There have been some frustrating games in the 2015 season for San Francisco 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman but his performance and health have been on the rise in Weeks 8 and 9. He led the team in tackles vs. the Rams and was second to only Marcus Cromartie in tackles vs. the Falcons. Bowman has continuously commented that his recovery from knee surgery has been a long process. He feels that there are plays that he would have been able to make in the past that he hasn't been able to yet, but as his strength and flexibility continues to improve, will be able to make in the not so distant future.
Interestingly, Bowman's production spikes in the second half. He had the majority of his tackles in St. Louis in the second half (8/13) and nearly all of them (7/9) in the second half against the Falcons including a 4th quarter sack of QB Matt Ryan for a loss of 9 yards which forced a punt.
Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman, who was tackled by Bowman four times in the third quarter alone, was held to 12 yards on 12 carries and the rest of the team only produced another 5 yards on the ground. He had this to say after the game:
I was talking to Bowman at the end of the game, he was like coming into practice 'We watched a lot of film on you." He was like they know I am going to slash you if I get the edge, it was going to be a long night for them. He said they watched a lot of film and they set the edges on us and wasn't going to let me get outside and I respect that.
Atlanta HC Dan Quinn also recognized the defensive edge:
We usually have good success on our outside wide zone plays and I think some of the TFLs were what really took us and made us into some long yardage second down scenarios for us today. So you know the edge set did a good job, the pressure that came with it and some of the runs.
Bowman spoke to the media after the game:
Are the Falcons one of your favorite teams to play? It seems like something about playing them brings the best out of you.
"You work a guy out personally when he comes into the league and don’t draft him? You’re going to have a chip on his shoulder against that team. It was fun. I always look forward to playing them."
Forgive me for asking this every time you’re up at the podium but today seemed like the real NaVorro Bowman. Is this the closest you’ve felt to being back?
"It’s getting there. That’s what I want to keep hearing, that I’m starting to look like the normal me and I told you guys it was going to be a process. It wasn’t just going to happen overnight. I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made so far. Like I said, there’s still more to come and more to do. I plan on continuing towards that."
Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman is a small elusive back and you guys held him to 12 yards. Does that give you encouragement that things are going to get better on defense?
"Yes it does. I think us playing with each other and going through adverse times helps us realize whatever happens we have to control what happens on defense. I think going through all that, you’re either going backward or forward. The guys we have in are young but as long as they’re trying to get better and go forward, we’re going to get better to be able to play the run like we have in the past years. I think that was a good example of how hard we’re working and how many hours we’re putting in throughout the week just trying to get it right. We showed that today."
You guys brought a lot of pressure right up the middle. Was that something that was talked about a lot in the week leading up to the game?
"It’s the coaches doing a great job coming up with the scheme and understanding what they like to do with their protections and things like that. Putting pressure on [Atlanta Falcons QB] Matt Ryan and understanding if you get in his face early it’s hard for him to get the ball out. Everything that happened today, the run being stopped, Matt Ryan having to run, it goes to the D-Line. They had a heck of game today and without them me, [LB] Mike [Wilhoite] and the DB’s wouldn’t have been able to make those plays today."
Did changing the quarterback give the locker room a different sense of energy?
"I think so. [QB] Blaine [Gabbert] had to approach it free minded so he could give it his best shot. We wanted to rally around him and not think, ‘Ok the backup quarterback is our quarterback.’ We still approached this game the same as if 7 [QB Colin Kaepernick] was in there. We rallied around Blaine and he did a great job today to get us this win."
What did Blaine do well today? What were some of the things you were impressed with?
"His confidence. He went out there and executed what the coaches asked him to do throughout the week. Expectations came from the teammates more than the outsiders and I definitely think he led us and played for us. Hats off to him and we look forward to coming down and playing on the road next."
Were you surprised at all that the Falcons kicked that last field goal when they only had a yard and a half to go on the 4th down?
"No, their running back [Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman] had 12 yards on the day, so I wasn’t surprised. They wanted to put some points on the board and once again it was the D-Line who played a great game today."
Obviously you always want to stop the run but how much was making them one-dimensional an emphasis during the week?
"It was good. We only had 6 DB’s here today so I can only imagine how the game would have went if the the run was working and the pass was working. For us to really get them in that one-dimensional spot it helped the DB’s with expecting the pass on passing downs. I think that really helped us out today."
You had a huge game today, can you touch on that?
"I wanted to go into this bye week feeling like I left it all on the field, understanding we have a week off. With Blaine coming in I wanted to see if we could bring the morale back and see if we could get it going after the bye week. I think guys are excited now. I know the coaches are looking forward to the next game we have. We kind of set the bar. We showed that we can be a good team, that we can play great. It's our job to continue this on."
Your production was big last week as well, do you fell like you've turned a corner in your health?
"Waking up in bed and feeling better every day. It used to be rough. The corner is being turned but like I said there’s still more out there that I feel I can do. It’s about continuing to progress and put the work in throughout the week and make sure I feel good on Sundays."
The 49ers ask you to do a lot of things. Covering WR Julio Jones on a deep route, is that pushing it a little bit?
"No. (laughing) He’s a tough cover but I do whatever the coaches ask me to do. That was a great ball and catch by Julio. We knew those things would probably happen with the threat he is as a wide receiver."