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Bruce Miller Seasoned for Playoffs

Posted Jan 10, 2013

San Francisco’s sophomore players feel much more prepared for their latest march into the postseason.

Bruce Miller, a 2011 seventh-round draft pick, spoke to that comfort on Thursday afternoon, two days before the 49ers host the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Divisional Playoff round.

“Win or go home,” San Francisco’s starting fullback said. “And, the games are much more important now because you can’t let one slip. You have to win one each week.”

Miller was in his first season as a converted fullback when the 49ers advanced as far as the NFC Championship. From that experience, Miller has a much better grasp of what to expect when the Packers visit Candlestick Park Saturday night.

“The level of play is just amped up a lot,” the second-year pro explained.

Miller’s workload has remained amped up throughout the year after undergoing a rigorous 16-game season as Frank Gore’s leading blocker. Those experiences, however, were well worth it. After all, San Francisco’s fourth-ranked rushing attack helped the club win the NFC West and earn the NFC’s No. 2 seed, complete with a first-round bye.

With fresher legs for Saturday night, Miller is anticipating a hectic opening kick. Miller serves as a cover man on the 49ers kick-off team and expects Saturday’s opening kick to be electric.

“Guys are flying all over the field and when you get a chance to get that out of the way, the focus can calm down and you can get yourself together,” Miller described.

The opening kick will need even greater focus when considering the big-play return ability of another sophomore player, Packers slot wide receiver Randall Cobb, who returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown when the teams met in Week 1.

“We have to make sure we stay in our lanes, bottle him up and get him down,” Miller said of Cobb, before pointing out the uncommon traits that make Green Bay’s return man so special.

“I think he’s unique,” Miller said. “A lot of times when you see returners they’re either one or the other. They’re either not as physical and really fast, or they’re really physical and not as fast. He’s a pretty special combination of both, size and power, the way he runs with the football.

“You tell guys to get in his face and not let him split you, but then you’ve got to stick to the edge so he doesn’t run around you… He causes a problem, but we just have to do a great job with leverage.”

Miller is confident the 49ers will be up for the task. In the fullback’s estimation, San Francisco had one of its best weeks of practice.

“The week of practice that we had was better than any week we’ve had this season,” the 49ers fullback stressed. “I think confidence, focus, is really what we took from this week. Guys were focused, prepared, really into what we were doing.”

In particular, Miller saw continued poise from fellow 2011 draft class member, Colin Kaepernick.

“I’m not worried about Colin at all, he’s going to play hard like he has all year and he’ll make good decisions,” Miller stressed. “He’s just a good leader. When things aren’t going our way or it’s a tough atmosphere, he’s poised, calm, gets the play out and makes sure we get to the line of scrimmage at the right time which is big for us. He’s done a great job of that.”

Miller continued to elaborate on the leadership San Francisco’s young quarterback brings to the table with only seven starts under his belt.

“He’s not really surprising anybody with how he carries himself around here… the way he’s played this season,” said Miller, who caught a career-high 12 receptions this season. “No surprises, just confident in what he’s doing and his ability to be the general on the field.”

So while Miller has a greater understanding of everything that comes along with postseason football, he also has a better sense of what homefield advantage means.

“The fans are going to be great,” Miller said of the 49ers Faithful. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere to play in.”

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