MIAMI, Fla. -- The 49ers find themselves in Miami in January for many reasons. One of which is rookie defensive end Nick Bosa.

Bosa was the missing piece of the 49ers' defensive line puzzle. The selection of Bosa, along with the trade for Dee Ford, turned the 49ers' defensive into an unblockable monster that has propelled the 49ers to a date with the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. 

The 49ers' rookie star instantly became a fan favorite and a dominant presence on the frontline. Tight end George Kittle learned early in training camp that Bosa was going to be the real deal. 

"I mean, I don't think there's a part of Nick's game that's weak," Kittle said Thursday. "Everything he does is insane. I had a rep against him in preseason. We're in an outside zone and I had him blocked perfectly. He held me with one arm, flipped his hips around and shut the play down all in a half-second. In our meeting room coach [Kyle Shanahan] was like, 'Yeah Kittle, there's nothing you could do there. You are absolutely perfect. He's just that good.' I was like, 'Oh, that's awesome. Run the other way then please.'

"Nick's an incredible football player and he's 22 years old and he's going to terrorize the NFL for 22 years."


Widely considered the top prospect in last year's NFL draft, Bosa fell into the 49ers' lap when Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray elected to forgo his baseball career and enter the draft. The Arizona Cardinals drafted Murray to lead their franchise and the 49ers snatched Bosa up without hesitation. 

The Ohio State product was a little banged up to begin the season, but after getting fully healthy during the 49ers' Week 4 bye, he became a whole different beast. Top draft picks disappoint all the time, but it's very rare for a top-two pick to exceed expectations. 

Bosa did. 

"Yes, yes he has," Richard Sherman said Thursday of Bosa. "I think he's exceeded anyone's expectations for any rookie. You know, I mean you can be the No. 1 pick and I don't think anybody would expect the No. 1 rookie to come out and have a Pro Bowl season in his first year. He's a very special talent and he's only scratching the potential of what he can do.

"He was banged up a lot of the year. He was nursing an ankle. He's pretty healthy now, but I think with a full offseason and training camp to prepare he's going to be unstoppable."

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On Sunday, Bosa and the 49ers' vaunted defense face their stiffest test yet against reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the resilient Chiefs. Bosa, Ford and the rest of the 49ers' pass rush must be able to get to Mahomes and not allow him to get out of the pocket and extend plays with his legs.

If the 49ers are forced to cover the like of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins for seven, eight or nine seconds, that could spell trouble for the 49ers. 

It's up to Bosa to make sure that doesn't happen. He's shown he's up to the task. 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (9:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.