San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Game Notes
Sunday, December 20, 2015

Courtesy: San Francisco 49ers

Applying The Pressue
· The 49ers defense registered 4.0 sacks on Bengals QB AJ McCarron:
o LB Ahmad Brooks registered 1.0 sack on the day. He now has 5.0 on the season and 46.0 for his career.
o DB Jimmie Ward brought down McCarron for his first career sack.
o S Eric Reid also registered the first sack of his career, taking down McCarron for a three-yard loss.
o NT Ian Williams recorded his 1st sack of the season and 2nd of his career.

Williams Recovers His First
· NT Ian Williams recovered a Bengals RB Jeremy Hill fumble for his first career FR.

It’s Miller Time
· Following the Williams fumble recovery, FB Bruce Miller found the end zone for his first career TD run from one-yard out.

Gabbert Sets Career Highs
· QB Blaine Gabbert set new single game career-highs in attempts (50) and completions (30). His previous career highs were 49 attempts (at GB – 10/28/13) and 27 completions (2 times, last vs. Det. – 11/4/12).

Boldin Closes In On 1,000
· WR Anquan Boldin notched 8 recepts. for 74 yds. and 1 TD, marking his 3rd TD of the season and 73rd of his career.
· Boldin now has 999 career recepts. for 13,097 yds. and 73 TDs. With his next recept., Boldin will become the 13th player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career recepts.

Onside Success
· K Phil Dawson’s onside kick attempt was recovered by LB Nick Bellore, marking the first successful onside kick since 11/13/11 (K David Akers kick recovered by TE Delanie Walker vs. NYG).

Head Coach Jim Tomsula
Press Conference – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Listen to Audio I Media Center

Opening comments:
“Injury report: [C] Marcus Martin’s got a concussion. [RB Shaun] Draughn has a knee and [WR Jerome] Simpson had the wind knocked out of him. That’s what we’ve got there. [CB] Dontae [Johnson] had the ankle, he came back and played. That’s it.”

We ask about energy all the time, what did you think of the energy level?
“There was energy. In four minutes and 23 seconds, it went from zero-zero to 21-nothing. Until we understand that we cannot make those fundamental mistakes. We have got to understand that we cannot make those fundamental mistakes. When the ball is thrown we need to catch it. We need to hold on to it. We need to punt the ball. We need to make those plays.”

What can you do about that?
“Work like crazy.”

Obviously, there were two balls of off TE Vance McDonald’s hands resulted in interceptions. You continued to put him out there and throw to him.
“I’m not going to evaluate the personnel today.”

You guys were 0 for 12 on third down until the final two attempts. What is that a reflection of in terms of QB Blaine Gabbert as your quarterback and how you feel about the offense?
“Well, Blaine Gabbert has got to be able to be protected too. He’s got to have time to make those throws.”

How do you evaluate yourself and your coaching staff?
“I evaluate everybody. It’s a loss. That’s what I evaluate.”

Do you think Shaun Draughn’s knee injury will keep him out of the next two?
“I don’t know that. I hope not, but I don’t know that right now.”

You were happy with the energy level? You were happy with the effort level in today’s game?
“The physical effort and the energy level? Yes, absolutely. I have not had a problem with this group, with that. It’s the fine focus. Tackling, which was cleaned up today. But, the problems that we’ve had and the problems that come up are fine focus. We need to focus and we need to make sure we make those plays.”

In your past experience what tributes to the kinds of problems that we’ve seen the 49ers have this season in those areas?
“That’s a better question for Wednesday. I’m not going to have an excuse or anything else today. We need to get that done.”

Is fine focus another word for concentration in your mind?
“I think it falls within that, but my point is when the play is to be made whether it be tackling or catching or blocking, the fine focus is – you see the play through. You have to see it through.”

The run fits seemed to be much better today. What changed? What improved from last week?
“Everybody was fitted up. We were fitted up, guys were playing and we fitted up the run.”

When you guys were down 24-nothing and scored, you could look at it and say you are three scores away —
“Three, eights.”

Three, eights, why didn’t you go three, eights?
“Because, I was looking for the other side of that. Because when we scored if something happens there with one of those two-point conversions, now you’re chasing that point. So, I chose the other option.”

I think the Bengals had about 250-yards, just one drive more than 36-yards, one scoring drive. Was that a winning performance by the defense?
“I’m not going to separate the team. It’s the 49ers and we didn’t win. I was pleased with improvement. It’s hard to be pleased with anything right now.”

