Ja’Quan Gardner’s stint with the San Francisco 49ers was brief but he saw something special in the storied NFL organization prior to the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
“They had a great locker room,” said Gardner, who provided depth at running back during the 49ers’ final preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers before being released. “The guys played for each other and wanted to be around each other. That leads to good things on the field.
“During that season, they just had a lot of injuries,” he added.
A year removed from a 4-12 season, the 49ers are in position to complete one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history. San Francisco will be vying for its sixth Super Bowl title this weekend.
The 49ers ranked second in total defense and fourth in total offense during the regular season.
“It’s hard to win games in the NFL. It’s a lot of work. A lot of meetings. You put in a lot of time watching film. You have to be mentally locked in.”Ja’Quan Gardner
“It’s hard to win games in the NFL,” Gardner said. “It’s a lot of work. A lot of meetings. You put in a lot of time watching film. You have to be mentally locked in.”
Third-year General Manager John Lynch added talent and depth to the 49ers’ roster through draft, trade and free agency.
Nick Bosa (rookie defensive end), Fred Warner (second-year linebacker) and Deebo Samuel (rookie receiver), and veteran newcomer Emmanuel Sanders (receiver) have all been major contributors this season.
Bosa and veteran newcomer Dee Ford (defensive end) accounted for 151/2 of San Francisco’s 48 sacks during the regular season.
Richard Sherman (veteran cornerback) has made a full recovery from a season-ending right Achilles injury sustained in November of 2017 when he was a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
Jimmy Garoppolo has a 21-5 record as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. He missed the majority of last season with a knee injury.
George Kittle, Garoppolo’s favorite target, has developed into arguably the NFL’s top tight end in just his third season.
The 49ers have three capable running backs in Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman.
All three players rushed for over 500 yards during the regular season. Mostert led the team with 772 yards. He had a franchise-record 220 yards in the NFC championship game.
“It’s not really surprising,” Gardner said while talking about San Francisco’s bounce-back season. “They have a lot of talent.”
The 49ers also have a great leader in Kyle Shanahan.
This is Shanahan’s third season serving as head coach.
“You could tell he was a players’ coach,” Gardner said. “The guys love him. He’s passionate about the game.”
The 49ers (13-3) will face the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) in Super Bowl LIV this Sunday in Miami.
San Francisco has allowed just 30 points in the playoffs.
The 49ers have had six different players collect at least one sack, including Bosa (3).
The Chiefs have scored 86 points in the playoffs.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown eight touchdowns passes.
“The 49ers’ defense is crazy,” Gardner said. “The Chiefs’ offense is crazy. It’s going to be a good game. It’s hard to call.”
“I’ll be a fan of the team that wins,” he joked.