Defensive tackle Aaron Donald broke the single-season franchise sack record, and the NFL's single-season sack record for defensive tackles. With 20.5 sacks in 16 games, Donald has already put himself in the history books — a fact that he undoubtedly appreciates.
"For sure, you're going to be excited for the way you finished the season, happy with the success you had," Donald said on Thursday. "But we've got a lot more football left, so just try to go into the playoffs strong, and hopefully you get to that big dance. So we've got a lot of work ahead of us."
With just his second taste of the intensity of playoff football coming next Saturday, Donald is excited for the opportunity at hand. And he's well aware that part of leaving a legacy within the league comes from being at your best in the postseason.
"Well you've got to leave it all out there, because it's win or go home. So you've got to play at your best," Donald said. "You've got to try to find ways to dominate in any way — it ain't about getting sacks, it's about making the big plays. If that's pressing the quarterback, making them throw a pick — whatever you've got to do to try to dominate the game. So that's the mindset we've got to have as a team, and go into it. So I'm just going to go out there and fly around."
Donald's mindset has been to dominate the game in all facets for a long time. But you could see the effects of him pressuring quarterbacks last week, as the defensive tackle's backfield disruptions helped force 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens into interceptions during the Week 17 victory.
Look back at Aaron Donald's 20.5 sacks of the 2018 regular season.
This week, though, Donald said he's been fine tuning the little things.
"Just working on your technique — playing the run, rushing the passer, just trying to clean up things and keep yourself fresh," Donald said.
The defensive tackle said he actually does feel remarkably fresh after a 16-game season — "no aches, no pains, no nothing" — so perhaps he doesn't need the rest this weekend as much as some. But Donald said he'll be tuned into the Wild Card round games this weekend, if for nothing else then to get a bit of a head start on whoever the Rams will face next weekend.
"You're watching a little bit of the offensive line, see how they're playing, what they're doing. So we'll check it out," Donald said.
"But just trying to figure out who's winning, who's losing, trying to figure out who we're going to be playing, so I can break down some film and get ready to go."
Clarence Dennis contributed reporting.