To go back to the three, eights. Your feeling was you were going to get more possessions than just the three?

It looked like LB NaVorro Bowman had one of his better games, especially on that fourth down tackle. Did he come out ready to show that he still had it today?
“Yeah. Again, I think that entire front seven, they all worked together.”

Why is fine focus still an issue after 15 weeks?
“It’s been up and down. We have got to make sure that we make that play and finish it. I don’t have the answer on why it’s a problem today. I don’t. I have to find that answer.”

49ers QB Blaine Gabbert
Press Conference – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers
Listen to Audio I Media Center

Is there anything you can put your finger on why this offense seems to get off to slow starts?
“I think it’s just up to the players to execute. We prepare really well all week and we just have to find a way, somehow find a way to have that carry over to the first couple drives of the game. When you start fast offense, it gets everybody in the flow and you start playing team football.”

The first X number of drives are all third-and-long situations. How difficult does that make it just to convert?
“It’s tough. Like I’ve said in the past, when you’re in third-and-14, third-and-15, third-and-12 versus a talented defense, the odds of executing on that third down are extremely low. It’s up to the players to not put ourselves in that situation. Eleven guys have got to be on the same page on offense. So, you can utilize the down-and-distance we have and not take five-yard penalties on third down.”

I asked WR Torrey Smith what the difference was between those last few scoring drives and the beginning, he said we got aggressive finally. Do you think the offense got more aggressive and was lacking that in the beginning and maybe were you more aggressive in the second half?
“No, not at all. I think the plays, we were executing them. Earlier in the first half, you got to get into the flow of the game and help dictate some coverages. At the end of the game, we knew what we were getting and as players we went out there and executed. But, it was too little, too late at that point.”

Head coach Jim Tomsula just said the issue with this team in fine focus. Can you explain what he means by that?
“I think what he meant is that players have to come to work on Sundays to win a football game. It’s up to us to put the product on the field to win a game. We have to go out there, take it upon ourselves to execute at a high level and not put everybody in a situation of losing football games. It’s up to 11 guys on offense, 11 guys on defense and 11 guys on special teams.”

How do you view the two passes that you threw right on the money to TE Vance McDonald and he ended up turning it over?
“That’s football for you. It’s not anyone’s fault. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way and you can’t point fingers, you can’t place blame. We just have to throw the ball better and catch the ball better. It starts with me. But, that’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just, those happen sometimes and you just got to live with it.”

Did you talk to Vance at some point after those plays?
“Yeah. You just have to keep your head up, keep fighting. Like I said, just some unlucky bounces and that’s just the way it goes.”

“Yeah, it’s tough. Like I said, when you take penalties on third-and-seven to put you in third-and-12, third-and-10 to put you in third-and-15, I don’t recall the exact down and distances, but the odds of executing on third-and-15 are extremely low. It’s up to us to maintain that high level of focus on third down because third downs are pivotal parts in this football game. When you execute at a high level on third down, you extend drives and that translates into putting points on the board.”

I asked you about this before, but I think with your first three or four third downs, completions didn’t get a first down. I understand kind of what you’re saying those obviously were third-and-long, but just kind of given where this offense is, do you sometimes feel like you need to push things a little more, be a little more aggressive?
“Especially early on in the game, you want to take what the defense is giving you. The defenses know it’s third-and-15 too. So, they’re going to play at the sticks, make you throw it underneath and rally and make a tackle. That’s the way it goes. It gets back to not putting yourselves in third-and-15 because if it’s third-and-15, you get 12-yards, you’re off the field. But, it’s third-and-10, you get 12 yards, it’s a first down, you keep the drive alive.”

Tomsula was saying part of the problem on third down is they’re not giving you enough time to throw. Do you need to take it upon yourself to implore the linemen to block better on those third downs?
“Our offensive line is doing a tremendous job. They gave me a ton of time today. That’s an extremely talented defensive front seven that we faced and they played their tails off from the get-go. I appreciate every one of those guys. [OL] Trent Brown came in in the fourth quarter and did a heck of a job. There’s nothing bad I can say about them. They played their tails off.”

After RB Shaun Draughn’s injury, did the play calling have to change?
“No, not at all. Injuries are going to happen in a football game and it’s the same mentality that we’ve always had, it’s the next man up. [RB Travaris Cadet] T.C. and [RB] Kendall [Gaskins] came in and did a tremendous job.”

