MIAMI, Fla. -- Richard Sherman is no stranger to dominant defenses.
He was the lynchpin of the Seattle Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" along with Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner during the early 2010s, helping the Seahawks win one Super Bowl and appear in another.
Now, Sherman finds himself as the leader of the NFL's best defense yet again, this time as a member of the 49ers. Sherman and the 49ers' defense tormented opposing offenses all season, allowing just 281.8 yards per game, good for second in the NFL.
The 49ers' Sherman-led secondary was the best passing defense in the league, allowing only 169.2 yards per game through the air. The pass rush, led by rookie Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner, notched 48 sacks during the regular season and has been even more fierce in the playoffs with the return of Dee Ford.
That defensive dominance has Sherman and the 49ers on the precipice of glory as they prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday. Sherman's leadership and the talent up front have been vital to the 49ers' defensive success, but it's what defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has done that is the real key.
"I think the growth that I've seen, it's different, much different scheme than people think," Sherman said of Saleh on Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night. "At least people who don't watch the tape, once you watch the tape you can tell it's a different scheme. I think most people think it's the Seattle Cover 3 scheme, whatever, it's just another guy running the same scheme and it's not. This guy came in and (has) taken the weaknesses of the scheme and really manipulated the coverages to make those strengths and to really mask the weaknesses of Cover 3 and expose anybody who thinks they are going to find it.
"You know, you're looking for Cover 3 and you're looking for those holes, you may find something different or you might Cover 3 and you're looking for something else. That's what's been so cool about playing for him and seeing his growth is he's taken a little bit of every coordinator he's been apart of and every coordinator that he's worked with and he's taken some of this and some of that. Even in his coaching style, you'll see some of Gus Bradley, you see some of Dan Quinn, you see some of Kris Richard, you see some of Ken Norton ... that he's watched and it makes for a really cool product."
Saleh was one of the hot names on the NFL coaching market and interviewed for the Cleveland Browns' opening during the 49ers' playoff bye week. He ultimately lost out to then-Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who's offense Saleh completely shut down in the NFC divisional round.
Saleh, Sherman and the 49ers will face their toughest test yet in Super Bowl LIV. Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' high-octane offense can up points in a variety of ways. The Chiefs are averaging 43 points per game in the playoffs and racked up 837 yards of offense in wins over the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans.
The 49ers' defense has shut down some of the NFL's best this season. Saleh will need to come up with something special to make sure the Niners end the season as champions.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday 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.