[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="352386"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Q: What did the game film show you about the improvement of the offensive line and Jimmy Garoppolo's presence in the pocket?
BB: I think we made some improvement from last week offensively, period. That's in every area, so that was good. We had a good week of practice against the Saints. That was positive as well – just the entire week, not just the game last night. Everybody's getting a little better, just playing at a little bit higher level, as we should with more practice and more reps, and working together a little bit better. Of course that's a big part of the offensive line – those guys all trying to see the game as one and get all on the same page so that those five guys can properly block the five guys they're assigned to. We have quite a few variations from play to play. Overall, I thought we made some progress. We certainly have a lot of things to work on and a long way to go, but I thought that that group competed well, especially after the slow start that we had. In the first half until really late in the second quarter, we weren't able to do too much, but from that point on our execution was better, our confidence grew and we were able to be competitive. Those are all positives.
Q: What kind of adjustments does Cameron Fleming have to make in terms of being aware about when he is and is not eligible?
BB: From an assignment and a technique standpoint, he's playing one slot wider than he normally plays at tackle, so there's some adjustment there. There's some adjustment. Obviously, it's different, but it's not really that major of a difference. He's handled that well. Going in and out of the game on those situations, that's just part of what we do with our personnel groups, with our receivers, our backs. He gets involved with that as a lineman when we go to that unit. We've done that to increase our depth and flexibility with our formations at the tight end position, which we've been a little thin at. That's really about the extent of it.
Q: Is giving a lot of playing time to the younger players in preseason a way to build depth going forward?
BB: I think it's a combination of building depth, but also evaluating players that we haven't seen as much of, particularly in practice. The majority of our practice reps, especially this week, went to players that have had more experience – the group that's a little bit ahead of some of the guys that played – and so to take a look of the guys who didn't get as many reps in practice, we tried to give them more reps in the game. That's how we try to balance it out. Part of it is depth; part of it is just straight up evaluation – trying to figure out the best way to put this team together.
Q: Was it gratifying to see the way the young guys kept competing?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. We know we weren't playing for the AFC championship, but it's competition. It's going out there and trying to do well and then play situation football according to whatever it is. If you're ahead, you're behind, need a field goal or a touchdown, whatever it is, those are all situations that we've practiced and worked on. You can't control those. You don't know what's going to happen in the game. You're ready for, hopefully, whichever ones come up. The ones that came up last night we worked through. Some of it was what we wanted to do. Some of it we need to go back and talk about and correct both on the coaching end and on the playing end, so there were a lot of good learning experiences there for all of us. You just try to take advantage of whichever situations come up, and the ones last night were a lot of good situational football examples, whether it was trying to score, trying to get the ball back. There were kind of a couple of two-minute drives there, really three two-minute drives at the end of the half, one that we had that we didn't score on, then one that they scored on quickly and then another one that we scored on after we got it back after their score, plus a lot of other things. Those were great situations for us to learn from. We practiced them, and they came up in the game. Situation football is a big part of the game. It's not all first-and-10 and second down in the middle of the field and all that. There are a lot of very specific situations, and it was good to have an opportunity to practice some of those and learn from them. For the guys that were in there and even for those of us that weren't, just to go through what we want to do and how we want to do it when it's a real live situation like that, it's as good a teaching tool as you can have. No matter how many times you practice it, it's still more realistic in the game, so that was good.
Q: How did you feel about the execution on the play towards the end of the first half where Garoppolo had to scramble to keep the play alive?
BB: That's really a great point. Those are the type of plays that offensively and defensively we work on in practice, but those scrambles in practice are never quite the same as in the game because you're not hitting the quarterback and you're not really trying to get him down and all that. It was good to actually have those come up where the quarterback does truly have to scramble and avoid pressure and make a decision, get his head up and get the ball down the field. We saw that defensively quite a bit last week with Aaron Rodgers. He extended a number of plays, and then last night Jimmy had a couple – particularly the one you were talking about, the touchdown right there before the half. Again, those are plays that we talk a lot about, but we can't really fully execute them like they are in the game, whichever side of it we're on, offense or defense. We need to practice those, so it was good that they came up. We certainly teach off those.