49ers WR Anquan Boldin
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Do you feel like that stretch in the second quarter, you kind of just let the game get away?
“Yeah. I don’t feel like we played good enough in that stretch. I felt like the defense kept giving us chances, but offensively we didn’t do anything with it.”

How frustrating is it, after 14 games, still having these challenges?
“It’s real frustrating. Any time you don’t come out and perform the way you’re capable of performing, it’s frustrating. Too often we get off to slow starts and then try to get it cranking in the second half. That shouldn’t be the case. I feel like we should be aggressive coming out and just keep it going throughout the entire game.”

At 4-10, do you worry that this team might pack it in? Is that a problem at this point?
“I’m not worried about that. The guys come to work every day to work. So, I’m not worried about guys packing it in.”

You guys were 0-12 on third downs until the very end. What’s going on on third down?
“You’re putting yourself in bad situations when you’re in third-and-long. There aren’t too many great play calls on third-and-long. You’ve got to take care of what you need to take care of on first and second down, put yourself in third-and-manageable. And then your percentages go up.”

Do you think effort was an issue today?
“No, I think guys fought until the end. I don’t think effort was a problem, it was more of lack of execution.”

It’s unusual to ask about a specific player, but 49ers TE Vance McDonald had two drops that resulted in interceptions.
“That’s part of football. Some days, you have days like that. Nobody here is down on Vance. Vance works his butt off. He gives us everything that he has. You can’t put this game on Vance at all.”

On your fumble, did you think that you were almost down?
“Yeah, I felt like I was. But, after seeing the review, it was a good play. They made a great play on it.”

49ers LB NaVorro Bowman
Press Conference – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Do you feel like this game was an extension of the Cleveland game? Was it a little better, a little worse?
“Not at all. I feel like this was a totally different game. I feel like guys were on edge all week. I felt like guys really wanted to get this one.”

Did that almost make it worse that the energy was there and you still can’t win a game here?
“No, there are so many parts to this thing. We won’t realize or see those parts until we get back in the meeting room and have the next game. Try not to make those mistakes, the same mistakes that keep getting us in this jam.”

What was your message to the team before the game?
“We’re a team and if we call ourselves a team, we have a bad game, it’s our job to respond. I challenged the whole team to respond to the last game we played. When you ask a man if you’re going to rise to the occasion or fold, you expect to see them rise to the occasion.”

When the offense doesn’t respond like that, do you talk to them further in the game or do you leave that alone?
“I just try to motivate everyone. We as a defense are behind them and we’re not pointing the finger or anything like that, we just want to get it right. I’m not in their meetings, so I just try to give them encouragement like I know how to.”

What is it like when there are those quick turnarounds when you’re off the field and then there’s a turnover so you have to grab your helmet and get back out there?
“You have to understand there’s three points possibly already made and it’s your job to keep them out of the endzone. That’s the part where, we as a defense, have to get better. And that will come. It’s an attitude. Every defense doesn’t have that attitude and it’s shown this year. It’s my job to get everyone on the same page and have that same attitude.”

I saw you gesturing to the crowd, especially in the first half. Did you sense a lack of energy and what did you think of the third quarter where it was basically cleared out by then?
“I never think the game is over until there’s zeroes on the clock. You never know what’s going to happen. I didn’t see a lack of energy.”

How about in the stadium?
“In the stadium, the fans are probably fed up. To see them come out and still cheer us on, I think when they got up, we felt it as a team. If we were winning, they would have stayed in the stadium. It’s just the position we’re in where we have to bring our own energy.”

Head coach Jim Tomsula says the issue with this team ‘fine focus’, can you describe what ‘fine focus’ means. I’m not sure I know what he means by that can you explain what he means when he says ‘fine focus’?
“Fine focus means you’re focused throughout the week and when Sundays come, you have to let it loose but still be focused. I think there’s some immaturity there with our team to understand Sunday is the day to make those plays. Sunday is the day where that perfect practice that you wanted to have or you did have, Sunday is the day to have another perfect day. I think the lack of fire and focus is right there. Guys need to want to go take it. Coach is right, he sees it in practice. We’re doing everything that they’re asking us to do but we’re just not taking it to that next level on Sundays.”

On the Bengals second drive they decided to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking what would have been a 45-yard field goal. Does this defense take any message out of that at all?
“No. We knew that they like to go for it on fourth down by watching film throughout the week. It wasn’t really a smack in the face, just something they like doing.”

