2015 DRAFT GUIDE
Linebackers lead way for 49ers into NFC title game

    2014-01-14 02:09

(Eds: With AP Photos.)
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Sports Writer

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - From the pick six that closed Candlestick to a pair of goal-line stands in Carolina, it seems like whenever San Francisco needs a big play from its defense one of the 49ers' decorated linebackers steps up.

With Pro Bowlers NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks playing alongside talented pass rusher Aldon Smith on coordinator Vic Fangio's defense, the Niners' version of the fearsome foursome has played a major part in their advancement to the NFC title game on Sunday night in Seattle.

Bowman, Willis, Brooks and Smith have combined for seven sacks, one forced fumble and an interception in road playoff wins in Green Bay and Carolina that set up the showdown with the Seahawks with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.

''We just try to stay together and lead this defense,'' Bowman said. ''We all can do special things that a lot of guys can't do in this league. Vic's just done a great job drawing up the right plays and what he wants us to do out there. We're blessed to have all four of us on the same page.''

What makes this unit so effective is how well they work together. Smith and Brooks are elite pass rushers, able to chase down quarterbacks with their speed and overpower blockers with their strength.

Willis and Bowman are the do-everything inside backers, who plug holes against the run, blitz when needed and chase running backs and tight ends in coverage.

While Willis came into the year as the most decorated of the bunch as a five-time All-Pro and Smith the most feared with 33 1/2 sacks his first two seasons, it is Bowman who has led the group this season when the Niners needed it most.

Smith missed five games to receive substance abuse treatment and Willis showed a few signs of slowing down, turning Brooks into the on-field leader of the group.

He was named first-team All-Pro for the third straight season and has been mentioned as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year after recording a career-high five sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. That earned him the ultimate praise from Willis.

''I said, `Man, you're having the kind of year that linebackers want to have. I know you're most certainly having the kind of year that I would love to have,''' Willis said. ''He's my brother. I'm always going to be his biggest fan. He's my teammate. I'm just glad to see him do well. When one of us does well, we all do well. That's how we think as a team.''

The crowning moment of Bowman's year came in the regular-season home finale against Atlanta. With the 49ers in danger of losing the final scheduled game at Candlestick Park and having their playoff status put in doubt, Bowman delivered one of the most impressive plays of the season.

It started with him blitzing up the middle against Matt Ryan. But after getting the center to commit, Bowman retreated and was in perfect position when Tramaine Brock broke up a slant pass to Harry Douglas. Bowman grabbed the ball out of the air and ran 89 yards for the touchdown that sealed the 34-24 victory and clinched the playoffs for the Niners.

''He just comes up big all the time,'' defensive lineman Ray McDonald said. ''It's paying off for him because he's a hard-working guy, he's always on top of his game.''

Bowman was at it again in Sunday's 23-10 win over Carolina, fighting off two blockers before tackling Cam Newton at the 1 late in the second quarter. After a sack by Brooks and another goal-line stop by Bowman, the Panthers had to settle for a field goal.

San Francisco drove for the go-ahead score in the closing seconds of the half and never trailed again. That was the second impressive goal-line stand as Brooks stopped Newton on fourth down from the 1 earlier in the second quarter.

Back-to-back sacks by Bowman and Brooks knocked the Panthers out of field goal range in the closing minutes of the third quarter in what proved to be their last chance to stay in the game.

Throw in an interception earlier in the game by Willis that set up a field goal, and it was a dominating day.

''We take pride on keeping teams out of the end zone,'' Bowman said. ''They're going to make big plays, they're NFL players, too. But if we can hold up at the goal line four downs in a row that lets you know we're here to play and it's going to be a long day.''

---

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 7 08:53a

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) won't receive a long-term contract offer from the team this year after injuring his hand in a fireworks accident, according to a [ More ]

Andrew QuarlessJul 6 08:03p

Green Bay Packers TE Andrew Quarless will not be released at this time even though he was arrested this past weekend for discharging a firearm in public, according to sources.

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 6 06:03p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) could miss training camp and the start of the regular season, according to a source. Pierre-Paul injured his hand in a fireworks accident and remains hospitalized.

Robert TurbinJul 6 02:53p

Seattle Seahawks RB Robert Turbin (hip) may not be ready to play Week 1 as he continues to recover from hip surgery this offseason.

Trent RichardsonJul 6 01:43p

Oakland Raiders RB Trent Richardson lost some weight this offseason and showed some quickness during offseason workouts, according to offensive line coach Mike Tice.

