49ers aren’t hiding their secret weapon: Fearsome O-line
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org February 2, 2013 1:38AM
Jonathan Goodwin centers an offensive line ranked best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. The starting five hasn’t changed all season — only three O-lines in the league can make that claim this season. | Brian Bahr~Getty Images
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:47AM
NEW ORLEANS — They’re big, bad and violent. They’re athletic and overpowering. And they’re a big reason why the San Francisco 49ers are so darned good.
Meet the starting offensive line of left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Mike Iupati, center Jonathan Goodwin, right guard Alex Boone and right tackle Anthony Davis.
They’re the least discussed aspect of the 49ers’ success in the run-up to Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, but they just might be the most valuable. They make coach Jim Harbaugh change topics and gush. Harbaugh made a point to discuss each of them individually when the questions repeatedly turned to quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
‘‘I’d like to talk a little bit about our offensive line, if that’s OK,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘That’s been a phenomenal group for us, and I’d call them offensive weapons as well.’’
‘‘A very talented player,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘Tremendous leadership within the group.’’
‘‘Iupati has gone to the board as one of the top guards in the National Football League.’’
‘‘We were void at the center position. Goodwin has stepped in and started every game, been a great player for us.’’
‘‘Boone is an ascending player, as a tough player, as a leader on our football team.’’
‘‘[It’s] Davis’ emergence at right tackle from a toughness standpoint, from a strength standpoint, and just the way he continues to grow and grow and grow as a player.’’
According to Pro Football Focus’ ratings, which Bears general manager Phil Emery uses for his evaluations, the 49ers have the best offensive line in the NFL. The Bears’ line was 30th.
‘‘We are a physical weapon, a blunt-force object,’’ said Staley, Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated offensive tackle. ‘‘It’s one of our strengths, all five of us, and we’re playing at a pretty high level this year. We take a lot of pride in what we do, so I feel honored that [Harbaugh would] call the ‘big uglies’ up front a weapon.’’
The 49ers’ pistol option offense and the dual-threat talents of Kaepernick have thrown defenses off-balance. But pressure would eliminate their effectiveness almost immediately. Enter the 49ers’ line.
‘‘They’re so big and they move really well,’’ Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. ‘‘With all that size, you see them do a lot of great things. They open holes.’’
The 49ers’ playbook is vast and complicated. But there is one common theme, and it starts up front.
‘‘The core of what we do is we are going to be physical,’’ said 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who described the option as just a part of their offense. ‘‘We are going to try to be smart, tough and disciplined. However that manifests itself is of little interest to us.’’
Attention also doesn’t interest the 49ers’ linemen.
‘‘We don’t really care where the credit goes,’’ Staley said. ‘‘We just want to win football games.’’