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49ers' DeForest Buckner knows he can improve on breakout season in 2019

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USATSI

49ers' DeForest Buckner knows he can improve on breakout season in 2019

SANTA CLARA — DeForest Buckner met his personal goals for the 2018 season. The defensive tackle is looking forward to what he wants to achieve in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, and is not concerned about ironing out a new multiyear deal with the 49ers.

At least not yet.

“I’m going to be honest,” Buckner said. “I haven’t really thought too far into it. I’m just focused on the offseason and what I need to do to get better and try to help my team to win.” 

Buckner started in all 16 games and finished with a personal best 12 sacks, the fourth-most by a 49ers defender since 2000. He also recorded 67 tackles, 44 of which were solo and 17 were for a loss. He was very productive disrupting the pocket, hitting opposing quarterbacks 20 times. 

After finishing 2017 with only three sacks, Buckner explained what helped improve his productivity. 

“Finishing,” Buckner said. “Finding that extra step to get to the quarterback, turning those pressures and hits into sacks. I really did a good job the past offseason on working on that, and I’m proud of the season that I put out there. And I can only get better from that.”

Buckner reiterated coach Kyle Shanahan’s message to the team when talking about what he hopes to see from the young members of the defense during the offseason. He urges them to take advantage of their time, in order to avoid the early-season slump that affected the team at the beginning of 2018.

Buckner wants the team to pick back up right where they left off. He also wants to see a vast improvement in the turnover department -- the 49ers had a mere seven takeaways all season. 

“We need to do a better job as a defense attacking the ball,” Buckner said. “This year we caused a lot of fumbles but the ball didn’t bounce our way. It was unfortunate how it happened, we dropped a couple of picks.” 

“So we just have to better job as a defense as a whole, making sure we take advantage of the opportunities that are given to us.” 

[RELATED: DeForest Buckner snubbed from Pro Bowl, and that's ridiculous]

Despite a career-best season, Buckner reflects on 2018 knowing there are still specific ways where he can get better.

“There’s a couple of sacks that I left out there too, where quarterbacks got out of my grasp," Buckner said. "Just got to continue on getting better. How to defeat blocks faster, working on my hands more, footwork, all of that. I just have to work on my technique cleaning it all up and put another season out there like I did this past year.

“I’m pretty satisfied with what I did,” Buckner said. “But I’m still hungry. I know I can do better and I know there’s still sacks that I left out there that I could have got. So it’s back to the grind.” 

Buckner still wouldn’t disclose the number of sacks that was his goal was for 2018. 

“Yeah, I got the number. I’m not going to say, but I got the number.” 

You can assume that number is even higher in 2019.

Emmanuel Sanders offers advice to 49ers playing in first Super Bowl

Emmanuel Sanders offers advice to 49ers playing in first Super Bowl

While Emmanuel Sanders is heading to his third career Super Bowl, many of his teammates on the 49ers will be playing in their first when they take on the Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson moments after the 49ers beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, the veteran wide receiver explained how his mindset changed from his first Super Bowl appearance to his second, and how that will impact how he approaches Super Bowl LIV.

"It's a blessing. It's a blessing," Sanders told Anderson in the 49ers' locker room. "Truthfully, I'm going to enjoy this one, but at the same time, only thing is, we gotta go out and win it. So Miami is gonna be fun, but we gotta go and handle business.

"I remember in 2010 when I went to the Super Bowl, I said I want to make it to the Super Bowl and then we went out there and lost. And then in '15, I said I want to win the Super Bowl and we ended up winning it. Right now, my mentality is we gotta go win the Super Bowl. It's good to make it, but we gotta go win it. That's the only thing on my mind."

Sanders' first Super Bowl appearance came in his rookie season, and he caught two passes for 17 yards in the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

Five years later, Sanders caught six passes for 83 yards to help the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium.

Now, he will try to help the team that calls Levi's home win its sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.

[RELATED: 49ers installing Super Bowl gameplan this week]

So what advice would Sanders give to all the first-time Super Bowl participants on the 49ers?

"Lock in," Sanders told Anderson. "Obviously, this week is going to be big because when we get to Miami, it's going to be a frenzy, so this week, we've got to practice like it is Super Bowl week just so we can stay focused.

"Then next week still have that same mentality, but we know it's going to be crazy out there. All the times that I've been, that first week was the most important week, so that's my message to the guys, just like Kyle [Shanahan] said."

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

How Falcons' Super Bowl loss will help 49ers' Kyle Shanahan vs. Chiefs

How Falcons' Super Bowl loss will help 49ers' Kyle Shanahan vs. Chiefs

SANTA CLARA — As the Falcons’ offensive coordinator three years ago, Kyle Shanahan came away from his first trip to a Super Bowl having learned a few lessons. The biggest one was not that he didn’t call a run play on that fateful second-and-11 situation in the fourth quarter against the Patriots. 

Shanahan will be making his second Super Bowl appearance in less than two weeks and his previous experience has shaped the way he approaches a game forever. While there are always plays that he would like to have back, it’s a bigger lesson that left an imprint on the 49ers play caller. 

“Losing a Super Bowl is extremely tough for everybody especially when you lose when you had a 28-3 lead going into the fourth,” Shanahan said. “The learning moments are — never feel good.

“I mean that’s why I promise you when we we're way up in the fourth quarter on Green Bay and stuff, I know what 28 minus three is. And I know a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter isn’t enough.” 

While 28-3 is the score everyone remembers, the Falcons actually led 28-9 entering the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI.

That mentality hits home for Shanahan during every game, and obviously reoccurred in the 49ers' 37-20 win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. 

“So when we have a 14-point lead with eight minutes to go against Green Bay, I can promise you that I feel, from experience, like the game is tied and that we don’t have a two-score lead.” 

Shanahan will forever feel like a team has the ability to mount a comeback but he knows that one play call towards the end of the game was not the reason Atlanta lost. In the first half of Super Bowl LI, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman ran the ball nine times for 86 yards, averaging 9.6 yards per carry. 

In the second half, the Patriots shut down the run game and the two backs ran the ball nine times for 18 yards, averaging only two yards per carry.

[RELATED: 49ers will install gameplan this week]

Shanahan admits he will never call a perfect game, because that is an impossible feat, but he vows to never take his foot off the gas. 

“I think that’s the stuff that helps you because I think sometimes people can tend to relax,” Shanahan said. "That’s something that I, I won’t say that I ever relaxed in that Super Bowl especially with Tom Brady having the ball. But that’s something that keeps you humble every single moment until the game is over.”