From the locker room

What the 49ers and Cardinals were saying late Sunday afternoon after Arizona's 26-20 upset victory at Monster Park that knocked San Francisco out of playoff contention:


Opening Remarks: "There's obviously a frustration that comes with being 6-9 and out of the playoff hunt, so to speak. We put ourselves in position to still have a chance. Our goal was the same as it was last year – it was a lofty goal last year – and that was to win the West. Today, we were also trying to accomplish the best record in the division at 4-2. We weren't able to do that, either. We'll end up 3-3 in the division. It's progress, but not the progress we would like. We did talk about (the playoffs). We talked about it for good reason. Whether we realized it or not is irrelevant, in my opinion, because as we go forward it's very realistic and we need to recognize when we're there. Whether it's 5-5 like we were before or whether it was this week, we need to recognize that we've been there before and what to do. Obviously, we let it slip away both times. In the game today, we dug a hole in the first half when it was 20-3. We came back out in the second half, started to get back into things a couple things and turned the ball back over. The game went the way it has been in the last five weeks or so. It was like that in New Orleans. That is that we made some mistakes. They are not surprising to me, only because I think that is one of the characteristics of a young football team. It's certainly not something that we excuse or something that we don't try to rectify. It does create a picture in my mind of where this team has been and where it's going."

On what of indication this game gave him about his team: "I would say that a year ago, my vision was that we were a team that hoped to win. We won four games. I think that this year we were a team that began to believe that they could win. We've won six games. I believe that the next step for us is to expect to win. We're not there yet. I think it's less of a statement than it is a picture of where we are as a football team."

On the 49ers lacking inspiration in first half: "When the game started, we had three points. If that's not inspiration, I don't know what the hell it is. After that, we let them score. That was a disappointment. They got a big play on us. I don't think it was a lack of inspiration or anything else. I think they let the wind out of our sail. They shouldn't have, but that's what did happen. We came out in the second half and got back in the game. I wouldn't call that a lack of inspiration."


On his development: "I have to keep working and keep learning. The smarter I get, the better I get. God has already blessed me with the ability and the genes to go out and perform well, but it's all about being smart – knowing your assignments and where you have to be. Knowing how long to take your seam route and things like that."

On where he thinks this team will go in the future: "I see us going far, to the playoffs, Super Bowl, or wherever. I see nothing but good things coming for us. We are young, growing and developing. We've got guys still learning, so I don't see anything but greatness for us."

On how much losing players to injury hurt the offense: "It always hurts when you lose a player, but you have to move on. You have to put that to the side and someone has to step up and make plays. That's what this League is all about. If the man in front of you gets hurt, no problem, someone has to step up and make plays."

On if he is totally 100% back from his injury: "Yes, I'm all the way back. If I'm not, I'm still going to play like I am."

On what he remembers about the play when he was hit by Robert Griffith: "I remember everything. He didn't hit me hard enough. I told him that he could have done a better job than that. I had been hit harder than that in college."

On if he filled the void vacated by the loss of Antonio Bryant: "I think I stepped up, but it would have been better with Antonio out there. It's always good when you can have everyone out there, especially with Antonio because he can make plays. But like I said earlier, when one guy is gone the next guy has to step up."

On if he is becoming a go-to guy: "Yes, I feel like that. Those guys were keying me a lot. They were all over the place. You had the Sam linebacker holding me off on the drag route, and then you had another linebacker holding me off as well. Then, they would have one linebacker on me and then a safety coming over the top. It was tough to get open, but I made it happen."

On if this team is ready to compete (division title, playoffs, etc.): "Yes, we are a team ready to compete, especially if we can keep everyone healthy. That is going to be the key."

On if he looks back on certain games as possible victories: "Yes, all season long. Every game we have played should've been a win. But mistakes can hurt you a lot. That's all I see, a bunch of mistakes."

On if there needs to be some additions to personnel in the off-season: "I think we are fine. I think everyone on the roster is doing a great job."

On if he would have held on to the ball when he was hit early on in the season: "I don't know. I would have tried. It was a tough catch, just knowing you are going to get hit. I prepared for it, so just made the play. I wasn't worried about the hit. I was just worried about making the play."

