One of the reasons everyone has been so shocked by the emergence of the San Francisco 49ers defense this season is because of how bad the unit has been in recent years. It's been historically bad, in fact. Just last year, the defense set NFL record lows for both interceptions (2) and total takeaways (7).

The 49ers defense has seemingly come out of nowhere. Or has it?

The coaches and players have always known that the defense was capable of so much more. The unit looked to be on the verge of something good but just couldn't finish plays. That's why the front office went to work this offseason to improve the defense's lackluster pass rush.

The result? One of the most disruptive pass rushes in the league and one of the best overall defenses.

Cornerback Richard Sherman, who often steps up to the podium and praises his teammates, took the opportunity on Thursday to do so again and campaign for annual individual honors for the once-overlooked 49ers defenders. Sherman feels it's about time this group gets recognized for what he always believed it could be.

"People just don't want to give our defense credit," Sherman told reporters. "I think it's just past experience, these past seasons. They look at the past history of our defense and what has happened in those years, but you can't do that. Every year is different, and you've got to look at each year individually.

"These guys are having an individually fantastic year right now, and they deserve all the credit in the world.

"Jaquiski Tartt has been playing fantastic, Jimmie Ward has been playing lights-out since he came back into the lineup, and they deserve credit. K'Waun Williams deserves a ton of credit."

Pro Bowl voting will begin in November, and the 49ers should be well-represented in the NFL's annual All-Star game. That is often the case for the more successful teams. Being undefeated and potentially staying that way for several more weeks — maybe longer — could do wonders to earn San Francisco's roster a few trips to Hawaii ... I mean, Florida.

Sorry.

Still, it's an honor.

"I think that past experiences have changed it," Sherman continued, "but hopefully this year, when our fans and everybody in the NFL, coaches and players, are voting for Pro Bowls and All-Pros, and the media votes for All-Pros, they'll look at our defense and pick a few guys because you don't play at this high of a level without All-Pro, Pro Bowl players.

"It's not an aberration. It's not a mirage that this is happening. It's guys playing at a high level and competing, and they deserve the credit."