Q: What did you learn about Dion Lewis last night?
BB: I think all the skill players get an opportunity in the game to do a little more than they do in practice. Again, we don't tackle live in practice. We have some individual tackling drills, but we don't do a lot of tackling in full team situations. That's obviously an important part of the game, so our ability on defense to actually get the guy with the ball on the ground and offensively our ability as a skill player to make yards on our own, whether that's breaking tackles or avoiding guys or whatever it is. Sometimes you can see a little of that in practice. A runner, you can picture that he would make a tackler miss even though we're not tackling live just because of the way he would cut on a certain play and avoid a guy, but a lot of times it's really hard to tell. In practice it looks like a close play – would the tackler have gotten him, or wouldn't he? But in a game, that gets pretty well defined. It was a good opportunity to see all of our skill players, and we saw several of them, I thought, run well with the ball in their hands. Chris [Harper] did a good job of that on some returns and catching the ball. Jonathan [Krause] did that. Dion, James White had several plays like that, a screen pass or even on the goal line where he made a cut there to kind of jump outside and get into the hole. The evaluation of those guys to make yards on their own with the ball in their hands is something that you really don't see until you get into live game situations, or making tough yards in a pile or on the goal line, those type of things. We do a little bit of that, but it shows up a lot more in a game. That was a good opportunity for all those guys, and I thought Dion did a good job with his opportunities. He's had a solid spring and camp for us. He missed a few days there, but I thought he ran well last night.
Q: What did you see from Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty on the Brandin Cooks touchdown?
BB: Well, it's a great play by two great players: [Drew] Brees and Cooks. Obviously, it could have been defended a little bit better. I wouldn't say it was – I've seen a lot worse defense than on that play, but it wasn't good enough because Brees made a great throw, Cooks ran a great route, ran through the ball. It was a good play for us to learn from, and again, sometimes in practice you pull off those plays at the end and avoid the contact. Would you have it? Wouldn't you have it? Would it have been complete? Would it been incomplete? All that shows up in the game, so we can definitely learn from that, about the whole situation: the play-action, the first-and-10 in a drive which is kind of an alert for us at that point anyway, better pass rush, a long extended play that we could have obviously defended better. Overall, I think our secondary and our communication has been good. We've played a lot of people in a lot of different combinations, and that sort of forced everybody to really work harder on the communications – not always the same two guys with their own way of communicating. Whether it's a signal or kind of a nod or however subtle it is, when you work with a lot of people, you've got to build that ability to communicate throughout the entire unit and with whichever players you're paired up with. That's been good for all of us, and as we move forward we'll try to narrow that down. At some point, we may be using different people in different spots, and we'll have to come back to the base that we're trying to build now and the depth we're trying to build now with players playing multiple positions and trying to create depth for ourselves at all positions on the team, not just the secondary.
Q: What was explained to you on the instant replay before halftime? It looked confusing.
BB: Oh boy. Well, it was. There was a replay from the booth, and then there were timing issues of what was going to be on the clock versus what was actually up there, the explanation from the referee on his announcement versus what was actually communicated to the bench, to the sideline. I called a timeout on a play that there was a penalty on so was that a timeout or was it not a timeout? Did the penalty override it? There were several things that came up there, and I think, again, it's preseason for all of us. We're kind of working our way through some of those situations. Probably the best thing for you to do is talk to [NFL Vice President of Officiating] Dean [Blandino] and get a full explanation and interpretation on everything from him because there were several things that came up consecutively there, and they in a way it kind of played off each other. The timing was certainly a part of it – how much time was left, and then ultimately whether a timeout was or wasn't going to be charged. It was a short completion and then a penalty on the play for a late hit I think. Did the timeout count or not count? Were we going to have time to call the guys over and take a timeout, or was the play going to continue and time get wiped off and all of that? So, there was definitely some just trying to clear up exactly what the situation was. At the same time, the officials are trying to keep the game going. They're not trying to stop and have a conversation at the end of every play, so there's a tempo and pace of play issue but then there's also a communication issue in terms of just knowing exactly what's happening. All of those things, it was a unique situation the way it all kind of happened together, and I'm sure there was confusion up there because there was confusion on the field too.