With each week, as the 49ers’ success has continued to prove itself as legitimate and sustainable, the rabble in the press conference room at Levi’s Stadium has steadily grown.
“The dog and pony show”
If the Divisional Round against the Minnesota Vikings manifested in a resounding stir, this week provided more of a swarm. With it were the accoutrements beside the podium of the George Halas NFC Championship trophy, between a 49ers and Green Bay Packers helmet.
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) January 15, 2020
Kyle Shanahan said he wasn’t the least bit concerned with his players being distracted by the “dog and pony show,” and it’s clear many of the team’s youthful jitters were exorcised early in that Vikings game.
“Hopefully our players know it’s just Wednesday, like it’s been all year” Shanahan said. “And tomorrow will be Thursday.”
But it’s impossible to completely ignore the increased attention of the media, if nothing else, on the sheer noise that multiple question-askers fighting over one another.
Dre Greenlaw told KNBR he saw the influx as an affirmation of what the 49ers believed they were capable of from the jump. In Greenlaw’s case, he really believed after beating the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6: “Yeah, when we was 5-0. No lie, I was like, ‘We got a little chance here.’
“It wasn’t a lot of people at first. It just tells you man, they can hop on the bandwagon all they want to, but I mean people in this room knew what we was gonna be able to do,” Greenlaw said. “We just worked hard and it shows the character of the guys that’s in here because they always believed. We’re just going to continue to push and keep continuing to fight and finish out the next game.”
DeForest Buckner explains the Dee Ford effect
Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has a theme for the 49ers each week. Just as it was in the 49ers’ 20-7 win over the Rams in Week 6, this week’s theme is that of “an ice bag game.” That’s a statement, Buckner said, of the expectation (especially with the knowledge of two weeks of rest before the Super Bowl, should they win) that each player put every ounce of effort they have into Sunday’s game.
That cliche of “leaving it all out there” may not be completely necessary should the 49ers’ defensive front play the way it did on Saturday, accruing six sacks, with each of the five first-round picks across the line notching a sack of their own (Nick Bosa had two, all of Buckner, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford and Solomon Thomas had one).
“It was just awesome to see,” Buckner said Wednesday. “Especially early on in the year when you see the D-line, the front really just healthy, you were able to see us being able to attack and get after quarterbacks. Having one of our guys back, who had a key role in game, he was able to open up things for a lot of the other guys on the D-line and we were able to have success up front.”
While Buckner credited “everybody,” from the defensive backs and linebackers’ excellent coverage in combination with the run-stopping effectiveness of the front, it was clear that health was supreme. Having Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt, as you might expect, fundamentally changed the capability of the defense.
Buckner said he appreciated being able to remind people what happens when key players get healthy.
“Definitely. Obviously you saw the games kind of lack a little bit down the stretch due to injuries and and obviously some poor execution,” Buckner said.”And I feel like everybody did a really good job with honing in on our details last week and executing the game plan on game day.”
That execution was in large part, to Ford, who Buckner described as having a unique get off and ability to spook offensive linemen.
“You can see his presence alone, I feel like it scares offensive linemen,” Buckner said. “They kind of bail out of their technique and they’re so scared about his speed around the edge that they bail out of their set and they just start backpedaling, to not let him get around the edge. And just seeing that, if you’re a three technique next to them, it opens a lot of space for you to go to work.
And having Nick [Bosa] on the other edge, it’s hard for an offensive coordinator to slide the line a certain direction because you got two really, really talented guys on both edges. You can’t pick and choose really and when you’ve also got a presence in the middle, it’s really hard to defend.”
Before Ford, Buckner said he’d never seen a teammate scare offensive linemen in that way.
“He’s probably the first [teammate], for sure,” Buckner said. “His take off, his get off, it’s just one of a kind. Probably the best first step I’ve ever seen in the league. And just to see him, it’s like a track meet. You hear the gun and he’s just taking off. It’s pretty impressive to see.”
Sanders reveals Kyle Shanahan’s speech to team
On Wednesday, Shanahan raved about the 49ers’ youth and his appreciation for wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who he recently compared to his then-nine, now-10-year-old son. He said Bourne probably wakes up eating Froot Loops and watching cartoons, again, he said, as a compliment of his love for life.
He complimented his mostly young team (average age of 26.6) for their balance of youthful energy and focus in high-stress situations.
“They’re football players who play like men out there in terms of they’re very physical, they’re not scared at the moment,” Shanahan said. “But they also remind you, a lot of that they’re kids too, and they’re kind of in that spot where I mean, I feel like I just turned 40 about a month ago so I feel like I just left the kid area also, but I think all of us have a lot of youth in us but those guys have more than others.”
One of those veterans, Emmanuel Sanders, has talked about how much he’s drawn upon the young wide receiving group of Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis and Richie James Jr. for energy, while they’ve benefited from his (and wide receiver Jordan Matthews’) experience as a veteran.
Sanders revealed that Shanahan gave a version of an “I love you guys” speech to the team last week and expressed a sense of joy in playing for the 49ers.
“Kyle, he pretty much gave a speech to the team and sometimes in this league, you come to work and you clock in, you clock out. And truthfully, I enjoy being around these guys and the speech that Kyle gave was that there’s so much love between the team, how much we care about each other,” Sanders said.
“I looked around, I looked at Deebo, I looked at KB, the receiving corps and I genuinely do love those guys, a great group of guys go to work with every day, a fun group of guys go to work with. And I feel like when you have that kind of chemistry and it’s all throughout this team and all throughout this organization, I feel like when you have that, the sky is the limit.”
Practice report and other notes
- The only 49ers player not to practice on Wednesday, according to Kyle Shanahan was Dee Ford, who participated in team walkthroughs with pads on before heading to the sideline to do work with the team’s strength and conditioning staff. He will be listed as having not practiced because he participated only in the walkthroughs. Head coach Kyle Shanahan indicated that decision is purely precautionary and part of Ford’s regimen in order to protect himself from re-injury.
- However, George Kittle wasn’t seen at the start of practice. He was not mentioned by Shanahan and there was no word of him having an injury, but showed up on the injury report as missing practice with an ankle injury.
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) January 15, 2020
- Kwon Alexander, wearing a blue non-contact jersey, will be listed as limited. Like Ford, it’s a precaution to protect Alexander from taking unnecessary hits. With a recovery from the pectoral tear that he suffered, and him not being at 100 percent given his rapid return, one wrong hit could cause severe re-injury, so it’s likely the 49ers keep him protected in practice for the remainder, or at least majority of the season.
- Both Tevin Coleman (elbow) and Raheem Mostert (calf cramps) were, as expected, full participants in practice.