On his development returning from injury: "I've grown a lot – from watching Eric Johnson, the way he runs his routes and gets open. When you have a guy like that who is good, you can learn from him and grow."


On losing two starting offensive linemen:"It's tough. I'm comfortable with our back ups and they work hard everyday. We went through it before earlier in the season. We just have to keep working, learn from our mistakes and move on."

On the team's young players: "It doesn't matter how old you are. We are moving in the right direction, we just can't make the mistakes we made today."

On if he would exchange this team for the 2005 team: "No, I would not. We are moving in the right direction, we just have to keep working hard and learn from our mistakes. In all the games we lost this year, our mistakes hurt us. We have just got to keep working."


On if he's fine-tuned his pass rush techniques here in the end of the season: "Yes, exactly. When I get out there, all I'm thinking about is straight-up pass rushing, by using my hands, and beating guys off the ball."

On if he feels he could be part of the future with the 49ers: "Yes. I have a role that I keep. I try to rush the passer, and make plays and make sacks."

On being eliminated from playoff contention: "Playoffs or not, we have to concentrate on the next game. We have to get ready to win this next game. That's what we have to do."


On his thoughts of the game: "There's not too much to take away from a game like this. We have to learn from our mistakes and get better."

On the 49ers' mentality for next week's season finale at Denver: "We still have to play hard. Even though we're not playing for the post-season, we have to finish strong and build momentum for next season."


On his thoughts of the game: They are a talented team. (WR) Anquan (Boldin) and (WR) Larry (Fitzgerald), those guys are good. I'll be working hard in the off-season for these types of players. They played a good game today."

On how it was game-planning for the Arizona offense: "Like I said, they are a talented group. We also outplayed ourselves. But they came to play today and we have to learn from it as a defensive unit."


On being eliminated from the playoffs: "We've got one more game and after that we can reflect. I think it's important to finish on a good note and to get focused. It's an extremely tough loss. This was a chance to go 4-2 in the division and make a statement. To come out in the first half and put ourselves in a hole like that really hurt our chances."

On going flat after the first drive in the first half: "We opened with two big run plays that were both first downs, then hit the pass for a first down. The first three plays put us in scoring position. I don't know if the guys thought it was going to be that easy all day or what. We need to take advantage of it when it's there, because it's not always going to be there. That scoring opportunity in the first drive with that kind of momentum going, I think you've got to make the most of it and score a touchdown. It hurts. We got three points out of it, but it would've been a lot different if we put that ball in the end zone."

On the 49ers' improvement from last season to this season: "We are in a lot different spot this year than last year. Even though we lost today and the lost the chance to make the playoffs is gone, but just to have the mindset this late in the season is experience for this team."

On the 49ers becoming a playoff-caliber team: "We've got to become more consistent. Expect to win, and demand it."

On the absence of Antonio Bryant: "Whether he is productive or not he is an impact out there. He is someone the other team worries about. A guy like that with big play potential is going to get attention from defenses, it goes unsaid and opens up things for the other receivers. With him missing these last two games hurts, but guys need to step in and we need to move on."


On his overall impressions: "It was an NFC West win for us and I think that's four in a row against San Francisco…so it was a good, hard fought battle. All the games have been very close, right down to the wire and today was exactly like that too."

On Arizona's defense: "We played well defensively, as I said if we could get up then we could take Frank Gore out of the game and if not, you're really going to have a problem because he can really run the football. If you have to try to deal with the pass and him…you're going to come up on the small end of the bargain."

On QB Matt Leinart: "Matt Leinart's got a sprained AC and we don't know how serious it is. We are optimistic that it won't require any work. Warner came in and played the second half and did a really solid job. He made some key throws and it turned into a game where we had to run and use the clock and make a first down. He couldn't play today, so I don't think he'll be able to play for two or three weeks."

On knocking the 49ers out of playoff contention: "You have to make your own decision on what's at stake. We only have six games in the NFC West and we try to get the best record we can. We don't like the fact that we're not in the playoff hunt. A lot of teams got eliminated today, including San Francisco and some other people."


