How the 49ers built a championship roster

This is my Saturday article on the gradual construction of the 49ers’ roster. By GRANT COHN After the 2004 season, the 49ers were the worst team in football. They had practically no talent, they had won two games, and they had one Pro Bowler, long snapper, Brian Jennings. This season, the 49ers are going to the Super Bowl and they have arguably the most talented roster in the NFL. Nine…

February 2, 2013
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Warren Sapp says the 49ers and Ravens defenses are opposites, Ngata is unimpressive and Iupati is top-heavy

Warren Sapp spoke on KNBR Thursday afternoon. Here is his breakdown of the 49ers and Ravens defenses, as well as his scouting report of the 49ers’ offensive line and the Ravens’ defensive line. Q: What do you think of the Ravens’ defense? SAPP: We love the Baltimore defense because of Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, T-Sizzle – the names roll off the tongue. And everything they’ve gone through this…

January 31, 2013
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Cosell on Kaepernick: “I thought he did a really good job of stepping up in the pocket.”

Greg Cosell spoke on KNBR on Monday and Tuesday. Here’s what he said about the NFC Championship game. Q: How do you think Colin Kaepernick performed as a passer against the Falcons? COSELL: I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well. I thought he did a really good job of stepping up in the pocket, which younger quarterbacks – particularly ones that run – sometimes struggle to do because as…

January 23, 2013
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49ers NFC Championship grades: Defense and special teams

ATLANTA – The 49ers beat the Falcons 28-24. The 49ers are going to the Super Bowl. Here are the grades for the 49ers’ defense and special teams. Defensive line: B. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald didn’t get much pressure on Ryan, but in the second half they were able to push the pocket up the middle. It became difficult for Ryan to step into his throws. Also, the 49ers’ defensive…

January 20, 2013
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Three keys to the game for the 49ers and the Falcons

This is the opening to my Saturday article on the keys to the game for the 49ers and the Falcons. The Falcons need a miracle to beat the 49ers this Sunday. That’s the consensus of NFL critics. The Falcons need a fire alarm to go off in the 49ers’ hotel at 3 a.m. They need the entire 49ers team — players and coaches — to evacuate the building and catch…

January 18, 2013
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49ers divisional playoff grades: Defense and special teams

SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers massacred the Packers 45-31 on Saturday night. Here is the grade for the 49ers defense and special teams. Defensive line: B+. Justin Smith played 53 snaps, 91 percent of the defensive snaps. That alone is impressive. He couldn’t use his injured left arm, but the Packers still double teamed him, and he was disruptive bull rushing. And he was effective against the run, finishing the…

January 13, 2013
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Aaron Rodgers: “Being a 49er fan, that was a team I enjoyed watching and dreamt about playing for.”

Aaron Rodgers spoke on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Tuesday afternoon. Here’s what he said. Q: How does this 49ers team look different from Week 1 when you saw them at Lambeau? RODGERS: Defensively it’s the same guys. One of the top defenses in the league, if not the best. They have playmakers all over the field, at every level – D-line, linebackers, secondary. The secondary can make…

January 9, 2013
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49ers Week 17 grades: Defense and special teams

SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers stomped the Cardinals 27-13. Here are the grades for the 49ers defense and special teams. Defensive line: B. Ricky Jean Francois had a team-high six tackles (one for a loss), a sack and a QB hit. He played well. Ray McDonald didn’t get any sacks or tackles for loss, but he forced a fumble in the second half which Donte Whitner recovered. Linebackers: B. Patrick…

December 30, 2012
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Why the 49ers-Cardinals game matters

There are two reasons why this game against the Arizona Cardinals matters deeply to the 49ers. First, there are playoff implications. If the 49ers win, they’ll be 11-4-1. They’ll get the No.2 seed and a first-round Bye if the Packers lose to the Vikings. If the Packers beat the Vikings, the 49ers get the No.3 seed and they would not get a Bye. They would play the No.6 seed at…

December 29, 2012
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49ers Week 16 grades: Defense and special teams

SEATTLE, Wa. – The Seahawks crushed the 49ers 42-13 Sunday night. Here are the grades for the defense and special teams. Defensive line: F. They couldn’t stop the run or tackle the quarterback. The Seahawks ran right down the 49ers’ throat all game. Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean Francois took turns getting moved aside at the line of scrimmage. On many  of the Seahawks run plays, it looked like there…

December 23, 2012
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49ers Week 15 grades: Defense and special teams

FOXBORO, Ma. – The 49ers beat the Patriots 41-34 and clinched a playoff berth. Here are the grades for the 49ers’ defense and special teams. Defensive line: B. Justin Smith did not play particularly well, and then he left the game with an elbow injury. On the other hand, Ray McDonald played his best game of the season. He had half a sack all season, and he had two Sunday…

December 16, 2012
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Fangio says the 49ers offense must “move the ball, get first downs, score points” against the Patriots

SANTA CLARA – This is what Vic Fangio said about the 49ers’ upcoming matchup with the Patriots in the media tent on Thursday. Q: What jumps out at you about the Patriots offense? FANGIO: They’re not only the top rated offense in the league – they’re way ahead of who’s in second in all the important stats. It’s not like they’re just a little bit ahead of team 2 in…

December 13, 2012
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49ers Week 13 grades: Defense and special teams

SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers lost to the Rams 16-13. Here are the grades for the 49ers defense. Defensive line: A. Justin Smith may have had the best game of his season. He had a team-high 8 tackles, including three for losses, 1 sack and 1 QB hit. Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald helped limit Steven Jackson to 48 yards on 21 carries. Linebackers: A-. Aldon Smith had a sack…

December 2, 2012
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Fangio calls Goldson and Whitner landmines, and more

SANTA CLARA – Here is what Vic Fangio said about the 49ers defense at his Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.   How much is it a luxury for you to have all four linebackers locked up for at least three more seasons after this one? “I think it speaks well for the organization that they’ve been able to in this age of salary cap. And it’s not always…

November 29, 2012
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Bowman signs 5-year extension

The 49ers just announced they have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension with All Pro third year inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Here is general manger Trent Baalke’s written statement on the extension: “NaVorro epitomizes what we look for in a 49er. We are excited that the All Pro tandem of Willis and Bowman will be together in red and gold for years to come.” The 49ers did not…

November 27, 2012
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49ers Week 12 grades: Defense and special teams

NEW ORLEANS — The 49ers just beat the Saints 31-21. Here are the grades for the 49ers defense and special teams. Defensive line: B+. Justin Smith had 1.5 sacks – he’s coming on at the end of the season, just like he did last year. Ray McDonald almost sacked Brees on the first play of the game. McDonald didn’t do much the rest of the game. And Isaac Sopoaga was…

November 25, 2012
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Saints-49ers matchups: Part IV – Darren Sproles vs. NaVorro Bowman

The 49ers play the Saints Sunday at the Superdome. In the meantime, I’ll break down five key matchups. RB Darren Sproles vs. LB NaVorro Bowman When the 49ers front-seven has struggled against running backs this season, they’ve struggled against big, tough running backs. Sproles is a small, quick back who catches passes more often that he carries the football. He is Brees’ go-to possession receiver. When Brees needs six yards,…

November 24, 2012
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49ers Week 11 grades: Defense and special teams

SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers destroyed the Chicago Bears 32-7 Monday night. Here are the grades for the 49ers defense and special teams. Defensive line: A. They held the Bears rushing attack to just 3 yards per carry. Justin Smith got consistent pressure on the quarterback for the first time this season. Ray McDonald tackled Chilo Rachal in the end zone for a safety. Linebackers: A. NaVorro Bowman had a…

November 19, 2012
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