They said it: 49ers after loss to Chargers

What the 49ers were saying late Friday night after their 20-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers, with takes on the game from head coach Mike Nolan, quarterback Alex Smith, running back Thomas Clayton, linebacker Takeo Spikes, tight end/kick returner Delanie Walker and defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer.


Opening statement:
I'm disappointed we lost, [and I'm] obviously disappointed with the way it happened as well but nonetheless it did. I will say this: we got better the last four weeks as a football team. The focus of our team was good throughout the preseason, and I think we got some work done. Our focus, naturally, going forward at this point is all on Arizona. It's the only thing that matters to us right now. But that's the way it is. I held some players out today. Seven players: four on defense, three on offense. Frank [Gore], Isaac [Bruce] and J.T. O'Sullivan on offense. On defense, our two corners Nate [Clements] and Walt [Harris]. And Patrick Willis and Justin [Smith]. Held them out, didn't need to see anything more out of them. But I did need to see, we've got a number of corners. I thought it was important to get those other guys some reps to see how they would do. They did a nice job. I thought Shawntae [Spencer] did well. I thought that [Donald] Strickland did some good things, as well as Reggie Smith made a few plays as well. That was important to see those other guys play. And then the D-line, it obviously gave us an opportunity with Justin out to play some other guys. Again, all the reps, all that was intentional. Not just to rest the guys that I held out but, as important it was for Michael Robinson to get a lot of reps in Frank's place. And it was important that Alex [Smith] and Shaun [Hill] got the work that J.T. O'Sullivan would have gotten. The reason I did it was twofold. So that was good. I thought that our quarterbacks did a good job. They moved the ball. Turnovers hurt us but they did move the ball. I liked the way Alex came back in the second half and had a 90-yard drive. That was good to see after the last play in the first half for him may have been a turnover. But anyhow, I thought they moved the ball well. Same thing with Shaun [Hill]: I thought he moved the ball well although he also had a turnover at the end of one of his drives. But there's definitely some yardage from a pass standpoint that we hadn't seen in the past that they did a nice job on. So I was pleased with that. Kickoff returns, naturally in the special teams area the kickoff return was very good. But more importantly, an area that you guys have asked about and we've all been looking at was our coverage units and I thought they did a better job today so that was good. We don't dismiss anything good or bad even though it is preseason and that was something I've been asked about obviously the last couple of weeks. Obviously we had given up some returns, and so no matter who's in there it's important that we do a good job so I thought that was better today.
On whether he thinks Alex Smith, who made some risky throws, has lost some of his confidence: I don't. I really don't. He's had great energy as far as in practice and even in the game. I know you kind of threw in the ‘risky' throw there but if it's complete, it's a good pass. So I'll say this, a quarterback has to take risks, he has to take chances. He threw some not so good, but he threw some good balls also. For Alex to continue to mature, and I think he would tell you the same thing, he needs to take, I don't know if it's necessarily risks, but he needs to trust [that there] is a better and more accurate way to say it. Which I thought he did several times tonight and did a nice job. I was really pleased with that. I was very pleased with him coming out in the third quarter and doing what he did and taking the team down the field and getting a touchdown. I'm pretty sure we went 90 yards. That's what impressed me as much as anything.


On playing well yet again in the preseason:
I had been waiting quite a while for my number to get called. Once it got called, I wanted to make big plays for the team, and I think I was able to do that.
On breaking a 23-yard run: Oh man, it was great. I think it was my biggest run of the preseason. I was waiting for one like that. There was great blocking up front, obviously. I was able to take advantage of it.


On how he felt he played:
It was good to get out there and play. I did some good things and some bad things. I've got to go look at the films to see how I did. The one errant throw floated on me, and I had the interception in the red zone which was hard on me. The fourth down in the red zone I'd like to have that one back too. Other than that, I've got to look at the film and take it for what it is, learn from the mistakes and get better.
On whether he felt more comfortable tonight: I did feel more comfortable tonight as a matter of fact. I felt good about letting the ball go and turning it loose. I felt like I saw well. I was seeing things well and seeing plays developing out there on the field. Though there are a couple of things I'd like to change.
On his touchdown pass to Billy Bajema: He made a great catch. He was kind of in traffic out there, pushed away from a couple of guys, but somehow managed to stay on his feet and made it into the end zone. So it was great play by Billy.


On his preseason and looking forward to the regular season:
I had a pretty good preseason considering that I came [to San Francisco] a week and a half late. I was able to pick up on some things. I could've played longer than the regular guys if they had to come out early. But that was good just because I needed the reps. The more times you see it, and the more times you go through it, you'll be better at it.
On whether he feels more comfortable now with the defensive scheme: Yes, I do. I feel more confident with it. So the other thing now is just to continue doing the same thing. Once it becomes second nature then everything else starts to happen, the big plays and everything else.


On his kickoff return for a touchdown:
I felt like I was a receiver out there for a minute, shaking people. But, that's what I do. I hit the hole full speed. I make guys fear me out there.
On San Diego's kicker not wanting to tackle him: Well, he didn't want any of that. At first I thought he was going to try. But then, he looked at me and I looked at him, and I turned up the speed, and he said, ‘Nah.'"


On his thoughts on the end of the preseason and starting the regular season:
I've got to take what I've learned in the preseason, training camp and OTA's and apply it to the season. Not that the preseason doesn't mean anything, but all of that is minor now. All that matters is Arizona like coach said and to use everything that we've learned and build it [against] Arizona.
On playing most of the game and getting in a rhythm: I've got to thank my [defensive] line for just the way they played tonight to give me confidence to go out there and play the whole game. I just want to go out there and let it all out and just do it out there for them. They've been there for me through thick and thin, whether I was playing good or whether I was playing bad. My hats off to them and I've got to give them credit. They helped me get to where I am.

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