Feeling like it was time to get the show on the road –
Bowman, one of San Francisco’s trio of Pro Bowl linebackers, stepped up to the podium at 49ers headquarters, looked at the gathered media and said, “Let’s do this.”
The statement made it clear – the 49ers leading tackler of the past two seasons was ready to answer questions and get on to the bigger task at hand – a Saturday night playoff matchup with the Green Bay Packers.
Bowman wants out on the field so bad, it probably wouldn’t be a stretch to see him lobby head coach Jim Harbaugh into declining the ball should the Packers lose the opening coin toss.
Bowman said he loves starting the game on the field with the rest of San Francisco’s stout defense.
“I don’t want to sit over there and keep boiling. I want to get out there and get it going – set the tone early, set the tone first and see where we end up,” Bowman explained.
The 6-foot, 242-pound play-maker aims to repeat the fast start the 49ers enjoyed against the Packers in a Week 1 road win. San Francisco got up to a 23-7 lead and made it clear that Green Bay’s productive offense would be in for a challenge.
Bowman wants nothing more than to repeat that scenario on Saturday night. In his mind, limiting the Packers production on first-half drives will only help the 49ers’ chances of moving on to the NFC title game for consecutive seasons.
“You want to let them know we’re definitely here to play,” Bowman detailed. “We just want to set the tone.”
The third-year linebacker made one of his biggest plays of the season in the third quarter of the season-opening win. Following a 75-yard Randall Cobb punt return for a touchdown that cut San Francisco’s lead to eight points, Bowman recorded his first career interception on a pass thrown by Packers Pro Bowl signal-caller Aaron Rodgers.
In Bowman’s mind, the takeaway still stands as one of his most memorable plays. It’s for good reason.
“Taking the ball from the offense when you’re a defensive player, it’s big, big for the team and the defense especially,” explained Bowman, who led the 49ers with 183 tackles to go along with 2.0 sacks and one forced fumble. “It changes field position and puts you in position to score. I’d say it’s one of the biggest plays (of the year).”
Recording interceptions against Rodgers proved to be even more difficult late in the season. The standout quarterback enters Saturday night’s playoff contest having not thrown an interception in his last 177 pass attempts.
Bowman understands the magnitude of the Divisional Playoff matchup, but he also fully expects Green Bay to give San Francisco a game.
“They’re definitely going to come back and try to tie it up, but we’re definitely confident about our playing this week,” Bowman said.
Bowman, the “Mike” linebacker in San Francisco’s defense, will be active throughout the game in both run and pass formations. Not only will Bowman play on base downs, he’ll cover the middle of the field in the 49ers dime defense.
Green Bay might have shown a greater tendency to run since the season-opening loss to San Francisco, but Bowman doesn’t necessarily see it that way. The Packers picked up just 45 rushing yards on 14 carries on the day and finished the year with the NFL’s 20th rush offense (106.4 yards per game).
“I don’t think they’re too different,” Bowman detailed. “When you play your first game, you don’t know what you’re going to get from either team. Now that the season has gone through, they’re confident and they understand what they have to do.”
In Bowman’s mind, passing teams will be passing teams. The only increase of running is with the intent of being more balanced.
“I think teams want to run the ball just to get balanced,” he said.
Now, the question remains: Will Green Bay look to stay balanced against San Francisco?
Until that’s determined, all Bowman and company can control is their pre-game preparation and focus.
“In the playoffs, you lose, you go home,” Bowman reasoned. “I think that puts a red light in people’s head throughout the week.
“You have to do everything. Everything needs to be done because if you don’t, you have a chance of going home. I think that’s what makes the playoffs so fun, so exciting, so intense.
No one wants to go home.”