NaVorro Bowman has heard the chatter from his coaches. The fans' chants haven't gone unnoticed either.
With his 102 tackles, the second-most in the NFC, to go along with new single-season career highs in sacks (four) and forced fumbles (three), Bowman knows observers are calling for him to be awarded with hardware.
"I'd like to say I've been playing well all my years," said the fourth-year pro in his deep monotone, "but if this is my best year – it's the present year – I'll take it."
How exactly has Bowman, Joe Staley' partner in the middle of the 49ers forceful front seven, improved?
"Not a certain aspect. I'm just more comfortable," the linebacker said. "I study the game like no other. It's helping me out being more a student of the game then letting my ability take over."
That explained Bowman's execution of a crucial play the last time San Francisco played the Atlanta Falcons –its Week 16 opponent on "Monday Night Football – in last January's NFC Championship game.
On 4th-and-4 with just over a minute remaining and the defense protecting a four-point lead, Bowman knew the ball was coming to Falcons wideout Roddy White, so he anticipated and disrupted the play.
"Going through the course of the game, realizing Roddy White is in a position where he wasn't the whole game," he said, "and being ready for what they were going to run. I was right, and I made a play for our team."
For more storylines surrounding the team, check out this edition of Morning Tailgate links, presented by State Farm.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee* *wrote an injury update.
Bill Williamson of ESPN.com* *caught up with Eric Mangini to discuss his coaching role.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle* *noted the supply and demand involving wide receivers.
Scott Kegley of 49ers.com spoke with Justin Smith for his "Weekly Conversation."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.comfocused on the end of Candlestick from a special teams perspective.
Jim Carlton of WSJ.comwaxed nostalgic with 49ers fans.
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