Niners looking to finish on a winning streak

By beating the Houston Texans on Sunday, the 49ers can finish the season on a two-game winning streak and double their victory total of last season. Coach Mike Nolan discusses that possibility among several other topics at his Monday news conference.

RE: Would you say right now that a win this late in the season is more important than your draft status?

"Very much so and I've said that all alone. It's a hurdle that you have to get over when you're losing in order to win. That hurdle is much greater than your draft status. As I've said all alone I don't believe that any one player takes you to the promise land in the game of football. The environment and everything about the game of football is out of our control. It's always good to have good players, but I believe that wherever we pick we're going to do well. It certainly makes my confidence in my personnel department a lot easier. I do communicate with Scot McCloughan regularly. Staying on that winning note will be important for us. There hasn't been a win streak around here in a while and it would be nice to start one. That victory leading into this last game of the season will be very important for us."

RE: With the lack of wins do you think that the players doubt what the coaching staff is doing?

"When you're losing I think there is always room for doubt. There are certain times that I continue to evaluate what we do. I think in a player's mind they do the same thing. They might wonder what they're doing wrong, but a victory confirms that you're on the right track and doing the right thing. Evaluations are no different than statistics. They are valuable, but they have to be used in the right context. I think that the same thing is true about individuals and players. The confidence that you get in a victory about your team is important with the coaching staff and players as well."

RE: What would it mean to go into the off-season with back-to-back victories?

"I think that it would mean a lot for me and our players as well. It felt good riding back in that plane with a victory. Even though it's only our third victory of the season we known all alone that we've had a lot to do. Ultimately it's the victories that will show that the most. It's one thing to get better, have flashes and compete, but that only goes so far. At some point without victories that just fizzles out. I believe that a win reinforces that there are a lot of things right. Say what you want about the opponent, but they were looking at us as someone they wanted to defeat."

RE: Did you ever mention the draft status in any of your meetings with the team?

"I didn't, because I never felt the need to. It was never on my mind. I recognize that some of the questions we are getting by the media and the fans have to do with that. I've never had to address that. I know that (Public Relations Director) Aaron Salkin has done that a few times just to make sure that the guys stay on track. I think that that's been good parenting for the players. You have to inform them where the focus for this team needs to be in order to remain with them. Without mentioning the draft choice topic I do talk frequently about where our focus needs to be. I talk a lot more about where it needs to be for us."

RE: What do you think about your win total possibly doubling at the end of the season?

"As far as four wins, I think that that is likely to be good momentum going into the off-season."

RE: Has the team started to enter games with a "nothing to lose" attitude?

"No. I think that there might be some individuals that have been conditioned to think about certain things. I don't ever get into it with our team, because that's not reality. Every game is another opportunity and anyone can beat you on any given Sunday."

RE: How is the health in the secondary?

"At this time it's what it was listed yesterday. I'll know more on Wednesday. We have been looking at some outside guys. We may have to bring Willie Middlebrooks or somebody back. We'll probably work out a player or two tomorrow. If we do bring a player back then it's precautionary. I don't have a certain answer for you."

RE: Why didn't Johnnie Morton play?

"We wanted to take a look at some of the young guys. I'm good with five receivers up, but I don't believe that you need more than four. I wanted to see Marcus Maxwell, not just on offense, but in the special teams area. Johnnie is doing a good job. It's not a reflection of what Johnnie has done. I spoke to Johnnie last week and I wanted to see what some of the young guys have."

RE: Are you going to continue this?

"There's a chance. If our secondary is banged up it might make way for another position to carry an extra guy."

RE: Will RB Kevan Barlow be able to play this week?

"I don't feel good about it right now, but that doesn't tell you a lot."

RE: Did Frank Gore come out of the game OK?

"He was in 11 plays and he carried the ball 10 times. He did a nice job."

RE: What did you see in Alex this game?

