Coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the media on Wednesday as his team prepares to face the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship.A week ago at this time you made an observation about the early stages of the game planning, guys were soaking it in. Do you have any observations like that this week?**
"Yeah, it's been good. We're working through the dynamic of playing the Falcons. And so far so good."
When you were talking about that, that was QB Colin Kaepernick specifically. Was that a reference to the read option that he was really picking up that part of it? Or was it the whole picture?
"The whole picture as it stood at that point."
After the game on Saturday night, you remarked about Colin's ability to bounce back after the interception, and how rare it was to have a quarterback come back with touchdown drives. What do you attribute that to, a few days later, the way he's done this all season long?
"I think what I'm referring to there is that as a quarterback and you throw an interception in a game, there's just a tendency the next time to double check things. You're double checking then double checking. And that's not the way to do it. That's not the way you want to do it. So, you want him to be trusting what he sees and cut it lose. And I think he's shown a rare ability to not do that, to not have to double check."
Do you coach that, or is that coachable? Or is that just something within a guy?
"I don't know for sure."
Is that his desire to make a bounce-back play? Or just to forget the previous play all together?
"I'm not making any statement like I know how to do it, or not do it. I'm just observing that he seems to have a rare ability to bounce back."
You didn't have to coach him through that Saturday night?
A lot of attention is suddenly on Colin, cover of Sports Illustrated, TV guy. Do you think that will affect him at all?
"No and you don't want it to. And just for our whole team in general, we feel good about what we've accomplished, but that doesn't change what we need to accomplish. It's like Tim [Kawakami] winning the California Sports Writer of the Year Award. It's a nice award. You put it up on your wall. It says something nice about Tim. But, doesn't affect what he has to do next, right? He's got to win the next game. So, that's where we stand. Our job is to win the next game."
Do quarterbacks have to handle that media attention differently though?
"No, I don't see why they would have to handle it differently. Than who?
The other players. Obviously they are the leader of the offense, the leader of the team?
"No, I don't think."
And you're happy with the way Colin is handling his attention especially this week?
"Yes. I think Colin does a great job of continuing in his humility."
I can't help but notice the similarities between the 49ers and where the Falcons were a year ago. Or, sorry excuse me, backwards. Where the Falcons are right now, where the 49ers were a year ago. A 13-3 team, nobody really expected them to win their divisional playoff. From having been in this situation, what's dangerous about a team like the Falcons?
"Well, there's no team you're going to play at this point that's not dangerous. So, you could talk a lot about how good the Falcons are. Why they are where they are. But, it's pretty thorough, offensively, defensively, special teams, coaching, talent."
I don't know if you've seen the Falcons penalty numbers. You probably have. But, they're kind of amazingly low for penalties and yardage. I was just wondering what you think that says about them as a team. If you can make any generalizations when you see that?
"The generalization would be it's a well-coached, disciplined football team."
The flipside of that is you guys for all your success this year, you have had some penalties. Is that just a byproduct of aggressive play and something you can live with, or have there been times when you're not happy with the number of penalties?
"No, I'm never happy with penalties."
Did you say something to Colin about his taunting penalty the other night?
"To Colin specifically? No, I didn't talk to Colin about that. Well, yeah we did have a discussion. We did have a discussion."
What was your feeling about that?
"That it was, in my opinion, it was a ticky tack. Didn't see it as a taunting penalty."
Did DT Justin Smith, a couple days from the game now, is he close to 100 percent? Was there any backsliding because of going through the game, or is he just fine?
"I don't know about 100 percent, or 90 percent, or 95 percent. But, somewhere in there."
He didn't have any step back because he was in there?
"No, he said he felt good the next day. He was in a great mood and ate a real big lunch. And was real upbeat the day after the game."
If you could characterize one thing that's different about this year's team heading into the title game versus last year's team, what would that be?
"I can't think of what that would be."
With all the cover of the magazines and everybody now calling you guys the Super Bowl favorite, do you have to ward off Freddie P. Soft a little bit? Or is this team not letting that affect them at all?
"We have to understand that the next game is the most important game on the schedule. And doesn't affect, if people are saying good things about you, what you need to do. So, our advice has always been if people are saying nice things about you, kick them in the shins and get back to work."
Are you uncomfortable that people are saying nice things?
"Comfort or uncomfort is not a word you really use in football."
What word would you use?
"Determined, focused on what we need to do to make our meetings the best of the season today. To make our practice the best Wednesday practice all season. That'll be our hope. That'll be our expectation."
You guys are 1-2 in domes. I know it's different quarterbacks, different situations. Does that stat meaningful going into the Georgia Dome?
"Yeah, I think the wins, the losses statistic is the most important one, the most meaningful one."
Were there issues with the dome in particular in those two losses?
"There are definitely things we're working on to try and improve to be a better team in that regard. So, hopefully we can be better this time than we were the last and learn from what mistakes that we did make."
Talk about the noise issue with the calls?
"Yes, just different issues. You're always striving to get one percent better anywhere you can. And I think that's a place that we are concentrating on."
The Falcons did a good job of shutting down Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch. Is there anything about their run defense from Sunday that stuck out to you?
"Yeah, it was very effective. I thought they had an outstanding plan. Probably won't go into it much more than that."
The way they defended the Seattle TE Zach Miller seemed to have a lot of opportunities in that game for Seattle. Do you see possible similar opportunities for TE Vernon Davis and TE Delanie Walker in this game? Or is it completely different styles of offense?
"I see opportunities if we play well and we prepare well. But, as to what we think will work or won't work, we would be foolish to talk about that."
Colin's acknowledged having a chip on his shoulder dating back to high school and the draft. Did you notice that during your draft process when you talked to him up in Reno, that this guy felt like he had something to prove?
"I didn't notice any chip on his shoulder, no."
Do you like that in him? Do you like that quality in him that he has "against all odds" (tattooed) on his chest, he feels like he has something to prove?
"I notice that with all our players, that they have something to prove. And we feel that way as a team. I'm not making any chip on any shoulder analogy. Just a desire to improve, desire to get better and be the best possible player you can be. Or the best possible team you can be. That's what I notice."
Is that part of the little plaquards above everybody's locker with their high school ranking and all that? What was the purpose of that?
"Well, everything doesn't need a purpose. It was a fun thing. Justin, myself, [DT] Ricky Jean [Francois], and [RB] Frank [Gore] were having a meal and just started talking about high school recruitment and stars and what they weighed at that time. And [DT] Ray McDonald was in there as well and then one of the fellows pulled up a picture of the scout of I think it was Ray. And from there that was born the idea let's do one for everybody."
Do you have one for yourself?
"They didn't have the internet back in 1982 that I'm aware of. But, yeah I think just as far as what it means, that means something different to the beholder that's looking at it. To me, as I look through every single picture of every single guy, I was moved by the eyes. It's always in the eyes. They're cheerful and undefeated. And it was nice to put those photos up."
How many stars for you?
"Again, I think in my day I was a fantastic player. But, for some reason just people couldn't see it. The college scouts and the scribes and pundits just for some reason did not see it."