On going over the 1,000-yard barrier today: "Under the circumstances it means a lot. At first I didn't look at it as a big deal, but then you realize what's happened around here and how rare it is—it's a big accomplishment."

On knocking the 49ers out of the playoff race: "Anytime you come out to play, you play to win. That's one thing we want to do—we want to win. We're unofficially the best in the (NFC) West. Even though we don't get a chance to go to the playoffs, we know we have the best divisional record and that's big. This is something you learn from. I think all the guys are going to learn from this. We're going to know that we can win our division, but we have to win the other games as well."


On his shoulder injury: "It was diagnosed as a sprain. It happened on the last play. I just fell on it wrong. It's painful, but I don't think it'll last very long."

On his frustration of being injured: "Yeah, it was frustrating. We had a good rhythm going, we were able to move the ball and score several times in the first half. It would have been great if I would've been able to play the second half, but as you saw there was no drop off with Kurt in the game."

On Arizona's game plan: "We wanted to control the ball and keep Gore off the field as much as possible. He gives them a real threat offensively, so it was important for us to jump out to the lead and build on it like we did."


On the defense's strategy against the 49ers: "We just took it upon ourselves to put some pressure on Alex Smith. Going in we felt that we had to stop Frank Gore. We'd been able to do that to some degree every time we've played against him. We wanted Alex Smith to beat us with his passing. We tried to rush him and keep him under constant pressure whenever he dropped back to throw."

On Arizona's offensive success: "Ball control and field position were the keys for us today. Even though we didn't score every time, we were at least able to control the clock and keep their offense off the field."

On the impact of turnovers: "They were huge, huge. That set up our offense very nicely. When you stop the run like we did and create turnovers, you tend to win more often than not and you saw that today."


On his thoughts of the game: "We were drinking our ‘haterade' today. We felt if we weren't going to make it to the playoffs, neither were the 49ers. We came out today with something to prove. They are in our division and today we had the chance to finish with the best record in our division. We went all out today. We had nothing to lose."

On his play in the fourth quarter: "I've taken a lot of criticism this year. I think I've played a solid year, but others feel that I haven't made the big plays that I should've. It was time for me to change up my game. I think I played solid, but everyone is looking at me to make the big plays—they're looking for the playmaker. That's what I was trying to do today—make plays."

On the absence of 49ers WR Antonio Bryant: "It wouldn't have made a difference if he played. If it was Antonio Bryant or whomever, it wouldn't have mattered. We brought our ‘A' game today."


On his use of gloves: "Some of you know I've had some hand injuries…I've been trying the gloves as an experiment in the past few weeks and it's been helping me hold on to the ball and hopefully protecting my hands a little bit."

On coming into the game in relief: "Actually, I was a little bit nervous. I felt a little pressure. After all, we had been moving the ball pretty well and Matt had done very well. The offense had been moving and putting points up on the board, so, when I came in I didn't want to do anything stupid. I wanted to manage the game and build on our success. That was my mind set going in."

On whether he plans on retiring after next week's season finale: "I'm going to weigh a lot of factors. For one, I have seven kids at home, they have to be considered…it's not just a question of what's best for me personally, or for my football career. On the other hand, I definitely want to continue playing and I'm under contract to do so. So, we'll see how things go."

On the 49ers' defensive strategy: "They played a lot of base defense against us. They pretty much forced us to run in some situations, they didn't blitz a whole lot. They basically said, here we are…beat us with your run if you can. Fortunately our line was able to pound on them a bit and our running backs were able to take advantage. We were able to move the ball effectively against them throughout much of the game. Frankly, I was a little bit surprised that they didn't change their approach to make something happen."

On his role as the backup: "It was fun to get back in there. As a backup you never know when your chance is going to come. You have to stay mentally ready at all times. I believe I can do that and help the team in whatever capacity they see for me."

On Matt Leinart's performance: "He played very well. You all saw that. We scored just about every time we had the ball in the first half. He had to feel a little frustrated because of his injury. He got banged up a little bit, but I don't think that kind of injury lingers. He's made a lot of strides this season. He did some great things. I look for him to have a very good career in this league."

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