You’ve been on some good teams, now you’re 4-10. What has this season taught you about being a leader?
“To lead, that’s all I can do. Keep leading and doing the things that winning teams have to have and everyone will follow suit.”

49ers DT Quinton Dial
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The second quarter was obviously very difficult because three different times the defense was working with a very short field. Did you like what you saw from the defense in short goal line situations?
“Yeah there were a lot of positives, but we still have to stop them when we have the short field advantage. We have to make plays.”

What was the difference at half because of the four sacks?
“The coaches just made some adjustments at half time and told us to come out and shoot our gun and go for him.”

No one knows McCarron better than you. Was he as advertised in his first start?
“Yeah, he’s a good game manager. That’s what they did for him, they made it easy. They did a solid job for him.”

There were some goal line stands, there were some strong efforts on the defensive side of the ball aside for some big pops down the field. Was it a bounce back game in many respects compared to last week?
“When the opportunity presents itself we still have to make plays whether its pass or rush, we still have to go out and do our jobs and be consistent with it.”

It seems like you and NT Ian Williams have built a nice rapport on the defensive front and it showed today. Do you feel like that continues to grow with just two games remaining?
“Yeah, the bond between us is always going to be there. We know how to play off each other. It’s crazy because we can look at each other and know we’re thinking the same thing. It is going to continue to grow.”

49ers TE Vance McDonald
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

It was kind of a tough afternoon for you. Any comments? Being away for a little while, did that impact things or make it a little more challenging for you?
“No, I just have to execute better. That’s definitely not me, underperforming, and you’ve got to have a better week.”

You’ve done so many positive things and this was just one of those days. What do you cite?
“Well, just move on. You’ve got to have a short memory in this game. Just have to execute. It’s simple, little things, and I’m capable of doing it.”

Speaking of breaks, just one of those things, tipped ball up in the air? Ball didn’t bounce your way, it went the other way, right?
“Yeah, routine catch. It’s frustrating, but that one is on me. Like I said, it’s just a little execution.”

49ers S Eric Reid
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Did you like what you saw from this defense to start the game against the Bengals’ offense?
“Yeah, we started the game and came out firing like we wanted to. We held them and made them punt the ball. We gave them good field position and we weren’t able to keep them out.

Obviously in that second quarter they had a short field in all three of those possessions that they scored on. What was the mindset on this defense when they have the ball on the eleven yard line and then in the red zone again?
“Keep them out. They got their three points, we try not to give them seven. We thought we kept them out on the goal line. They gave it to them. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

What was the adjustment the defense made on AJ McCarron because all four sacks from this defense, including your first career sack coming in the second half. What was it that this defense saw to be able to get to him?
“I think we ran some stuff that was successful against their line in previous games. There was some good coaching, they drew up blitzes they thought would work so you have to give credit to Eric Mangini and us for executing them.”

Eric [Mangini] had said coming in to this week that you guys really don’t know what AJ McCarron could bring because he didn’t have any game tape. You and Quinton Dial got to know him well. Was he what you remember? What kind of quarterback was he today?
“He’s a game manager. He’s going to do the right thing, make the right calls. He’s going to try to keep the team out of bad situations. I don’t remember if he had a turnover and I don’t think he did. That’s the AJ I remember.”

What do you take away from this game with two remaining?
“We got two games left to play. Don’t put any bad tape out there. This is our job. Still come out here and play. That’s what we got to do.”

Did you notice all the Super Bowl heroes from yesteryear on the field at halftime?
“I did, I noticed before the game how they had Ronnie Lott out there so that was cool. I got to talk to him for a second. They play their highlights all the time in this building so it was cool to see him.”

Jim Tomsula and this coaching staff is going to get scrutinized in these last two games. Has that been discussed at all in the locker room that you guys are basically playing for some of these guys jobs?
“No, it hasn’t. If you look at our season, I say it every week, we shoot ourselves in the foot over and over again. We had a couple bobbled balls where if that’s a catch, then it’s not a turnover. They don’t have that good of field position and it’s still our ball. I don’t think you can put it all on Jimmy. A lot of the plays come down to us executing.”

On Cincinnati’s second drive, they went for it on fourth down when they could have kicked a 45 yard field goal. A little surprising maybe?
“Yeah, I mean, it’s somewhat disrespectful to the defense. When we’re on the field you go for it on fourth down. We stood up, Hodges made a great play on the down block and the ball came through on the other side.”

