San Francisco 49ers: Unsung Heroes from the Niners Super Bowl Run
The San Francisco 49ers latest playoff journey has led them to Super Bowl XLVII, and the 2012-13 NFC Champions wouldn't have been able accomplish such a feat without some of the unsung heroes that quietly helped lead the way.
As the 49ers proceed through the next two weeks leading up to the sixth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, veteran leaders like Frank Gore, Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis will get plenty of well-deserved time in the spotlight.
Young and blossoming stars like Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree and NaVorro Bowman will also be publicly commended for their efforts in bringing the Red and Gold within one step of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The play of said players absolutely warrants it, from the first snap in the divisional round win over Green Bay to the final whistle in the NFC Championship Game win over Atlanta.
But San Francisco was able to grind out two impressive postseason victories as a team, with all parts working as one. The following slides will present five 49ers who may not receive an abundance of attention, but are undoubtedly deserving of individual praise for getting this team to New Orleans Feb. 3 to face the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Entering training camp, former reserve tackle Alex Boone was given a shot to occupy the vacancy at right guard. The spot opened up when the ineffective duo of Chilo Rachal and Adam Snyder made their offseason departures.
It didn't take him long to prove he was the man for the job.
Boone stepped in with the starting five on the Niners' offensive line and immediately began obliterating the opposition. It's basically impossible to tell he hasn't been playing the position his entire life.
The 25-year-old was so impressive in his first season playing guard, the folks at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked him as the third-best guard (left or right) in the entire NFL during the regular season.
Boone, who stands 6'8" and weighs 300 pounds, carried his stellar play right into the postseason without any trouble whatsoever. A great amount of credit is due to No. 75 for making such a seamless transition to a new position in such admirable fashion.
Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke also deserve some serious props for placing their faith in Boone rather than searching for a potential starting right guard in the early rounds of the draft, as many thought they would do.
The man who resides directly to the right of Alex Boone when the 49ers O-line occupies the gridiron, right tackle Anthony Davis, has flourished in this third NFL season.
Part of the reason San Fran seems to be able to run the ball well in any direction of its choosing is because the run blockers on the right side of the line are every bit as talented and powerful as the guys on the left.
Davis has been an absolute beast during the postseason. Both of Frank Gore's second-half touchdown runs against the Falcons were directly to Davis' side and Gore scampered into the end zone untouched each time.
Davis is only 23-years-old and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2012, his third NFL season. The left side of the 49ers' O-line has long been in good hands with left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Mike Iupati. It now appears the right side is going to be fine for quite some time as well.
Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks was a force to be reckoned with in the 49ers divisional win over the Packers, recording a season-high seven QB hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.
While he wasn't able to get the pressure he wanted on Matt Ryan in the NFC Championship game, Brooks was still able to successfully ruffle his feathers by batting down passes on two separate occasions. Both knockdowns occurred at crucial times in the game as well.
It's easy to go unnoticed when you're part of a linebacking corps that includes three Pro Bowl players in Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith. Brooks did manage to stand out enough to earn Pro Bowl honors as an alternate. That said, he hardly gets the amount of respect he deserves from football fans outside of the Bay Area.
The seventh-year pro inked a 6-year, $44.5 million deal in the offseason (contract details, via spotrac.com) to remain in San Francisco. It's safe to say the 49ers Faithful is thankful he did.
Remember when the 49ers selected Bruce Miller in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft as a defensive end out of Central Florida?
Who knew he'd immediately be making a living as a lead blocker for the all-time leading rusher in franchise history?
The 49ers brass instantly converted Miller to fullback upon his arrival to San Francisco, and the move has been a smashing success from day one on.
Miller's play has been spectacular throughout all of the 2012 season, but one could make a convincing case that the young fullback saved his best for the playoffs. The Niners gained a combined 472 yards on the ground in their wins over the Falcons and Packers. A hefty portion of those yards came with No. 49 clearing the path for his ball-carrier to run through.
To be honest, I don't think Miller really cares what his job is on the gridiron as long as he gets to hit somebody while running at full speed.
Had I told you back in November that any member of the 49ers 2012 draft class would be making a sizable impact in the playoffs, I'm almost certain that an outbreak of laughter would have ensued.
Before Week 14, no rookie drafted before the sixth round had stepped on the field during the regular season. But a rash of injuries presented second-round pick LaMichael James with an opportunity, one that he wasted absolutely no time pouncing on.
James made good use of his late-season reps out of the backfield and on kickoff returns, and it showed in the postseason. The rookie RB carried the ball five times for an impressive 34 yards against Atlanta, including San Francisco's first score of the game—a 15-yard scamper on a read-option sweep to the right.
He also ran for 21 yards on three carries against in the divisional round and handled kick return duties in both postseason games.
It may not seem like a huge impact, but James' presence in the backfield adds yet another dimension to the 49ers offense and provides depth that the team otherwise would not have had they not taken the Oregon product in the draft.