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Brotherhood Boosts 49ers O-Line

Posted Oct 2, 2012



There’s no better evidence of the bond among the San Francisco 49ers offensive linemen than the postgame locker room scene following the team’s 34-0 win over the New York Jets.

It was a cheerful atmosphere after the line paved the way for three rushing touchdowns and 245 rushing yards – the most yards allowed on the ground by the Jets under head coach Rex Ryan.

The linemen didn’t know the exact number of yards churned out on the ground, but they had a feeling it was higher than their three previous outings. They were right.

Left guard Mike Iupati didn’t have any reporters around him when media access began, so he did what any excited player would do, Iupati placed his iPod on his traveling speaker dock and turned up the volume to his favorite song, Meek Mill’s “I’m a Boss.”

Surrounded by Joe Staley and Alex Boone, the team’s Pro Bowl left tackle and first-year starting right guard, all three players bounced around to the loud music feeling good about their collective performance.

“The guys loved it,” explained Iupati, the 6-foot-5, 331-pound mauling guard. “That’s why I played it; they all sang it with me… You’ve got to celebrate. The Jets are a good team, much respect to them, but we just did our thing. We’ve got to do it again, and again, (pause), and again…”

The 49ers will have to keep a level head going into a Week 5 home matchup with the Buffalo Bills, a 2-2 team that features the league’s 28th-ranked rush defense allowing 137.0 yards per game.

Meanwhile, San Francisco enters the matchup with the league’s third-best rushing attack, averaging 167.0 yards per game.

Chemistry is a big reason for the production according to members of the starting line. Even with a new starter in Boone, the unit has improved its production across the board compared to the opening four games of the 2011 season.

When analyzing the unit’s statistics in this year’s opening four games versus 2011, the 49ers offensive line has allowed two fewer sacks while averaging two more yards per carry (3.4 – 5.4).

“We’re a close team, we’ve been a close team for awhile,” said Staley, last season’s Pro Bowl representative. “I think everyone truly enjoys each other’s company. Every week when you win a game, there’s a big celebration that day. It’s really hard to win in the NFL every week. We celebrate all the hard work we put in that week and then get back to work.”

Through four games in 2011, the 49ers allowed 14 sacks in 107 pass attempts, an average of one sack allowed per 7.64 passes. In four games to start the 2012 season, the 49ers have given up 12 sacks in 114 pass attempts, good for an average of one sack per 9.5 pass attempts.

The stats are improved even against some of the league’s elite pass rushers like Clay Matthews and Jared Allen.

“As we’ve grown closer and closer as a unit and played with each other and gotten to know each other, we’re improving,” said center Jonathan Goodwin, who’s in his second season as the line’s point guard, so to speak. “Hopefully that can be the case the rest of the year and just get better as a line and help this offense.”

San Francisco scored four rushing touchdowns to start the first quarter of a 16-game schedule in their first season with Goodwin calling pre-snap protections, but only surpassed the 100-yard mark in one of those contests.

In comparison to this year’s four-game stretch to start the year, the unit has helped the 49ers reach the end zone on five rushing touchdowns and has surpassed the 100-yard mark in all three of the team’s victories.

Last week’s 245-yard outing is already a distant memory. With a determined Bills team coming into town, the leaders on the offensive line are turning the page as they dig into this week’s preparations.

“The 245 yards means nothing this week,” Goodwin said. “If you come out and have a bad game this week against Buffalo, everybody forgets about ‘245.’ The key is to be consistent. Keep doing it and keep improving and keep winning.”

Though the unit expressed their respect for Buffalo’s talent on defense and goals of maintaining week-to-week consistency, the players couldn’t help but get a chuckle at Goodwin’s celebratory end zone spike last week against New York.

With Kendall Hunter in the end zone sticking to his simple celebratory routine, Goodwin seized the opportunity to spike the football in an epic fashion.

Some teammates thought it was almost too big of a spike.

“It looked like the angle of the football wasn’t in a good position to hit off the ground,” teased second-year lineman Daniel Kilgore. “I thought the way the ball was angled out of his hand, the ball was going to come back and hit him… I’d give him a C .”

Goodwin, himself, joked that he had to display his strong arm which dates back to his days as a baseball pitcher.

“Whenever you’re going to spike, you have to do it all-out,” the 11-year veteran explained. “As a lineman, whenever you get your hands on the ball, you can’t soft-spike, no, you have to put something into it… I saw Kendall in the end zone by himself and I decided to run over to him, as I’m running over there he throws me the ball, at that point, I had to do something with it, so I spiked it.”

Celebrations are the goal this week once again, but also, the unit is enjoying the time spent around one another while studying and game planning for each week’s challenge.

Veteran guard Leonard Davis, a former Pro Bowler who signed with the team this offseason, appreciates the camaraderie throughout the unit.

“I would say there’s a strong bond there,” said Davis, who’s served as a blocking tight end in the team’s power and goal line formations. “For me to come in and be an outsider coming in, I’m being myself and those guys welcomed me in. We have a lot of respect for each other and that helps out a lot.”

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