49ers WR Torrey Smith
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

What was working towards the end of the game, that wasn’t there in the beginning?
“We tried to be aggressive. Playing conservative in the first half, you can’t win like that. When we play aggressive, we move the ball.”

I saw you were a little frustrated on the sideline after a third down. 0-12 for your first 12 third downs. Do you feel like the ball just wasn’t being pushed downfield?
“It’s always frustrating when you’re not playing the way you’re supposed to be playing. We weren’t executing very well. So, it wasn’t fun at all.”

What are you guys going to try and get out of these final two games?
“We’re going to try to win. That’s really all you can do. We know there aren’t any more victories to play for to get to the Super Bowl. We know that’s not a possibility. So, we’ve just got to try to win and finish strong.”

49ers QB Blaine Gabbert is going to come away from this game with a bad passer rating and three interceptions. Was it that bad out there for him? Or how do you evaluate his performance today?
“We’ve just got to make plays. A couple of them, we had our hands on them and they were picks. That’s not his fault. We’ve just got to make plays and move the ball. Some of them are situations where we didn’t get the first down and kind of put him in a little tougher situation. So, we just didn’t do a very good job of being consistent, making plays.”

49ers DB Jimmie Ward
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

How do you feel like you guys came out today?
“I feel like we came out pretty good. They got up on us 21-0 so we kept playing. We came in for the half and coach gave us a good speech. He told us to continue to play like we did in the first half and I think we executed plays.”

Do you think that AJ wasn’t able to feel comfortable back in the pocket?
“He did a pretty good job to me. They came out with the win. We were just trying to confuse him. It’s his first start as a quarterback so we were trying to show him packages that maybe he hasn’t seen before.”

Did you guys blitz more than you normally do against a guy making his first start?
“I blitzed one time and ended up getting a sack. But the TFL, I just watch a lot of film and noticed that when they had the guard pulled and the tackle pulled and the wide receiver comes down to block the D-end, so they just left me out to dry so I knew I could blitz on that play so I ended up making a play. Coach gave me the green card to blitz so that’s what I did.

Was this the first time you tackled AJ McCarron?
“Yes, in park league they had the blanket on him. I couldn’t touch him in practice.”

Did you get a chance to say anything to him after you sacked him?
“Yeah, we swapped jerseys and his family came out to the game. It was good to see them.”

How does this game measure up as far as your career? Is it one of the better games that you’ve played?
“Yeah I would say that for right now. I’m just trying to do good every game. Coming off last year, I really had a let down year, got hurt. I’ll never forget that Chicago game. It was my welcome to the NFL game. I’m just trying to help my team out any way possible.

On that blitz, how are you getting the green light there? Is that something you are reading on the field where the wide receiver is at?
I noticed that when I watched the film, I think it was the Houston Texans, they left the nickel unguarded. And then the run was going back the other way. It was a counter so the run was going to the opposite way from me. So I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get picked up. I knew they weren’t thinking I was going to blitz.

Were your eyes as big as saucers when you saw AJ McCarron in front of you?
Yeah, I didn’t think I was going to have the opportunity. I was happy to get him. Now I’ll have a story to tell when we’re back in Mobile, Alabama.

Was it like old times, old pop warner times in practice?
Yeah, you know, we were teammates. He had the blanket on him. I couldn’t hit him in practice. So when I finally got him it felt good.”

Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis
Press Conference – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Opening comments:
“I’m proud of our guys for coming out here and taking care of business today. It wasn’t perfect. In the second half particularly we need to do a little better, a better job on offense particularly. But, we’ve come through there and got the win, and we’ll move forward now.”

The play by Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap to get the strip seemed like a huge momentum turner for you guys today.
“Oh, it was obviously a big play. It put us in position to score and go up by 14 at that time. That was a huge play to get a good turnover on your end like that, and we were able to put it away right away. It was big. The turnovers were big today. We got defensively to jump start us a little bit. We were turning in a little bit on offense. We had some big plays, and then we got stalled, and so forth and we had some penalties that hurt us in the second half, which we have to eliminate. We had those holding penalties in the second half that really killed us and set us behind the count.”

You talked a lot this week about everybody trying to help make up for the loss of Bengals QB Andy Dalton, the defense in particular seemed to do that.
“Yeah, they did. To get the ball back, set up points, we forced a couple punts, ran down in deep, and we were able to get the ball on our side, the 50 or at least close to it. And, then when they had it a couple times we were able to defend it and get it back.”

