SANTA CLARA -- Defensive end Dee Ford had a feeling about this 49ers team when he joined the offseason program.
He can look back now and see that it should not be a surprise that he is back in a conference championship game for the second season in a row.
“It’s easy to say now, hindsight is 20/20, but I felt something special when I first got here in OTAs,” Ford said on Friday. “Guys worked dffferent. They didn’t work like a team that was coming off a losing season. They worked like a championship team. We worked like a championship team. And I fit right in.”
Ford was on Kansas City a year ago, and the Chiefs advanced to the AFC Championship Game, where they lost at home, 37-31, to the New England Patriots in overtime. He is back, one win from the Super Bowl, this season for the 49ers.
The 49ers play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium.
“(It’s a) special situation,” Ford said. “I’m blessed. I’m looking forward to better results.”
The Chiefs led the Patriots with a minute to go and looked as if they had a game-clinching interception of Tom Brady. But the play was nullified because Ford was penalized for jumping offside. Two plays later, the Patriots took the lead. Kansas City tied it with a field goal in at the end of regulation.
Ford has a key role this season with the 49ers. He returned to action last week in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. Ford registered a sack as part of a six-sack performance to lead the 49ers to a 27-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings. He played just four snaps over the final six games of the regular season due to a hamstring injury.
He said he feels good entering Sunday’s game against the Packers after feeling some rust in his first game back.
“Just feel of the game,” Ford said. “(The) pass rush was not perfect, there were certain things that technically I wanted to be better at, and we’ll get that done this week.”
The 49ers face major challenge on Sunday against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The effectiveness of the 49ers’ pass rush could determine which team will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
“He’s a legendary quarterback. Future Hall of Famer,” Ford said of Rodgers. “He can make plays any way his team needs him to make. He can execute. He can dial up different schemes, as far as pass concepts to get the ball out of his hands or he can hold the ball and make plays. We have our work cut out for us this week.”
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The 49ers acquired Ford in a trade with the Chiefs for a second-round draft pick. He made it clear he would love to face his old team in Miami in two weeks.
"That will be fun. That would be a really fun deal,” Ford said. “Nobody is looking forward. They got a really good test in front of them. We got a good test in front of us. We got a lot of work in front of us.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday)
Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.