Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman Top Linebacker Podium Awards

The 49ers defense carried the team to the brink of the Super Bowl in 2012. The season saw the red and gold make huge strides into the ranks of the elite teams in the NFL. The biggest reasons for the team's success were their stalwarts at the linebacker position. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman combined for 240 tackles, anchoring the best defense in the league. For that, they've received some love.Patrick Willis

According to's Daniel Jeremiah, Willis and Bowman are the two best linebackers in the league. As Jeremiah points out, this list does "not include outside linebackers who play in a 3-4." That isn't to diminish their accomplishments, but rather to sort players by their roles rather than positional stereotypes.

In the Olympic-style Podium Awards, Willis earned the gold medal, with Bowman earning silver.

In five years, Willis has made five Pro Bowls, and become the best linebacker in the league. Still young, the 49er's future looks bright if he can remain healthy. He has averaged 138 tackles a season in his five-year career.

Bowman, second fiddle to Willis, deserves the spotlight as well. Just a second-year player, Bowman exploded for 143 tackles this season and will likely be Willis' competition for top linebacker for several years to come.

Jeremiah gave Brian Cushing the bronze medal in his Olympic-style awards system. The Texan's explosive backer had 114 tackles, four sacks, and reeled in two interceptions.

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