Just past the halfway point of the 49ers season, linebacker NaVorro Bowman is now playing like … NaVorro Bowman.
In Sunday’s victory over the visiting Atlanta Falcons, the inside linebacker, in his comeback season from knee surgery and a long rehab, roamed from sideline to sideline and was incredibly active in helping to limit the NFL’s leading rusher, Devonta Freeman, to just 12 yards on 12 carries.
He had seven tackles (tied for the team lead) and added a sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
After missing the entire 2014 season, Bowman finally appears to be the same All-Pro player he was before his injury. Through nine games he has 65 tackles, 25 assists and two sacks.
With so many losses of veteran defenders before this season began – Justin Smith and Ray McDonald up front and linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith – Bowman said it’s taken time for the new group of younger players to come together. At age 27, the multiple Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection is the leader of a defense that has struggled but came up big Sunday in the victory.
“I think us playing with each other and going through adverse times helps us realize that whatever happens, we have to control what happens on defense,” Bowman told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “Going through all that, you’re either going backward or forward. The guys we have in are young, but as long as they’re trying to get better and go forward, we’re going to get better to be able to play the run like we have in the past years.”
However, the 49ers face a big challenge after this bye week, when they take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Nov. 22. The Seahawks are the fourth-best rushing team in the NFL, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
But at least the 49ers now have a Bowman who is starting to live up to his own high standards.
“It’s getting there, and that’s what I want to keep hearing is I’m starting to look like the normal me,” Bowman told reporters Sunday.