49ers

Why Richard Sherman's personality has been vital to 49ers' season

Why Richard Sherman's personality has been vital to 49ers' season

The 49ers have enacted an incredible turnaround this season, going from 4-12 a year ago to the NFC Championship Game.

It's taken a contribution from everyone to get to this point, coaches and players alike. While the 49ers' talent obviously has been vital to their success, the leadership they've gotten from cornerback Richard Sherman has been the catalyst for the incredible run in Santa Clara.

"When I first got here, I noticed right off the bat that Richard Sherman's personality is good for the ecosystem of this organization," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said on "NFL Total Access Live." "He's a big part in why this organization is winning. Around here, they don't call him Richard Sherman, they call him 'Uncle Sherm.' Because Sherm, he's the facilitator, he's the police officer around here. He polices a lot of stuff. He'll see a guy walking around with his pants a little down and he's like, 'Hey! Pull them pants up!' 

"From a playing standpoint, we know what he brings to the table, you know? I was talking to [Denver Broncos cornerback] Chris Harris, he came out for the game, and I told him Sherm shuts down the whole left side of the field. I really do believe that, man. He's an All-Pro talent, he's a future Hall-of-Famer and I'm blessed to be able to play alongside a guy like that."

Sherman's play on the field has spoken for itself this season. The veteran cornerback earned second-team All-Pro honors, as well as a Pro-Bowl nod and a selection to the PFWA's All-NFC team. He's been completely dominant, only giving up one touchdown in coverage and allowed quarterbacks to complete just one pass per every 19 coverage snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

[RELATED: Why Jimmy G compared self to Rodgers before 2014 NFL Draft]

His personality and edge have been even more valuable to the 49ers. He has set an example for the 49ers' younger players who haven't been in the playoff pressure cooker, and his "me against the world attitude" is something the whole team can rally behind when needed.

If the 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Sherman will be a big reason why the Niners are headed to Super Bowl LIV.

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

Also tune in 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 5:30 p.m.

49ers report card: Grade on offense, defense in win over Packers in NFC Championship Game

49ers report card: Grade on offense, defense in win over Packers in NFC Championship Game

SANTA CLARA – Coach Kyle Shanahan’s final message to his team is that they were going to have to earn it on Sunday.

Just because the 49ers thrashed the Green Bay Packers earlier in the season, it did not mean that a win in the NFC Championship Game would come easy.

It did. But it didn’t.

The 49ers are moving onto Super Bowl LIV with a 37-20 victory over the Packers on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

“That's one thing that's really cool about the NFL, nothing's given,” Shanahan said. “And I told the guys how proud I was that they had earned the right to be in a game to play for the Super Bowl. Regardless of what was going to happen, though, and what got us up to this point, that we were going to have to go out today and earn the right to go to the Super Bowl.

“And no one was going to give it to us. Those guys came out with that mindset from the first play on. They were relentless. I know we're going to enjoy tonight. But we're going to be ready to carry it over to Miami, too.”

But, first, let’s take a look at how all the different areas of the 49ers performed in their victory over the Packers:

Rushing offense

What’s the highest-allowable grade? Whatever it is, that’s what the 49ers should get for this performance.

Running back Raheem Mostert rushed for a franchise-record 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 rushing attempts. The offensive line was phenomenal. The 49ers did not even need to throw the ball.

Starter Tevin Coleman went down in the first half with a shoulder injury, and that was a tough blow. Mostert rarely came off the field for the remainder of the game. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel added 43 yards rushing on two attempts.

The 49ers averaged 6.8 yards per rushing attempt. And that includes Jimmy Garoppolo’s three kneeldowns for minus-3 yards to run out the clock at the end.
Grade: A-plus

Passing offense

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo posted a passer rating of 104.7. That’s pretty good, right?

Sure, it's fine. But the crazy thing is that Garoppolo attempted just eight passes in the game -- the fewest pass attempts in championship game history. And Garoppolo was just fine with it.  He completed six of his attempts for 77 yards. Samuel had two catches for 46 yards. And tight end George Kittle had just one reception for 19 yards.

Nobody is complaining about the lack of production from the passing game because the passing game did about all that was asked of it.
Grade: A-minus

Rushing Defense

The 49ers’ run defense did a good enough job against running back Aaron Jones to keep the Packers’ offense in mostly third-and-long situations in the first half. The 49ers raced out to a 27-0 lead after one half.