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 6 01:33p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul's (hand) fireworks incident has led to the Giants withdrawing their long-term offer to Pierre-Paul which would have paid him $60 million, according to sources.

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 6 01:13p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) is still in a Miami hospital after suffering injuries to his hand from a fireworks accident.

C.J. AndersonJul 6 08:43a

Denver Broncos RB Montee Ball is expected to receive seven or eight carries a game, while RB C.J. Anderson serves as the bellcow with 18 per game, in the [ More ]

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 5 07:13p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) injured his hands in a fireworks accident, according to multiple sources. He was still meeting with doctors after being hospitalized for his [ More ]

Andrew QuarlessJul 4 01:43p

Green Bay Packers TE Andrew Quarless was arrested early Saturday, July 4, for allegedly firing a gun into the ground, according to police. Quarless supposedly was involved in a [ More ]

Devonta FreemanJul 3 10:23p

Atlanta Falcons RB Tevin Coleman should end up starting Week 1 ahead of RB Devonta Freeman, according to Steven Ruiz of USA TODAY Sports, because Coleman has top-end speed [ More ]

Dennis PittaJul 3 08:03p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) has not been cleared to practice at this point and could begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Ladarius GreenJul 3 03:33p

San Diego Chargers TE Ladarius Green likely will be the starting tight end with TE Antonio Gates being suspended for the first four games of the season.

Dez BryantJul 3 12:53p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant has had no progress in contract talks with the team, according to sources. The Cowboys are not budging off their offer of a long-term [ More ]

Darren McFaddenJul 2 11:03p

Dallas Cowboys RB Darren McFadden has topped 155 carries just twice in his seven years in the league, and he has averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry in [ More ]

Antonio GatesJul 2 04:33p

Updating a previous report, San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs. It was previous reported that [ More ]

Antonio GatesJul 2 04:13p

San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Datone JonesJul 2 04:03p

Green Bay Packers DE Datone Jones has been suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Rolando McClainJul 2 03:03p

Dallas Cowboys LB Rolando McClain has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's policy and program for substances of abuse.

S. RichardsonJul 2 02:23p

New York Jets DT Sheldon Richardson has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on substances of abuse.

Richard RodgersJul 1 05:03p

Green Bay Packers TE Richard Rodgers could see more playing time in 2015, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Rodgers played 528 snaps, while fellow TE Andrew Quarless played [ More ]

Rob HouslerJun 30 03:13p

Cleveland Browns TEs Gary Barnidge, Rob Housler and Jim Dray could all end up taking over for TE Jordan Cameron, who is now with the Miami Dolphins. Head coach [ More ]

Sam BradfordJun 29 05:22p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (knee) is expected to be in the final phase of his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament once training camp begins. Bradford's second [ More ]

Charles JohnsonJun 29 02:02p

Minnesota Vikings WR Charles X. Johnson appears to have everything it takes to produce in the NFL, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner. 'He's got great work ethic, and [ More ]

C.J. SpillerJun 28 09:02p

New Orleans Saints RB C.J. Spiller has a perfect skill-set for head coach Sean Payton's system, which relies on getting the ball to players in space, according Chris Wesseling [ More ]

Tony MoeakiJun 25 07:12p

Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Moeaki will compete with TE Jacob Tamme for the Falcons' starting tight end job during training camp. QB Matt Ryan praised both tight ends for [ More ]

Kelvin BenjaminJun 25 03:52p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin's reported weight gain this offseason is being overblown, according to general manager Dave Gettleman. Gettleman expects Benjamin to be ready to go for training [ More ]

Antoine CasonJun 25 03:03a

Free-agent CB Antoine Cason (foot) will miss the 2015 season due to surgery he underwent on Tuesday, June 23. Cason (Ravens) did not specify what type of surgery he [ More ]

Marvin JonesJun 24 09:13p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Marvin Jones (ankle, foot) did not play in 2014 due to multiple foot and ankle issues, but he is healthy and was impressive in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp.

Keith WenningJun 24 02:43p

Free-agent QB Keith Wenning (Ravens) signed with the Cincinnati Bengals Wednesday, June 24. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Pierre GarconJun 24 02:23p

Washington Redskins WR Pierre Garcon could be featured more often in the passing game this season based on the offseason workouts. Garcon often lined up to the right of [ More ]

Martavis BryantJun 24 01:43p

Pittsburgh Steelers WRs Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant are expected to compete for the No. 2 wide receiver job during training camp. Both players performed well during offseason workouts.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group