The San Francisco 49ers have boasted one the NFL’s best defenses all year. Their 281.8 yards allowed per game ranked second in the regular season, and their 19.4 points allowed ranked third in the NFC.
The defense was in fine form on Saturday in the divisional round of the playoffs, when the top-seeded 49ers hosted Minnesota and set a franchise playoff record by allowing only 147 yards of Vikings offense. Minnesota didn’t gain a first down for more than 27 minutes of game action at one point, were held to just 81 total yards until late in the fourth quarter, and San Francisco racked up six sacks. The defensive dominance led to a 27-10 49ers victory, the team’s first in six years.
Linebacker Fred Warner led the team with seven tackles, and rookie defensive end Nick Bosa included two sacks in his six tackles. But if you ask the 49ers, the return of linebacker Kwon Alexander played a large role too, even if he didn’t even record a stat. The playoff game marked Alexander’s first action since Week 10, when he tore his pectoral muscle and was placed on injured reserve.
“There’s so much more swag and confidence when he’s out there,” Warner said. “He’s great. I love being out there with him. He’s a leader. There’s a lot more to it than him just being a good ballplayer out there. His value is huge for the team.”
Also returning was defensive end Dee Ford, who contributed one sack to the total in his first action since Dec. 8, when he suffered a hamstring injury. The return of Alexander and Ford re-energized the defense and helped limit Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to a season-low 18 rushing yards.
Recently, Alexander credited God for his healing, and he continues to glorify God during his NFL journey:
Legendary God Healing ‼️
— Kwon Alexander (@kwon) January 2, 2020
God get all the Glory! Thank ya God!
— Kwon Alexander (@kwon) January 10, 2020
Alexander says he puts all his faith in God. He was a fourth-round draft pick from LSU, and he arrived in Baton Rouge after growing up in Anniston, Ala., along with Ford, who was traded to San Francisco earlier this year.
“It’s a difficult place,” Alexander told NBC Sports Bay Area about his hometown. “A lot of people don’t make it out. Everybody says that. But back at home, a lot of people don’t make it out. That’s why I’m so happy to play with Dee because we both made it out.”
Alexander was drafted by Tampa Bay, started 12 games as a rookie, totaled 145 tackles his second season, and made the Pro Bowl his third season. But after six games in Year 4, his contract year, he tore an ACL. The timing of the injury could have scared off teams who were interested in signing him as a free agent, but the 49ers felt good about his progress in rehab and signed him to a four-year, $53.5 million contract in March.
Alexander stayed strong in his faith during the uncertainty.
“I’ll never question God. Look where I’m at now,” Alexander said. “I’ve been hurt and I still got what I wanted (a long-term contract). It’s amazing. That’s why I put all my faith in Him. And when you have faith in Him, you can do whatever you want to do.”
He got hurt again this season, but his playoff return just might spur the 49ers on to the Super Bowl. They host Green Bay in the NFC championship game on Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET.
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