SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Nick Bosa’s first-quarter sack of Aaron Rodgers wasn’t done on his own.

The 49ers rookie was able to bring the Packers quarterback to the ground in last week’s NFC Championship on a third down because he had help on the inside. DeForest Buckner beat the left guard as Bosa was bull rushing standout left tackle David Bakhtiari. Rodgers felt the pressure from Buckner and tried to escape to his left, allowing Bosa to peel off Bakhtiari and make the play toward the flat.

Without Buckner’s pressure, Bakhtiari formed a wall preventing Bosa from sniffing Rodgers. And Bosa’s push of Bakhtiari gave Buckner a lane over the guard’s left shoulder. Buckner didn’t get credit on the stat sheet but his work was key in Bosa netting the sack, his third in two playoff games.

It was one of many examples why San Francisco’s revamped pass rush has been lethal this season. The team’s top four pass rushers – Bosa, Buckner, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford – are all former first-round draft picks who can all win one-on-one matchups.

But they can also use their skills in tandem, which will be paramount in the Super Bowl against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

After all, the best way to bother a quarterback is pressure. Mahomes’ passer rating drops from 113.4 to 95.1 when pressured this season, according to Pro Football Focus, while his adjusted completion rate drops nearly 10 percent.

San Francisco was the league’s only team to have four players with at least 6.5 sacks in 2019. And it had 9.0 sacks in its two playoff games against Minnesota and Green Bay.

The Chiefs have the fastest group of skill players in the NFL, according to 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The less time Mahomes has in the pocket, the less likely his targets can get down field for explosive plays. That will require San Francisco’s talented defensive line to play with force both individually and collectively.

“Every week, whether you’re playing a guy like Mahomes or a statue, it doesn’t matter,” Saleh said. “You have to have respect for where he is in the pocket. And your pass rush has to tie in with one another so that way you’re just not carelessly rushing the passer to where even a statue can buy time and escape the pocket and create an explosive play through an off-schedule play.”

Bottling up Mahomes in the pocket will be a key. Mahomes has one of the best arms in recent memory, but his work outside the pocket is a lesser-known weapon.

“We’re back playing a mobile quarterback and one who could throw better than any we’ve faced,” Bosa said. “One of the biggest things is trying to keep him in the pocket and not let him escape when he wants to escape and make him uncomfortable.”

The 49ers remember this well from Week 3 last season. On a play that started at the 4-yard line, Mahomes felt pressure and moved to his left where Cassius Marsh was looming, and Mahomes spun all the way back around toward the right. He fired a missile – on the run from the 20-yard line – and nailed receiver Chris Conley in the back corner of the end zone.

That type of play has been far more difficult to accomplish against the 49ers this season because of the complementary work from the pass rushers. The team has focused on having discipline with its pass rushing angles to avoid creating open spaces to exploit.

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey went against San Francisco’s defensive front throughout the offseason and training camp.

“A quarterback can always avoid and escape one guy – or has a chance to win than when everything’s just collapsing around him. I think that the strength of our unit has been because four guys can get home so fast, or even if they’re not getting home, they’re still pushing back,” McGlinchey said.

The addition of Ford, for example, gives the 49ers one of the quicker defensive ends off the edge in the entire NFL. His presence on the other side of the field last year might have prevented Mahomes from having room to his right, where he lasered his first of three touchdown passes.

Saleh was asked about the difference Bosa and Ford bring to the pass rush the team might have been lacking last season.

“One, the speed that they bring to be able to run with a guy like Mahomes. When you have edge rushers, it speeds up the process of the quarterback, and, not that he needs speeding up, he already gets rid of it pretty quick. But it changes the game,” Saleh said. “It unlocks the offensive line so it creates a little bit more space and it gives the guys inside more space to operate.”

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