"I like the way that the young guy is maturing. When I was talking to the staff awhile ago I told them that, ‘You get in the arena by having the ability. You can either run fast, jump high, catch balls, throw balls or block. That's how you get in the arena, but the guy that makes the difference is the guy that has the other stuff to go with it. I mean the inner stuff like the heart, the mind or the soul. Those are the things that make the difference.' Even in last year's draft we looked at the guys who were in the arena for the top pick. There are about four or five guys worthy of that, but Alex was the guy that had all those things. That was from my standpoint, Scot's standpoint and from the majority upstairs standpoint. From my standpoint and in the reason that we took him, Alex has not faltered one time this season. All the other guys were in the arena and some guys are more talented than others. But you can have all the talent in the world, if you don't have the other thing we don't want you. It's not going to help us win a championship. You're in the arena because you have the ability, but you stay in the arena when you have the intangibles. On his behalf there are a lot more tangibles than intangibles. That's what I saw right before the half. He has a tremendous amount of confidence and belief in what he does. He does get shaken at times and some plays don't look as good as other, but that's not the issue. There's something in the huddle and on the sideline when he comes across it. You can see the look in his eyes."

RE: Were you happy to see that the play where the ball came out of his hand didn't fluster him?

"I would say so. That's one of the things that I was talking about. Even through adversity he doesn't come to the sideline with that deer in headlights look. He does a good job. Even a couple of weeks ago when he called that time out because the quarter was going to change, he just came over and said that he was okay. He didn't dwell on it. He was ready to move on. Some guys would've said, ‘Coach I'm sorry.' But we can talk about that on the plane ride back. That's just his mindset. He's ready to play."

RE: What do you think about him throwing his first touchdown pass?

"We had a choice before all three touchdown runs to either throw for it or run it and we ran it in all three times. His touchdown passes will come. If Frank Gore or Mo Hicks wants to stick it in and run it then that will be good. That last drive in the game was a great example of the confidence that (Offensive Coordinator) Mike McCarthy had in our offense. We played with the upper hand against the Rams. He really felt confident that we had them so Alex only had to throw a couple of times in that drive. He'll get his shots."

RE: How did Justin Smiley do?

"He's very athletic and a very good runner. I recall several times when he pulls out on the perimeter. He's motoring and really running. The athleticism shows and it also shows the strength in our offense. He's a very good run blocker. The same thing that was pleasing to me is that David Baas is the same way going the other way. They both do a nice job. Smiley did a nice job in game."

RE: Who got the game ball on the offensive line?

"Eric Heitmann. They all did a pretty good job, but I know that he was one in particular that was mentioned for the game ball. The other guys played well enough. The continuity with our offensive line in the past few weeks practicing together has made a difference. It's no knock to J. Newberry, because if J. Newberry was healthy he'll certainly be in the lineup and be the guy. With the unfortunate situation where he wasn't able to play week in and week out we got the best with what we could get. But it seems to us that practicing together has made a difference for us."

RE: Will Arnaz Battle play in the next game?

"I haven't heard anything different. I would think so. I'll be disappointed if I hear different."

RE: What do you see in the Texans?

"They use a lot of wide receivers in their offense and I always thought David Carr was a good quarterback. We played him when he was a young guy and he's a big, strong guy that's smart and athletic. I've been surprised in the last couple of years that he hasn't been a better player than he is. But as I always say, sometimes that surrounding cast has a lot to do with it. I don't know how good or bad he is, because I'm not there first hand, but you have to be careful. With the situation that they have you have to recognize what it is that's making a guy do what he's doing. I was impressed with him as a young player. I'll know more about him when I watch him this week. I've heard everything from the people that he can go to, to the line he's had. I know that he's a very talented young man."

RE: Will you continue to favoring a one-night road trip schedule in the future?

"They'll be some adjusting in the future, but not on the East Coast. I think that anytime we go to the East Coast it will be on a Friday. It's actually about a nine hour swing for us and that's a little bit much to go just on the day before the game. When it's a two hour time zone then I believe that will be on a one-day deal. If I had to do Chicago over again it would've been a one day trip. I just don't like all the time and it's a bigger knock on your routine. You don't need to go so far in advance. It gets complex when you go with another day. I don't think that it's had a large effect on the win and loss column, but I just think it's more manageable."


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