Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher -- November 15, 2018
Opening Remarks: Coming off a great trip to go six hours across the country to have guys just go play hard and find a win to make just enough plays on defense, I was really proud of our guys and really happy for them. These guys have been working really hard, and they haven’t flinched one bit. I said that last time we visited about this group of guys and having the chance to coach them, is no matter good, bad, indifferent, these guys have been running to it. They’ve taken the criticism, they’ve taken the coaching, and they’ve taken ownership of their play to heart. They continue to play hard and I think that says a lot about the guys’ character, it says a lot about the leadership on the defensive side of the ball as I’m speaking about that. I was happy for those guys. This week’s going to be a great challenge. As we all know, one of the best offenses in the league, 500 yards this past week. If I remember right, that’s three or four times this year they’ve put up 500 yards on people. Two perimeter receivers who are extremely talented, (DeSean) Jackson and (Mike) Evans, a great tandem of guys, really complement each other’s skillsets. One guy can take the top off and get on top of you, the other guy is a very aggressive, powerful, sure-handed big receiver. Then at the tight end position, two guys that are really talented in (O.J.) Howard and (Cameron) Brate, and it’s going to be a great challenge for our guys. Just like every week, working the process. Coming out of the game, there’s really two things we say we have to do better. We have to play better on third down, that’s calls and execution. I’ve got to call a little better, we’ve got to execute a little better. The second thing is, we’ve got to find a way to get some more pressure. We’ve got to win some more one on ones, we’ve got to beat the back when we get on the back in protection. If we get a free runner, we’ve got to time up our pressures a little bit better. We had a couple of those this past week when our timing just wasn’t good enough. We were a little late in the pressures and we’ve got to clean that up, and play better on third down. Those two things, I think if we do that, we’ll continue to stack and we’ll get a little bit better each week.
Q: When they have so many weapons like that in the passing game, is it more important (to have) a three-man, four-man rush so you don’t have to dedicate blitzers and can pay more attention over the top to Jackson and those guys?
A: Going through and watching every pass in the whole season, you see everything everyone’s tried to do to find a way to slow them down, maybe double a guy, to play coverage, to bring pressure, and I think it’s that good balance of the mix of finding downs in places where you can bring extra guys and speed up the process, create some one on ones and win those one on ones. Then in the backend, you can play zone or you can play man, there’s going to be a lot of times in one on ones you’ve got to win them, and I think all that said, it’s play fundamentally sound football and play fast. That’s really a point of emphasis for us.
Q: We saw a lot more of Michael Thomas on defense. What does he give you specifically and what does that give you as far as schematically what you can do with Landon (Collins)?
A: Even if you go back to the time when I was in Arizona, one thing I really love to do is get DBs on the field when we can. The game has, as we’ve all talked about before, the game has become so horizontal in terms of spacing of formations and splitting receivers out, tight ends out, tight ends really becoming fourth receivers on the field, and the quality of the backs in this league in terms of pass catchers not just runners, it allows you to create different matchups. For Landon, in particular, you asked if we need to put Landon on the back, we can do that. If we need to put him on the tight end that particular week, we can do that. This past week with San Fran, Coach Shanahan – he’s one of the best in the league and does a great job of spreading you out in big personnel groupings and trying to find matchups, take advantage of you. We had to have some things to counter that and that was a two-safety look where we were in a base defense and able to have safeties on both sides, be able to handle that spacing in those shifts and those motions, and try to create good matchups in the game.
Q: Howard and Brate, and then you’re going to face a lot of really good tight ends in the last six games. After what (George) Kittle did to you guys, where do you make adjustments so that tight ends don’t become a problem for this defense?
A: One of the answers is Landon. I love the matchup with him on great tight ends, I really do. That’s one thing he’s built to do. I think it’s not just on his plate, though. It’s on the other guys. If we’re bringing four and we’re playing coverage, we’ve got to win some one on ones. Each and every week, we’ve got to get a little bit better and at the end of the day, play fundamentally sound, play with better fundamentals, feet and eyes.
Q: We’ve watched Lorenzo Carter through the year and seen him grow as a player. The initial instinct for me is get him on the field more. Do you think his production is because he’s in that rotation and you’re not putting too much on him? Or has he grown enough where you have to get him on the field more?
A: I think it’s one of those things where you’re really anxious, hey, let’s play him 50 snaps. At the same time, I see a young player at a position that not often do you see high production out of young players at that position. This year we’re seeing it out of the young man in Denver from N.C. State, that’s a rarity to see that kind of production. I love how he’s growing, and we don’t want to stunt his growth. We want to continue to add things here and there on his plate, you saw him covering the back out of the backfield on a wheel, we haven’t asked him to do anything like that to this point. The more of those kinds of things that we give him in his repertoire of being able to do, other than just rushing the passer, the more dynamic of a player he’s going to be. Over time, yeah, we will stack more plays; but right now, I love the rotation he has. I think he was 32 plays, right around there, and I think that’s a great number. We just find other places we can get him on the field without putting too much on his plate, as you said.
Q: What did you think of him running with (Matt) Breida?
A: I thought that was pretty dang good.