49ers

How 49ers' Jeff Wilson is able to stay ready for number to be called

How 49ers' Jeff Wilson is able to stay ready for number to be called

SANTA CLARA  — Running back Jeff Wilson might have only played one offensive snap in the 49ers' victory over the Cardinals in Week 11 but it was an important one. 

The play had the potential for disaster. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo admitted he couldn’t see his running back and Wilson couldn’t see the pass coming out of the pocket. The ball arrived slightly behind Wilson, but the undrafted free agent was able to secure the ball and make his way 25 yards down the field to the end zone. 

The 49ers and Cardinals changed leads three times last Sunday at Levi's Stadium, but Wilson's touchdown with 31 seconds left put Kyle Shanahan's crew on top for good, winning 36-26.

Wilson’s first receiving touchdown comes after entering the year with no assurances he would ever see the field during the regular season. With a stacked running backs room to begin the offseason, Wilson was expected to have a spot on the scout team with Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert all ahead of him on the depth chart, not to mention fullback Kyle Juszczyk. 

Injuries hit the running backs room hard and Wilson's number was called. In seven appearances, Wilson has racked up four rushing touchdowns, filling in as needed. No matter how often his number is called, he stays ready to make an impact. 

“That’s just how the game goes,” Wilson told NBC Sports Bay Area. “That’s kind of what you get yourself into, That’s something you go into already expecting and knowing. Obviously, I knew that from the beginning of the season. Never know when I’m going to get called up.” 

The support of his position mates has made the process easier for the second-year running back. The group is very close. During pregame warmups they spend several minutes, arm-in-arm, huddled together in the end zone. Players who are inactive for the game or injured always are included.  
  
"To have Matt there, Tevin, Juice, the guys I’m in the locker room with, makes it easier,” Wilson said. “They are very supportive. It’s like if one of us is doing something, it’s like all of us are doing it. 

“At the same time if one person scores it feels like all of us scored. That’s kind of how we work. We want to make everyone to feel a part of it. We always call Jet, you know what I mean? He’s the leader of the group still. We always keep Jet involved. That’s kind of how we are.” 

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That support helped fuel Wilson’s dash to the end zone. His bouncing up and down in the huddle before the play might have made coach Shanahan a little nervous, but Wilson said he was ready thanks to playing 13 special teams snaps to stay warmed up. But he might not have expected the feelings that took over his body once he got into the end zone. 

“I don’t know, that was just a lot of emotion,” Wilson said. “A lot of stuff just built up on the inside that kind of came out all at once. I couldn’t control myself. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in control of my body at that point. It was crazy, but it’s a blessing. It was a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”  

Why NFL history, Aaron Rodgers' past bode well for 49ers vs. Packers

Why NFL history, Aaron Rodgers' past bode well for 49ers vs. Packers

If the Green Bay Packers are going to upset the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Levi's Stadium, they're going to have to do it without history on their side.

It has been less than two months since the 8-2 Packers waltzed into Levi's Stadium hoping to knock off the conference-leading 49ers on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 12. By halftime -- if not much earlier -- it was readily apparent no such event would occur, as San Francisco raced out to a 23-0 lead on its way to a 37-8 win. It was a thoroughly dominant performance by the 49ers, and resulted in Green Bay's most lopsided defeat of the season.

The Packers haven't lost since, winning their final five games of the regular season to earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. They held on to beat the visiting Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round, but historically speaking, all that momentum might not mean much as it pertains to a rematch with San Francisco. As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling noted, the last 13 playoff teams to lose a regular-season game by at least 20 points have also lost the postseason rematch against the same opponent.

Now, obviously, not all teams are created equal, and in a sport where quarterback is the most critical position, one might argue that the Packers have a significant advantage over those previous 13 teams that have occupied the same space they will Sunday.

That wouldn't necessarily be accurate, though.

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers will go down as one of the best QBs of all-time, and while he has put together several memorable postseason performances, he has not had much playoff success against teams he previously lost to that same season. In fact, the last five times he and the Packers qualified for the playoffs, they were eliminated by a team that had beaten them earlier that season.

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That obviously bodes well for San Francisco, and that's before even digging into the specific head-to-head matchup between Rodgers and the 49ers' top-ranked pass defense. Throughout his career, Rodgers has faced the No. 1-ranked pass defense a total of five times; he has not fared well in those matchups, and has never won one on the road.

There's a reason why the 49ers were the NFC's No. 1 seed, and there are plenty more as to why San Francisco is favored by more than a touchdown over Green Bay on Sunday. The Packers are going to have to overcome plenty to prove victorious, and you can add NFL history to the list.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage 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.

Richard Sherman recalls interception in 49ers-Seahawks NFC title game

Richard Sherman recalls interception in 49ers-Seahawks NFC title game

Not all nostalgia is good nostalgia.

The last time San Francisco advanced to the NFC Championship Game, the game was ended on an interception from then-Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith.

The man who deflected the pass to Smith -- cornerback Richard Sherman -- now wears a 49ers uniform. But he can recall, in vivid detail, one of the most heartbreaking moments young 49ers fans have experienced. One he was the architect of during his reign as the leader of the infamous “Legion of Boom.”

As receiver Michael Crabtree broke out of his route, Sherman wasn’t going to bite on any short routes from the 49ers’ then-No. 1 receiver.

“As he stuttered, I’m thinking to myself, ‘There’s no reason to stutter,’” Sherman told The Athletic’s Matt Barrows. “‘You’re not running a hitch. You’re not in a position to run a hitch. That’s not the play y’all need.’”

Despite losing the ball in the bright lights of Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, Sherman still managed to make a game-defining play.

“The ball comes in, and then it comes right out of the lights,” Sherman recalled. “And now I’m blinded from looking at the light, so I can’t see it. But I’m dialed into where it should be. And I’m just starting to refocus back and I’m going up to get it.”

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Sherman managed to get a hand on the ball and bat it away from Crabtree and into the arms of Smith, sending the 49ers home and the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII. 

Sunday gives Sherman another chance to help send a team to the Super Bowl, as he and the 49ers play host to the Green Bay Packers with a trip to Miami on the line.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage 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.