Emmanuel Sanders Doesn't Sense Nervousness in 49ers' Young Receivers
Jose Luis Sanchez III
Saturday's divisional playoff game was nothing new to veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has played in a handful of playoff games to go along with a Super Bowl ring.
However, the vast majority of 49er players had never been in a playoff game before, especially the young receivers. That inexperience was believed to be a downside for this team leading up to their matchup with the Vikings.
Clearly, that inexperience did not matter after the way the 49ers dominated them. Now the 49ers are set to play in the NFC championship game at Levi's Stadium. If nerves didn't get to them in that game, surely it will be felt in a game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line right?
That would be false according to Sanders. When he was asked at today's presser regarding nervousness impacting the young receivers Sanders answered,“I don't think they even know truthfully, I'm telling you, the locker room is just so loose." He said.
"I feel like we have a great core of guys. Obviously, the young guys, you look at Kendrick Bourne last week and how he performed and how he was even acting how he made a catch, smiling, having a good time and then Deebo making plays. Those guys just being themselves. I've been enjoying being around them because they don't even feel the pressure. They don't even know what's going on. They are just playing football and having fun and I think that, you know, sometimes when you get in this game at this level, you forget about the fun part of it. You take it way too serious, and like I said, I've been enjoying being around those guys because they definitely are at the core football, which is a game and they make it fun. So, we're going to continuously do that and have fun.”
Being loose is exactly what this team exuded in the divisional playoff game. A major reason why is thanks to having someone like Sanders in that locker room who has been there. The same goes for Richard Sherman, Joe Staley and Dee Ford who have a ton of playoff experience. It isn't just Sanders that can affect the mentality of the receivers and other younger players. Having a core of veterans has definitely helped.
But perhaps an enormous reason, aside from having veteran teammates, is that these players are already battle hardened for the playoffs. The 49ers have played in multiple high stakes games that resembled a playoff environment. Not to mention that most of those high stakes games went down to the wire. The playoffs is not some sort of different realm for these players. They have practically been playing playoff football since mid-November.
Having played in so many close games contributes immensely to this young and inexperience team. It's why Sanders described the vibe of the young receivers as loose and fun. They have already played in a bunch of playoff games and now that they official just played in one, now that stigma of the pressure in a playoff game is broken.
Of course, things could always get sour for some of them on Sunday. Either they could wake up on the wrong side entering the game or they have one mistake that completely demoralizes them. It is always possible that it could happen, but I have little doubt in my mind that it will. Every one of these young receivers, or even all of the young players are mentally tough enough for this game.
Their hunger for winning and performing to the best of their ability far exceeds any nerves that they would have. The 49ers didn't make it this far by having players that are afraid of the moment. They have constantly proved that they are ready for anything and will run through any wall that presents themselves.
Between them and a trip to the Super Bowl, they must get through one final wall in the form of the Green Bay Packers. A wall that they are more than happy to break down.