49ers

Richard Sherman explains what makes 49ers' defense so tough to beat

Richard Sherman explains what makes 49ers' defense so tough to beat

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. 

[RELATED: How 49ers pioneer Sowers views historic Super Bowl debut]

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.

Deebo Samuel pleas for 49ers to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in free agency

Deebo Samuel pleas for 49ers to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in free agency

Before the 49ers officially had lost Super Bowl LIV to the Kansas City Chiefs, tight end George Kittle was already preaching they would be back next year.

But it didn't stop with him.

49ers players throughout the roster already are thinking of everything they can do to make another run at it, and that includes bringing back free-agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

Fellow wideout Deebo Samuel made it clear Wednesday on Twitter that he wants to see the 49ers bring back the 32-year-old veteran.

Sanders showed his appreciation later Wednesday morning.

After coming over from the Denver Broncos via trade in October, Sanders excelled with the 49ers. He caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, and added five receptions for 71 yards in the postseason.

But Sanders could have been an even more critical part of 49ers lore, had it not been for Jimmy Garoppolo's overthrown pass with less than two minutes remaining in Super Bowl LIV. But it was not meant to be.

Sanders has been open about his love for the team that had just barely missed the championship and has spoken out about those second-guessing him due to his age. 

The receiver laughed at the fact that he has been "flying past 23-year-olds," and exhorted that he still has plenty of good years left in him.

[RELATED: Sanders offers advice to teammates playing in first Super Bowl]

He also embraced the youth the other wide receivers brought to the team, such as Samuel and Kendrick Bourne. Sanders loved the loose vibes of the 49ers' locker room and assisted the younger players in prepping for the big moments of the Super Bowl. 

Deebo surely noticed that and knows he wants his teammate back for the team's quest to make another Super Bowl run next season.

Jeff Wilson Jr. explains why 49ers' running backs are egoless, tight knit

Jeff Wilson Jr. explains why 49ers' running backs are egoless, tight knit

The 49ers found the perfect answer for a running back by committee approach in 2019. There wasn't one star in the rotation, yet they had the second-most rushing yards in the NFL with 2,305. 

They all have the same thing in common: At one point or another, each of San Francisco's running backs have been counted out. They all have an underdog's mentality. And yet, they're all extremely unselfish. 

"In our room, if you check our pasts, all of us have a similar background," 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. said Wednesday morning to Steve Wyche on NFL Network's "NFL All Access." "We all come from an undrafted past where we had to take the back road. And all that helps us because we know what each other's going through. If one person's going through it, then one person's been through it.

"And for me, I'm just now entering into it. All those guys have been through the same similar situations, so we feed off each other. I feel like that alone has helped our bond to become stronger." 

Wilson went undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft. Raheem Mostert, the 49ers' leading rusher, went undrafted in the 2015 draft. Same goes with Matt Breida in 2017. 

Tevin Coleman (third round in 2015) and Jerick McKinnon (third round in 2014) were the only running backs in the 49ers' film room who once were drafted. McKinnon has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries, but Wilson still mentioned him among the group. 

Wilson played in 10 regular-season games in 2019 and rushed for only 105 yards, however, he scored four rushing touchdowns, good for third on the team. He also scored one receiving touchdown, and had a 20-yard reception in the 49ers' Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. 

[RELATED: 49ers have solid running backs, but group lacks something]

While Wilson is a part of a deep running back group, he's using a message from Mostert to stay motivated. Mostert took him to breakfast when Wilson first joined the 49ers and told his younger teammate, "It's gonna be a long road. You just gotta keep your head down and know what you're capable of on the inside and never let nobody deter you from that, and you'll be fine."

That seems to be the message throughout the 49ers' running backs. So far, the perseverance has paid off for this group.