Would you describe the affect that Bengals DT Geno Atkins had on San Francisco’s offense today?
“I don’t know. I saw him make a sack. I saw him make a play in the back field. It’s just hard for me to analyze that from my vantage point. I’m not quite paying attention.”

What would you tell me, I know you have to watch the tape and all that, about your first thoughts on Bengals QB AJ McCarron and how he–?
“Well, I thought he played the game. He handled the football, managed the game, managed the ball, and that’s the key element. He did some good things, and made some good throws, and he protected the football. Those are the key things going into the game he had to go in and do.”

You guys put an emphasis on third downs after last week. On Friday we talked about Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict on third down and he was in there on third down. What kind of lift aid did he provide maybe? And obviously being able to correct–?
“Well, it’s kind of impulsive, but you know, I did notice two of his plays too. He had a tackle. He had a sack. He had an interception. Those were big plays. Having an interception is a big play. He kind of affected the game in there early on, particularly on third down.”

Is it fair to say the game was not too big for AJ?
“No, I don’t think the game is too big. This is one week, and we’ll move on and go to a different, next week. We’ve got to retool and hopefully he moves forward, and we do.”

Did you emphasize to him just to trust his teammates this week, and let them help–?
“I emphasize all the time to our quarterbacks, just to trust, just do your job. And, you do your job, and those guys will get to their spots and do their job, as well as the can and good things will happen. He delivered some good balls. He put balls up on guys’ eyes and that’s what we want. That was big throughout the day.”

The playoff berth, that’s a goal, to get to the postseason five straight.
“Well, winning the division is big. I think that’s a key element, so I’m proud of them for that. Somebody told me I think it’s the third time that we’ve done it in the last seven years, so that’s key. It’s a good thing for our guys. I’m proud of them for that, but there’s enthusiasm in there, but not many smiles. So, they know there’s a lot of work ahead. I don’t know, I almost feel bad for them. They didn’t really enjoy this today. They know what’s ahead. We got a big game coming up again, but we’ve come a long ways for that.”

Why is that exactly? Just focusing on next week?
“Just keeping, there are bigger goals out there. And, there’s not the euphoric thing at all in there. I had to tell them to smile. I mean, they just looked at me like I was going to chew their butts, and I’ll wait on that.”

It was another kind of chippy game, I guess on both sides, but it seems like you guys learned from some of the lessons that you took from the Steelers game.
“I don’t think it was really chippy. I just think at times guys, anyway. We just have to keep playing and doing a good job throughout.”

HB Jeremy Hill started the first quarter on the side lines, what went into that?
“We started [Bengals HB] Giovani [Bernard] today.”

It was just the decision?

Is Bengals WR A.J. Green, I guess he got hurt or banged his back at practice the other day, is he how did–?
“He got, you know, he did well today. And, we were able to get him out. The plan was to get him out, and make sure he didn’t take another blow on it. So, he’ll be better next week and be ready to go.”

So, he looked like he got through today okay?

Bengals QB AJ McCarron
Press Conference – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Overall how did you feel?
“I felt good. I felt especially in the first half we did a good job of up-tempo and pushing the ball down the field. We just have to come out with the same energy in the second half. We slacked off as an offense but the positive thing is that we took care of the football for the most part. They had turnovers, we didn’t, and that’s the key to the game. I felt good about it.”

Were there any jitters or have you been through this enough times?
“You always have a couple butterflies but for the most part, it couldn’t have been worse than what I got thrown into last week. That was a tough situation. So, I felt calm and pretty good about the game plan, what I needed to do, what we needed to do as an offense and overall, I thought it was a good day.”

Did the first big throw to Bengals WR A.J. Green take a little edge off?
“Yeah, it definitely helped. He made a great catch and I felt like it really got us going and that it really started the up-tempo of the ball. I felt good about the day.”

Go through the touchdown to Bengals TE Tyler Kroft because he got wide open almost right away.
“They had a safety blitz on and I saw it coming. The backside safety didn’t get over enough and Tyler did an excellent job getting out quick to catch the ball and get in the endzone.”

What are you going to need to do to better going into your second start next week given the stakes and another big road game?
“I don’t know that right now just because I have to watch the film. But, there’s always throws that you want back or that you wish you had back. But, the positive thing is that we took care of the ball in the passing game like I said. They turned the ball over four times and we didn’t, so I think that’s a big key to success in this league. So, I’ll have to watch the film and then evaluate my plays with the coaches to see what I need to do better.”

