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O-Line Keeps It Moving

Posted Nov 2, 2011



If you see Frank Gore surrounded by offensive linemen some 20 yards down the field, it’s a good thing.

Gore appreciates the athleticism of his blockers, who scratch and claw on every play, even if it means running all over the place to give him more room to run.

“It’s good knowing the linemen can get down the field and move the way they do,” said Gore, who recently became the fourth player since 1970 to rush for more than 125 yards and score a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games. “It helps us a lot.”

Moreover, the strength and dexterity routinely displayed by Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Adam Snyder and Anthony Davis, among others, has enabled offensive coordinator Greg Roman to be creative with his play-calling.

See Joe Staley’s 17-yard catch and Isaac Sopoaga’s 18-yard catch last Sunday against the Browns for further evidence.

Long gone are the days when Gore primarily ran in between tackles. Now the 49ers offense has more options in its ground attack.

“It keeps defense on their toes,” Staley said of the line’s pulling ability. “We’re not just a smash-mouth, run up the middle football team. We can run outside and it helps that everybody on offense can run and move.

“It keeps the playbook wide open.”

Gore, 28, has been utilized in a number of ways to produce 675 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns through seven games. In his mind, the athleticism of his blockers has allowed many successful runs.

Gore is averaging 4.8 yards per carry thanks in large part to the variety the 49ers have shown in the running game with different blockers.

“Our coach G-Ro (Roman) is doing a great job of putting them in places to be successful and I think that’s the biggest key to have us going the way we’re going,” Gore said.

Without the efforts of his linemen, Gore wouldn’t be nearly as productive. He knows it and his grateful for their effort.

“They’re doing all the dirty work and I’m doing what God blessed me to do which is run the ball,” Gore added. “That’s all I’m doing. I can’t forget my receivers; they’re doing a great job, too.”

Just as receivers block downfield for Gore, the linemen have made a habit of finishing off blocks all over the field.

They relish doing it, too.

“It’s fun blocking for Frank, a lot of fun,” said Iupati, the highest drafted guard in 49ers history. “He’s a great running back, so all we have to do is give him an opportunity and he takes it.”

Gore’s explosion in the month of October was due in large part to the team’s continued commitment to the running game.

When the offense was slow to assert its dominance in the first three games of the season, the line never lacked confidence.

“Contrary to what everyone believes, we don’t suck,” Staley famously said on Sept. 29 in the hallway of a hotel in Boardman, Ohio.

Since then, Staley’s comments have been reinforced with a solid month of play in which the team rushed for 164 yards (Philadelphia Eagles), 213 yards (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), 203 yards (Detroit Lions), and 174 yards this past week (Cleveland Browns).

Staley’s teammates appreciated his leadership in making the bold remark.

“For me, it wasn’t anything. He spoke the truth,” said Snyder, the most tenured 49ers offensive linemen. “We see the guys in our room. We see the work we put in and see the stuff the fans don’t see. We’ve known all along. We put the work in, for us, it was a statement.”

Currently, the 49ers have grabbed even more attention ranking as the league’s sixth-best rushing attack, averaging 137.6 yards per contest.

“They’re all big, big men who are very athletic,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said earlier this week highlighting the seven offensive linemen who see the field for the 49ers, including reserves Chilo Rachal and Alex Boone.

The steady improvement of the running game has been key for the 49ers.

The team is 4-0 this season when they’ve won the time of possession, rushed for more than 150 yards or allowed two or fewer sacks. They’re also 5-1 when they’ve out-rushed their opponents.

That being said, one month of stellar play won’t change the line’s approach.

As long as they’re helping Gore make big plays down field and continue his assault on the 49ers all-time rushing records, they’re plenty motivated for the next nine games, including Sunday’s road contest against the Washington Redskins.

“We have to get better every day and let Frank do his thing,” Iupati added. “If we never get satisfied and always want more, I think we’ll be fine.”