Early in the 2019 regular season, the San Francisco 49ers boasted one of the league's scariest and most potent defenses. Coincidentally, the Niners also had a rushing attack, which at one point, was averaging 200 yards per game.

Injuries and attrition cut into those numbers as the year wore on, however, ultimately leading to the Niners having a very good defense over the course of the year, finishing eighth in scoring (310) and second in net yards allowed (4,509). But after going 13-3, securing the NFC West and the No. 1 seed in the conference in a thrilling Week 17 win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Niners certainly benefited from the extra week of rest.

That rest ultimately led to San Francisco dispatching both the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers in the divisional round and NFC Championship game, respectively, en route to a date with the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. And defensive tackle DeForest Buckner thought that extra week, which allowed a number of players to heal up, was essential in the team's results.

"That bye week was key," Buckner told reporters after the 49ers' 37-20 victory over Green Bay on Sunday. "Getting the No. 1 seed, having home-field advantage, all of it."

One of the key players returning to action after an elongated absence was Buckner's defensive linemate, EDGE Dee Ford, who missed all but a few snaps between Weeks 12 and 17 with both quad and hamstring injuries.

Ford returned for the divisional round, however, picking up one of the 49ers' six sacks in that game. Against the Packers, Ford registered just one tackle. But the 49ers defense still managed to pressure quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"Stay focused. Do what we got to do," Ford added, when asked about bringing pressure against Rodgers. "It's very simple, if we play together, we dominate. We took that same mentality, and we didn't need to do anything different."

That pressure forced two fumbles from Rodgers, one of which was caused by defensive tackle Arik Armstead and recovered by Buckner.

The 49ers won the turnover differential over Green Bay by forcing three turnovers, losing none of their own.

"It brings that chemistry back," Buckner continued, specifying how players like Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander's returns helped spark the kind of defensive intensity the 49ers enjoyed earlier in the season. "And the dominance."

Now, Buckner and the 49ers defense will look to replicate that dominance against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl in two weeks.
  • Peter Panacy
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.