Jimmie Ward Welcomes Challenge vs. Odell Beckham after Slowing Randall Cobb in Week 4

In Week 2, Randall Cobb caught eight passes for 116 yards against the Seattle Seahawks vaunted "Legion of Boom." The following week, the Green Bay Packers receiver torched the Kansas City Chiefs for 91 yards and three touchdowns.

On Sunday, however, Cobb was slowed by the San Francisco 49ers, being held to five catches for 44 yards and no scores.

The last time the Pro Bowl slot receiver was held below 50 yards and out of the end zone? That would be all the way back to Week 3 of last season.

Jimmie Ward is the man who deserves the lion's share of the credit for keeping Cobb at bay.

The 49ers first-round pick in 2014 played 62 of the team's 73 defensive snaps and spent his entire day tracing Cobb around the field. It was easily the most playing time Ward has seen this season, and he more than took advantage.

Ward's finest play of the day came late in the first half. With Cobb running a post route to the middle of the end zone, the defensive back kept up stride-for-stride and was able to break up Aaron Rodgers' pass. The play saved a touchdown and led to a Packers missed field goal going into halftime.

"Each game, I go into it trying to stop whoever I'm across from on the field," said Ward, calling the performance maybe the best of his young career. "Playing against Randall Cobb, I knew he was a very good wide receiver. (He's) fast and quick, so I knew I had to be physical against him in the game."

The hybrid defensive back was drafted in large part due to his versatility. Ward can excel both as a safety and as a nickel corner. The second-year pro out of Northern Illinois said he has a preference between the two positions but is proud of his ability to play both at a high level.

"I like safety," Ward started. "I like to hit, but I can cover too so I don't mind being in the slot. You can cover, you can blitz. That spot shows how versatile I can be.

"The reason why I like nickel so much is because not everyone can do it. You have some cornerbacks who can cover but can't hit. You have some safeties who can hit but can't cover. I feel like I can do it all."

Having Ward on the field is a huge boost for the 49ers defense. Ward spent much of his rookie season battling a foot injury that kept him out of the team's entire offseason program.

Jim Tomsula told the media numerous times during training camp that the plan was to ease Ward back onto the field in baby steps. That cautious blueprint didn't make it any easier for the defensive back who was eager to be out on the field with his teammates.

"It was very frustrating watching from the sideline, working out and not being able to participate in practice," Ward said.

The Mobile, Ala., native wouldn't say he's 100 percent at this point, but he's certainly healthy enough to contribute to the 49ers defense. 

"How I look at it, nobody who plays this game is 100 percent," Ward said. "Everybody has some type of bump or bruise, some type of injury they've got to play through. It's football. It's why we do it."

Next up for Ward and the 49ers is a Week 5 matchup against the New York Giants. That means Ward will likely see Odell Beckham, Jr. should the star receiver make his way into the slot.

Ward said he welcomes the challenge.

"Oh yes," he said. "He's a very talented wide receiver. He's on the face of Madden, man. It's going to be fun. Matchups like that are just fun, playing against the superstars."

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