|49ers ILBs Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman were among nine 49ers selected to the Pro Bowl. (US Presswire)|
The San Francisco 49ers led the NFL with nine players selected to the Pro Bowl Wednesday, headlined by six players on defense.
If the Pro Bowl were the schoolyard, then the 49ers would have four “package deals” headed to the game as eight players were selected along with the player they compliment the most.
In each case, those players recognized how they make each other better.
When Whitner signed with the 49ers last year, he and Goldson were instantly on the same page.
“We got here together and we made up our mind that we were going to go out there and try to be two of the best safeties in the National Football League and we definitely wanted to be the No. 1 tandem,” said Whitner, who'll make his first appearance. “We take pride in our game. We take pride in our preparation. We're just two prideful guys that want to go out there and put it all on the line for our teammates.”
They gained a reputation for being two of the hardest hitting safeties in the game and are the first tandem of safeties from the same team to be named starters in the same season since 2005.
Bowman and Willis have combined for 260 tackles this year, the most combined tackles for teammates in the NFL. When Bowman signed a five-year contract extension earlier this year, Willis -- the man who is the godfather to his twin daughters -- was one of the first people he alerted.
“Me and Pat, we know we play similar, we know we can do some of the same things,” Bowman said. “Within in the scheme, we don't have to switch positions or switch assignments too much. We can really stay in place and let the defense work out for itself and I think that benefited for us as a defense having two guys like me and Pat.”
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With his selection, Willis becomes the first player in franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons. For Bowman, it'll be his first trip.
“It's my first time, so I'm going to be excited to be playing in the game and going out there to really play in it,” Bowman said.
Justin Smith hasn't shown up statistically like he has in years past, but Aldon Smith's numbers are perhaps a better indicator of how important the 12-year veteran is. His 19.5 sacks, which rank second in the NFL, and partially the product of being free to work in a lot of one-on-one situations due to the attention the other Smith demands.
On offense, Staley and Iupati make up the left side of the line and two-fifths of arguably the best offensive line in football. Iupati said all five of the 49ers lineman were deserving and acknowledged how important Staley has been for him.
“It's paid off pretty good,” Iupati said of playing next to Staley. “Good teammate to play next to, he helped me a lot my rookie and year and last year as well. This year too, we work well together.”
The duo has helped pave the way for the Gore, who at 29 years old is having one of the best seasons of his eight-year career. Gore has run for 1,146 yards on 238 carries (4.6 ypc) and seven touchdowns.