Jones finished with 56 yards on 12 rushing attempts, but his 4.7-yard average looks a lot better than it was in real life.
Grade: A-minus

Passing Defense

Aaron Rodgers had just 65 yards passing in the first half, as the 49ers bolted to a commanding lead. The Packers had only 42 net yards passing, as Nick Bosa had a sack. K’Waun Williams also came up with sack of a blitz in the first half.

Rodgers ended up with some pretty big numbers. He completed 31 of 39 pass attempts for 326 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The 49ers certainly gave up more big plays that they would like in the second half.

Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, making the start over Ahkello Witherspoon, had an interception right before halftime that led to a touchdown. And Richard Sherman came up with a pick at the end the game to clinch it.
Grade: B-plus

Special Teams

After a rough start to the season, Robbie Gould and the kicking game is coming on strong at the right time. Gould helped get the 49ers off to a great start when he nailed a 54-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0 on the first play of the second quarter.

Gould made all three of his field-goal attempts, including the clincher from 42-yard out with 3:31 remaining.

Richie James provided a big play in the kicking game with a 26-yard return to provide the 49ers with good field position. The 49ers cashed in with a field goal. Mitch Wishnowky had a 38.5 net average with no return yards and one punt downed at the 8-yard line.
Grade: A

Overall

The 49ers played a bunch of down-to-the-wire games to finish the regular season. In comparison, the playoffs have been easy with 17-point victories over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round and, now, over the Packers.

Shanahan has pushed all the right buttons, including his decision to call for a run play on a third-and-8 situation in a scoreless game in the first quarter. Mostert and the offensive line came through with a 36-yard touchdown run.

The run game certainly led the way, but this was another team effort that leads the 49ers to Miami.
Grade: A

Nick Bosa sets tone for 49ers defense hellbent on flustering Aaron Rodgers

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Nick Bosa sets tone for 49ers defense hellbent on flustering Aaron Rodgers

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers dominated the NFC Championship’s first half in every possible way. The 27 points scored, zero points allowed effectively relayed that fact. While the spotlight followed running back Raheem Mostert’s record-setting day, the 49ers’ defensive effort while building an insurmountable lead in a 37-20 victory at Levi’s Stadium can’t be ignored.

The Green Bay Packers had 93 yards on 25 plays. All-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers couldn’t generate anything through the air, totaling 65 yards on nine completions. He was sacked twice and intercepted once. He fumbled twice, losing one after a bumbled snap.

The 49ers controlled the contest by doing what they do best. They turned up the heat like no other NFL team can.

“It was all about getting pressure,” rookie defensive end Nick Bosa said. “[Rodgers is] a lot different quarterback when he’s under duress. We had a couple sacks in the first half, and that just changes the game.”

Bosa read the 49ers scouting reports right. Rodgers has a 106 passer rating in a clean pocket. It drops to a pedestrian 72.6 under duress.

The 49ers hounded Rodgers relentlessly, preventing him from making big-time throws on the run. They were able to do that by keeping the Packers off schedule, just as they did in a Week 12 victory over Green Bay earlier this year.

While this Packers game plan was different, the 49ers defensive approach was exactly the same.

“We keep it simple,” edge rusher Dee Ford said. “We focus on details. We have to be good on first and second down. If we do that, we all know what can happen on third down.”

That’s when the 49ers wreaked freaking havoc.

Bosa chased Rodgers down from behind on 3rd-and-7, sacking him for a 13-yard loss that forced a punt and set the tone for the 49ers defensive front.

Rodgers faced a 3rd-and-6 on his next drive and couldn’t escape slot cornerback K’Wuan Williams, who came on a blitz and strip-sacked the signal caller. The 49ers didn’t recover but set up a short field that allowed the offense to run six straight times and score a touchdown.

That’s when the Packers started to unravel. DeForest Buckner recovered Rodgers’ botched snap on the next drive, and Robbie Gould added a field goal in a sign of true complimentary football.

The 49ers struck again on the next drive, with Emmanuel Moseley intercepting Rodgers on 2nd-and-15. The home team scored another touchdown to create a 27-0 lead that held despite a late Packers surge.

“We knew they were going to bring it,” Bosa said. “Last time they kind of just took the loss and accepted it. This time they obviously made that push in the second half. It was pretty stressful to be honest with you. We were trying to keep the same energy the whole game and they were making some plays. I’m glad we were able to hold up and get the win.”