Did they crowd the blocks in the running game to not let you run the ball?
“In the first half, no. In the first half, it was more two shell, cloud A.J. and take him away. I think in the second half when he went out, they started to load the blocks up a little more. We had a big lead and were trying to eat up some clock at the same time. We just have to execute better as an offense and another week together will be big and it will help us big time.”

The third-and-one to Bengals WR Marvin Jones from the eight seemed to be a big play. How did you spread them out?
“I can’t remember exactly what it was but I saw the corner fall off. We’ve never thrown that but I saw the corner fall off and Marv did an excellent job by not pushing too far and popping right there. It was a big play for us. He thought he got in but it was a huge play for us to keep the drive alive and we ended up getting points out of it.”

Have you ever been a part of such a conservative game plan?
“I didn’t feel like it was that conservative. We have a 24-0 lead so your mindset kind of changes as an offense. I felt like in the first half we were throwing the ball and up-tempo. But any time you have a big lead, your mindset changes a little bit. It goes back to us. We just have to execute a little better. Once we get on the same page, we’ll be fine.”

When was the last time you were nervous before a football game?
“Chicago, preseason. I was pretty nervous because that as my first true snaps. Going in the way [Bengals QB Andy Dalton] AD went out made me a little nervous.”

Did you ever have to fight the instinct of doing too much, maybe squeezing the ball in some places you may have shouldn’t?
“Yeah. The thing is when you play in this league with that kind of lead, whatever I do I’m not going to turn the ball over. There’s no reason to take chances. You have to know when to take chances and when not to. We had a 24-0 lead, so there was no reason for me to fit it in a smaller window, even if I might have a chance to complete that. As long as we end with a possession with the football, whether it’s a punt or a field goal or touchdown, that’s the key to success as an offense.”

What about when it wasn’t 24-0, when it was close?
“I felt like I took what they gave me and if it was there, we hit it, and lived for another down. I didn’t see any balls where I should have thrown that or tried to fit it in there. I felt good about my progression and my reads and took what they gave me.”

Did Andy say something to you on the sideline that kind of stuck to you as support?
“When I came over, he told me what he saw and we kind of confirmed with each other. Other than that, he was cracking some jokes and messing with me to keep me loose. That’s just the way we are, that’s our relationship. He was trying to be funny most of the time.”

Is Andy funny?
“Yeah, he can be. I guess you just need to get to know him a little bit better. I spend a lot of time with him.”

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban is a stickler on situational plays. Did you have a time where he lectured you on a situation of how to handle it?
“The only thing I can think of was a Mississippi State game when he slapped me on the back end on national television. We had a lead on Mississippi State and I saw [Atlanta Falcons WR] Julio [Jones] one on one and took a shot. We had a big lead and he wanted me to hit the over route, the safer route, and I took a shot. Other than that, that was pretty much it. The rest of college was fun.”

Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

You had an interception, a sack and all around great performance by the defense today.
“Yes coach was making great calls putting us in great position. We did a lot of film study on them knowing what was coming, anticipating and reacting to it.”

Considering that it was Bengals QB AJ McCarron’s first start, did you feel as the defense that you had to come up big today?
“No. We just went into it like it was a regular game. We have a lot of confidence in AJ. The defense is the other side of the ball and we just wanted to keep them to the lowest amount of points and hopefully the offense can keep scoring.”

Did you feel like Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap’s strip, the force fumble and the recovery was the big play to get the momentum going in your way?
“Yes. We were going three and out anyway from there on out. That was our mentality but they got the first down and Carlos happened to strip it. I thought the runner was down so I stopped running, but they looked at the review and it was our ball so it was a blessing.”

Big play at the end. Bengals CB Shawn Williams’ interception was kind of the nail in the coffin.
“It was huge.”

Bengals HB Jeremy Hill
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

You really pounded it out yourself those yards down there at the goal line. It can get really tough, right?
“Yes. They are a stout defensive team, especially in the goal line. I have seen them get goal line stops. I think I was watching the Arizona game and it took them like seven plays to score on the one yard line, so we knew that they would be stout down there. Our offensive line did a great job rebounding and getting some push and allowing us to score those pivotal touchdowns down there to give us the lead.”

