalries happen. You guys knew it from the '80s when it started out. And I remember so much from my childhood from sixth grade to ninth grade, because I was here '92 to '94, so it was the biggest rivalry in football to me growing up. And then usually that goes away when you don't meet in the playoffs a bunch and we had a big game last year, we have a big game this year, so the more you do that, the bigger it gets again."

With the offensive line, generally, what have they shown you this year? Just of how consistent they've been?

"I think the pride they've taken in everything. Those guys those guys are the hardest on themselves out of any position group we have. They always are looking to get better. They're always, anytime they miss something, they're hard on themselves. The way that they practice, the way they do individual. That group, [offensive line coach] Chris [Foerster] has done an unbelievable job with that group. Trent being the older guy and the superstar of the O-line position, he's been an unbelievable leader just by how he works and practices and plays and then all the guys, to me, just every time that they've struggled with something, they've corrected it the next week and really just focused on football all year and they've played at a very high level."
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