SANTA CLARA — Dee Ford lined up in this position before, one win from the Super Bowl.
“It’s a special situation. I’m blessed,” Ford said Friday at his 49ers locker. “I’m looking forward to better results.”
Last year’s results were career altering. Because Ford lined up offside in the AFC Championship Game, that penalty wiped out a last-minute interception and allowed Tom Brady to rally the New England Patriots past the host Kansas City Chiefs.
Two months later, the Chiefs traded the franchise-tagged Ford to the 49ers. Come Sunday, he’s playing again for a Super Bowl berth, when the 49ers host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Ford said he “feels good” in regards to a hamstring injury that kept him out most of the final six games of the regular season, starting with a 37-8 rout of the Packers on Nov. 24.
“They haven’t seen Dee or Kwon (Alexander), so that will be a big help,” defensive end Nick Bosa said of this rematch.
Ford’s return last Saturday helped key a 27-10, divisional-playoff win over the Vikings. He had one of the 49ers’ six sacks, to which Bosa noted: “We hadn’t had a dominant game like that in a while, so obviously Dee is a big part of it.”
Ford, upon arriving with a new contract (five years, $86 million), quickly saw the 49ers’ Super Bowl contention, especially with Bosa (No. 2 overall draft pick) coming off the other edge of the 49ers’ defensive line.
“It’s easy to say now because hindsight is 20/20, but I felt something special when I first got here with OTAs (spring workouts),” Ford said of spring workouts.
“Guys worked different. They didn’t work like a team coming off a (4-12) losing season,” Ford added. “They worked like a championship team. We worked like a championship team. I fit right in. Offseason was not easy, it was one of the harder ones I’ve had, but we did it together. We grinded it out, man, and we’re enjoying the fruits of our labor right now.”
Losing to the Patriots 37-31 in overtime ranks “up there” in Ford’s toughest losses to swallow. He held himself immediately accountable for his offside penalty.
Ford hasn’t penalized once for lining up or jumping offside this season in 226 regular-season snaps, plus the 22 snaps he played in Saturday’s 27-10 divisional-playoff win over the Vikings. His only penalty this year was for a horse-collar tackle in a Halloween win at Arizona. Ford drew 14 offside or neutral-zone infractions his previous four seasons with the Chiefs, who drafted him 23rd overall in 2014.
He said last year’s AFC Championship penalty hasn’t weighed on his mind at all this season. Injuries, including knee tendinitis, have distracted him, along with the 49ers’ winning ways.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are again hosting the AFC Championship, this time against the Tennessee Titans. Ford is in favor of a 49ers-Chiefs matchup in Super Bowl LIV. “That would be fun. That would be a really fun deal,” Ford said. “But nobody is looking forward. They’ve got a good test in front of them, we have a good test in front of us. We have a lot of work in front of us.”
Keeping Aaron Rodgers in front of them is the immediate chore.
“He’s a legendary quarterback, a future Hall of Famer,” Ford said. “He can make plays any way his team needs. He can execute. He can dial up different schemes, as far as pass concepts to get the ball out of his hand, or he can hold the ball and make plays. We’ve got our work cut out for us this week.”
Added Bosa: “Not to take the team lightly. If we get after him, it will help a lot, to take away him being able to extend plays. The rush is really important against him.”