On that first touchdown did you know or think that you were in?
“I wasn’t sure. I was just trying to get north and south and not back us up any and just keep pounding so they reversed it and it was good we got the points that we needed.”

Can you talk about winning the AFC North?
“That is good. That is always the number one goal at the beginning of the season to win the AFC North and I guess that we have done it. We still have a lot of work to do, though.”

Bengals WR Marvin Jones
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

You had a great game. Can you take us inside the huddle and tell us about Bengals QB AJ McCarron and the composure that he showed today?
“He was good. The throws that he had to make, especially early on in the game, he made them. The deep balls to [Bengals WR] A.J. [Green] and me, he was very composed. We knew and said that he would be.”

Was he what you expected basically?
“Yes. Definitely what we expected.”

It seemed like the offense got a big spark from Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap’s fumble and recovery down to the 11 yard line.
“Yes. Definitely. That was something that we needed. It was a little bit slow and when we got that we made a couple of big plays and got that score. That is when it really started taking off in the first half. That was the key play.”

How was it personally to come back to the Bay Area and have a good day?
“It is always fun coming back here to the Bay where I was for four years of my life. Every time that I come back to California, I always want to have a good game.”

What does it mean to clinch your first playoff berth?
“It means we clinched a playoff berth. Obviously our goals and aspirations are much higher than that. We just have to take it one game at a time and this next week, this next game, will be a huge game for us and everyone knows that. That is what our sights are set on.”

Bengals TE Tyler Kroft
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The game started out slow offensively, but once you got rolling in the late first and the second quarter, you scored enough points to put it away.
“When we needed to put points on the board, we did that. I think it was a great team win, but we have a lot to learn from it.”

Describe your first NFL touchdown catch.
“It was awesome. It was surreal. It was everything I dreamed of. On the play they pressured, and [Cincinnati Bengals QB] AJ [McCarron] and I knew I was the hot on that play. So, we kind of connected and it worked out as it was supposed to.”

What did you think of AJ McCarron’s first NFL start?
“I think overall, he did a good job of commanding the huddle and he has a presence out there and it doesn’t seem like the game is too big for him. I think that really showed through today.”

Was he calm out there?
“Yes, he was cool, calm, collected. Everything you want in a quarterback.”

Bengals DT Domata Peko
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Your goals are still ahead of you but you took care of a big one today, you clinched a playoff berth for the fifth straight year.
“It feels awesome we are in the dance for the fifth time in a row, but we are looking to make some damage this year and to go further than we have ever been, to try to get the ring. It all starts with the next one, one game at a time.”

Describe the impact DT Geno Atkins had on the defense today.
“Geno is an animal. We are so blessed here in Cincinnati to have one of the best three techniques in the game. He destructed a lot today. When he destructs like that, we are able to have guys like [DE Carlos] Dunlap getting some sacks today. A nose guard like me a, a first and second down guy getting five sacks on the year. Geno sets the tone for our defense and he is a hell of a player.”

What was the defense trying to do to help out your first time starter in QB AJ McCarron?
“That was one of the keys to the game. They say a quarterback’s best friend is a good run game and a good defense. So we were just trying to do our part with AJ having his first start. That is what we have to do is handle our side of the ball, and I think we did that for the most part today.”

Bengals OT Andrew Whitworth
Postgame Quotes – December 20, 2015
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

You spent the last week hearing about Cincinnati Bengals QB AJ McCarron’s confidence. How did you see that over the course of the week and, especially today, what did you see how he handled the huddle?
“I think he is guy that is prepared and paying attention. He has a guy in [Cincinnati Bengals QB] Andy [Dalton], who is a guy who is always prepared and understands things really well. He can teach him and be in the room with him and to look up to him. We weren’t really worried about him being prepared. We knew he would come in and know exactly what we needed to do and understand the plays and formations.”

You guys seemed to protect him a bit. You didn’t throw the ball a lot, and ran it a lot, even though you couldn’t run it.
“That is what you have to do on the road, against a team you knew that was going to play well. You do what you need to do to win.”

Why was it hard to run the ball?
“I think they adjusted from last week. Cleveland gashed them pretty good. They came out with a little different adjustment this week. Something they haven’t really been doing. That is NFL football. That’s why the guys over there get coordinators and players get paid too. They made a good adjustment that hurt us a bit. They had a lot to prove. The week after you get torched like that on the road, you are going to come home and you are going to fight your butt off. They had that attitude today.”