All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman discussed a number of 49ers playoff topics in a Tuesday morning appearance on Pro Football Talk Live.
The 49ers linebacker was pressed right off the bat by host Mike Florio to ask a simple question: Who is a better linebacker, Bowman, or fellow All-Pro, Patrick Willis?
Bowman couldn’t help but chuckle.
“You can’t do that man,” said the 49ers linebacker who recorded 173 tackles, 2.0 sacks and two fumble recoveries amongst several big plays in his first year as a full-time starter. “We do a lot of things out there together to help each other out. Sometimes he’s the better linebacker and sometimes I’m the better linebacker. We’re glad to be on the same team and play the way we’ve been playing this season.”
Bowman led the 49ers in tackles this season, but it was Willis who recovered a fumble in one of five forced turnovers by San Francisco in a 36-32 win over the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Playoff round.
Florio’s next question was much gentler, asking Bowman if the 49ers linebacking duo was the best inside tandem of any 3-4 defense.
“I think we can go with that,” Bowman said. “Just the work we’ve been putting in and the success we’re having it’s just going good for us right now.”
Bowman went on to talk about the 49ers embracing an underdog role heading in the playoffs and his emerging play this season which earned him a nomination for Vizio’s Top Value Performer award of 2011.
When the team trailed the Saints by three points late in the fourth quarter, Bowman said the team’s belief in each other prevailed.
“No one outside the 4949 facility believed we could do what we’re doing. The belief turned into a ‘W’ for us.”
Bowman said he took motivation from being an underdog in the Saints game, too.
“I got a lot of motivation off of that,” he said. “We wanted to earn our respect. We still have to prove to a lot of people that we’re a team that’s a lot different. The only thing that’ll do it for us is to win.”
An unyielding belief, mixed with a remarkable throw and catch from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis, pushed the 49ers to Sunday’s matchup with the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game.
Bowman, like all of his teammates, was excited for Smith to have such a memorable moment in his career.
“Alex is a great quarterback,” Bowman said. “It takes the right people around to get quarterbacks or guys going. He’s got the right pieces in place and I feel like it is his year. I’m happy for the guy because he worked so hard to get to this point.”
Bowman, however, will be more focused on the other team’s quarterback.
“He’s smart,” Bowman said of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. “He knows the ins and outs of running an offense.”
The 49ers hope to repeat their physical performance against New Orleans, one that Donte Whitner forced a fumble on the game’s opening drive just inside San Francisco’s own 5-yard line.
“It sent a huge message,” Bowman said of Whitner’s hit which knocked Saints running back Pierre Thomas out of the game. “We kept the hard-hitting up throughout the whole game. Those type of hits really set the tone for you.”
That mindset will carry over to Sunday.
“All the guys, we expect to be in every play,” Bowman said of the fierce 49ers defense. “When it comes to hitting everything moving, we pride ourselves on that.”
And because the 49ers experienced a dramatic postseason win in their first playoff game, the team feels equipped to handle anything that could come their way on Sunday. So when the Saints rebounded with back-to-back touchdowns to cut in the 49ers 17-0 lead, nobody flinched on the 49ers sideline.
“We talk about things like that before the game,” said Bowman, “knowing that adversity is going to come. We have to keep playing and keep trying to make more plays than them and see who ends up on top at the end of the game. That’s football, especially playoff football. That’s how we handled that situation in the (Saints)game.”
Now it’s up to handling New York’s surging offense, or as Bowman put it, “Handling their big-play ability.”
In order to do that, the defense must repeat its effort and strong play from previous weeks.
“Going out there and playing our game, realizing what’s at stake and going out there to leave everything out on the field,” Bowman said.
Tags: Alex Smith, Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis
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