Aldon Smith finished with a franchise-record 19½ sacks in 2012 — falling three shy of Michael Strahan's single-season mark set in 2001 for the Giants. Yet he didn't have a single one over the final three games, most of that stretch with Justin Smith sidelined because of a partially torn left triceps.
"They make a lot of guys' jobs easier by doing what they do," safety Dashon Goldson said.
While Willis is the captain and one of the faces of the franchise, he is always quick to point out he wouldn't be making the plays he does without the rest of this hard-nosed defense that remained intact from last year's playoff run.
"I say it all the time, I'm very fortunate to be a part of the defense and alongside the linebackers and to be playing with those guys," Willis said. "People can make it about me and say what they want to say. I wouldn't be nearly the player I am today if I wouldn't have had those front seven or the linebackers setting the edges and making plays as well. I'm fortunate to have those guys. I hope we can go out there and play our best football Super Bowl Sunday and be able to wrap it all up and say, 'We did it.'"
A big reason Bowman decided to stay put through the 2018 season is that Willis will be around through 2016 — keeping one of the best duos together for years to come.
"They're good on film," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "Week in, week out, you don't see anything like that as far as their blitzes and playmaking ability — the ability to play the run the way they do and also cover is just very unique."