Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Monday, December 5, 2022.
(So I wondered if signing T Eric Fisher was in part because of any belief that T Terron Armstead likely is going to miss more time.?) – "No, it's more – this is something we were working on for it seems a couple of weeks. So it's more with the idea that our intention is to have our season longer than the regular season and that being both pretty thin on the roster and seeing an opportunity to add a player of high quality with big-time game experience. So it wasn't necessarily reactionary to Terron (Armstead) as much as it was trying to take advantage of there being a player out there on the market that can make sure that anything unforeseen that we can have high quality play in the most important time of the year."
(How will you manage QB Tua Tagovailoa and his ankle this week? And are you confident in his ability to go ahead and participate fully in practice and then play on Sunday against the Chargers?) – "We will just be mindful of what he does. Really, you're looking at Wednesday, just making sure that we don't do anything to have any setbacks, breaking the pocket and whatnot. But I'm very confident and don't anticipate any sort of setback that would negate him playing in the upcoming football match."
(It's not a good Monday for you all, I guess, but you all are in the perfect opportunity to still control your own destiny. Only having two conference losses, have you expressed the importance of this game to your team when you face the Chargers coming up?) – "Our team is very aware. I think that is something that is pretty obvious in terms of the importance of the conference and it's the second most-important game next to the division opponents. The biggest thing is that guys really wanted to try to get the victory against a very good opponent this past game and it didn't happen, but we feel like there's some definite places where we can get better from it. And the next game can't come fast enough. So guys are eager to get started on the Chargers and you always try to really bask in the opportunity to play in front of the national audience. So I think the team really relishes the opportunity to play a good football team and get back on track after the one-week hiatus."
(I know you're all focused on the Chargers and that's understandable, but we learned today that the Buffalo game is going to be Saturday night. And I'm wondering how you plan to manage that. If it's almost like Thursday night road game, given that you'll be flying across the country getting back probably in the wee hours Monday morning and then having to fly out Friday?) – "You're right on both fronts. We are very much focused on the Chargers, but there will be an adjustment to the schedule. We'll be somewhere in between what a normal game is and what a Thursday night game is. That will be a challenge. But that's something that I think it's important across the board for when we get to that point that players, coaches; they take it as a challenge that I don't want anybody spending any time feeling sorry for themselves and I don't think our team will. The bottom line is we have two opportunities to play in front of a national audience. It's something we've been building towards for the whole season in terms of how we play, but only one of which we can really do anything about in the immediate future. So it's definitely challenging but not something that anyone's going to spend any time feeling sorry for themselves about because that's not our decision to make. We're happy to have the opportunity to play in front of our peers and a national audience and we'll do our best to take advantage of that."
(When you looked at the film of the 49ers game, what jumped out at you in terms of what wasn't clicking in the passing game? Was it timing? Just accuracy? What were some of the things that you want to correct from that?) – "You want to be hitting on all cylinders all times and the thing about a passing game is it can be very potent when all cylinders are hitting, and I think clearly it wasn't in terms of our completion percentage, the throwing it to the opposing team as opposed to our own team, and just really being as consistent as we needed to be. And that I think from my estimation, there was, as I told the team, I thought there were times that really guys were pressing. There were some times that we did have time to go ahead and make a play and the eligibles got their depths and were available in the timing of the play and other times that they weren't, and we kind of let plays linger and really overlap to further existing plays. So these are things that from my vantage point are very, very correctable that I think we needed that stage, that environment – one of those things where, hey, you have a really good team, one of the best units in the league that are trying to defend you in a certain area and really pushing all resources towards it. What you have to do to be able to combat that and the level that you have to play. So I think a lot of guys learned stuff. I think guys did learn various things without losing confidence. They were very accountable today, which is one of the reasons I'm so deeply invested and confident in this team and expect it to look better and take a step forward this this next coming week."
(I wanted to ask you about Chargers QB Justin Herbert and the unique challenges he I guess presents with that arm and all that. And did you get a chance to visit with him in the pre-Draft process and if so what did you come away with?) – "To answer your question, he does have an arm. I think, I believe two of them. (laughter) And it is strong. I'm not sure how much he can curl, but he can throw the ball far. And I did not meet him that particular year. I didn't get a chance, but I saw his college tape. And obviously, I've seen a lot that he can do on the NFL stage. And it keeps you honest as a defense. In the same realm as Josh Allen, if you don't have your appropriate rush lanes or you drop a coverage, he can make you pay on any part of the field. And your job is to make him execute within the confines of a traditional timing and you just have to be a little more responsible in your rush lanes because he'll make you pay or break the pocket to extend. So great challenge because he's the type of player that you play down the stretch and in elimination games that you don't have any choice but to do your best to make sure that he doesn't beat you by himself and make sure that you force the receivers and all the eligibles to get open in the regular timing of the play and you force or you allow coverage to work for the pass rush as well or coverage is tight so that he has to try to extend plays and you're consistent and your rush lane integrity is strong. So a very, very good player. A challenging player that our guys will be up for and excited for test."
(Along those same lines, the stats show a drastic difference for the defense in terms of points and yardage allowed home and on the road. What do you think might be the cause of that?) – "I think it has to do with particular opponents. I think it also has to do with the stats don't account for or offensive turnovers that turned to points have to do with that as well. So I think they've gotten kind of unfairly shaped. That's something that's been on our mind that the captains have brought up for several weeks and I thought that was a step in the right direction yesterday. But obviously not to where we want to be, and that's the good thing about this team is they haven't, during the streak of wins, haven't lost sight of the ultimate goal, which is to progressively get better every week. I think that's the hardest thing to do in National Football League with all the different distractions that can occur and different narratives that can happen, and people can get worried about the wrong stuff. Our defense hasn't. They're continually trying to progress. I saw that on tape and I think there's some situations, a couple in particular, that the ultimate score looks a lot different, if there's one or two plays made on the ball, there's not a penalty here or there. And ultimately, there's a couple of third downs that I think were very manageable for us in terms of making the play to get them off the field. There are too many variables. I don't think it's just being on the road. I think has to do with the opponent more than anything, and I really am having high expectations for a robust turnaround this coming week."
(The ball went harmlessly out of bounds, but I'm pretty fascinated by the effort that DT Christian Wilkins displayed to retrace his rush and go force a fumble 20 yards down the field. I'm curious the reaction of you and your staff when you see something like that on tape.) – "It's something that we've been getting better at during the course of the year. It's something that we point out in all of our team meetings because that's team defense. Because what happens – that happened a little further down the field than we would like it to happen – but if you get an eligible to stop his feet because you have aggressive tackling down the field or if the offensive player has to stop; really good defenses make them pay and get turnovers in those type of situations. So that's something that as a captain, we've counted on Christian. He's done it a ton during the season. I think one of the bigger hits of the year came against Buffalo in a similar situation against (Dawson) Knox, I believe. And it's one of the strengths to his game to have consistent strain and that affects players. They feel it, they hear it. And it's part of the physicality of our defense that we really, when we're going at our best; there's not just him, but the whole d-line is able to get some action chasing the ball."
(Just to follow up on the initial question where he was mentioned, what's T Terron Armstead's outlook this week and the plan for the three practice sessions?) – "I feel pretty good about where he's at. He was pretty close this past week, relatively to where he just continues to defy normal timelines with injuries that would keep a lesser athlete with the toughness and desire that would keep them out for longer. So I expect him to get some work and practice this week. I don't know exactly – every day is so important for that healing process. So whether that's Wednesday, Thursday Friday, we'll at least let Tuesday happen before we concretely pin that in. But his plan is to get some action this week for sure and I know he's optimistic to play in this upcoming game."