Last year at this time, Justin Smith was diagnosed with a torn triceps tendon that would put him at half strength for the playoffs. Aldon Smith was dealing with a shoulder injury that would require offseason surgery. Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman also had shoulder injuries.
This year? By this point in an NFL season, no one is entirely healthy. But Bowman today noted that the training room has far fewer defensive players in it than it did last year, which is one of the reasons he sees the stars aligning as the playoffs approach.
"For the most part we're healthy, man, and I think that's the big thing," Bowman said today. "We know we can play, we know can stop offenses and running backs and things like that. My big thing now is that we're healthy at the end the month of December and we're able to play at 100 percent level and give it all that we have and not really have any excuses. We execute like no other defense, and when we have all our guys it will just be even better."
Later he added: "Everything is happening for us right now at the right time."
On Sunday, Bowman and the 49ers held Tampa Bay to just 183 yards of offense and just one third-down conversion. But he noted the performance could have been better. The 49ers also allowed two touchdown drives when the Buccaneers unexpectedly went to a hurry-up defense.
Bowman suspects the defense let up a bit when it saw Colin Kaepernick and the offense playing well. He said he and his teammates need to be wary of relaxing when the offense, which has struggled at times this year, is on its game.
"Yeah, I mentioned this the other day," he said. "I think we took our foot off the gas pedal a little bit. And those are the things I keep talking on: If you want to be a great defense, you have to not let the success or the problems that the offense is having deter your play on defense. ... We just can't do that if we want to be great."
-- Matt Barrows