Dungy on the defensive

"We felt like we had a defense good enough to win a championship all along, but we've certainly played better than we've played in the last couple of years. A lot of that stems from guys being in the system a little bit longer, feeling a little more confident and playing faster. We've added some new guys that have helped us. It's a long ways to go. I don't think in four games you can say that we've got a championship defense, but we're certainly playing better in this first month." -- Tony Dungy

Q: Do you feel like you have a championship defense to go with your championship offense?

Dungy:
We felt like we had a defense good enough to win a championship all along, but we've certainly played better than we've played in the last couple of years. A lot of that stems from guys being in the system a little bit longer, feeling a little more confident and playing faster. We've added some new guys that have helped us. It's a long ways to go. I don't think in four games you can say that we've got a championship defense, but we're certainly playing better in this first month of this season than we did the first month we did last year.

Q: Do you approach this game any different because a rookie quarterback is starting for the 49ers?

Dungy:
Not necessarily because he's a rookie, but I think Alex Smith does some things differently. I think they'll have some different packages in for him than they would have in for (Tim) Rattay. Obviously the mobility is a concern and they're going to do some things that get him out of the pocket. That's what we're going to look at: what skills he brings, not the fact that one guy is a one-year player and another guy's a veteran.

Q: Will you try to do some things to make it more confusing for a rookie?

Dungy:
We're not a team that really believes too much in confusion. We just try to line up and make sure we're not confused. If we can do that, I think we'll be in good shape. Obviously, when you play a young quarterback, you like to take that team's running game out of the game. We'd like to do a good job on (Kevan) Barlow and (Frank) Gore and hopefully put them in a lot of long-yardage situations. We don't do a lot in terms of different lineups and coverages and things. We just line up and play.

Q: How do teams try to stop (defensive end) Dwight Freeney?

Dungy:
We've seen a lot more things in the last year and a half. We've seen people put the tight ends over there and try to chip him with tight ends. We've seen people slide the line. We've seen backs stay in and help out. There are a number of things. We pretty much have to go into the game and see how they compensate, then try to devise some things off of that. Dwight has had a big impact in a lot of our games because of what teams have had to do, and that's allowed some of our other guys to have big games. Sometimes they don't get backs out, and you have fewer receivers out in coverage. There are fewer places to go, so he's a force and he's doing a good job.

Q: Can you talk about how your offense has evolved?

Dungy:
The offense is the same offense that I ran in college. Tom Moore was the coordinator here. He was my college coach. We worked together in Pittsburgh for a long time. When I was with the Steelers, I was very familiar with what Tom likes to do. It's not that we didn't change it; they tweak it every year and do different things. I liked the direction where the offense was going, and the fact that we had so many guys entrenched in it, there wasn't really a need to make a lot of drastic changes.

Q: Are you surprised the Colts' offense hasn't been emulated in other places?

Dungy:
It has to a certain extent. We've seen a lot of the principles of it. It's not something new that we just dreamed up. Tom's been doing this a long time. It's basically the offense they used in Detroit when they had Barry Sanders, Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton with similar success. A lot of the stuff we did in Pittsburgh, in terms of route-running and reads (was similar). There's nothing new under the sun, and our principles are in offenses throughout the league.

Q: How has it been modified by Peyton Manning?

Dungy:
The biggest thing that we've been able to do is call so many plays at the line of scrimmage. Tom can send in four or five plays at a time, and let Peyton select the one that will be the best for that situation. That's what sets this offense apart is his ability to do that. Most coaches think that if they have the chalk last, and you show them what you're going to do, then they can devise a successful play. Peyton gives us the ability to do that: to always have the chalk last and come up with the best play for that situation. He's the best at that that I've ever been around.

Q: How has the Manning/Marvin Harrison relationship evolved over the years?

Dungy:
They're phenomenal. I've been around some good passing combinations. We had Warren Moon and Chris Carter in Minnesota, and Lynn Swann, Stallworth and Bradshaw in Pittsburgh, but I've never been around a wide receiver and quarterback that work as much as these guys do. They are both very smart and are both perfectionists. They just spend a lot of time perfecting their crafts. Denny Green said that Rice - Montana and Rice - Young were very similar. They've (Harrison and Manning) impressed me in their desire to be good and to not have any glitches out on the field. They work very hard.

Q: What do you think about coming to San Francisco with Manning and Harrison on the verge of breaking Steve Young and Jerry Rice's touchdown record?

Dungy:
What you always hope is that you can break records at home because your home crowd has supported you throughout. I think it would be fitting, if they don't break it at home, that would be the place to break it. With so many milestones that were set there by the 49ers, it would be a fitting, ironic touch for them to do it there.


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