It is no surprise that 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh loves to win his games down in the trenches. The physical presence needed to run his smash-mouth running game can be both physically tough and mentally draining. However, despite these hardships, the 49ers offensive line has played extremely well, and garnered praise as being amongst the best in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, the 49ers offensive line ranked number one during the regular season. And it is not by accident.
An instrumental part of the line’s success can be directly correlated to the NFL Draft. During Mike Singletary’s tenure as coach, he made it his highest priority, to get younger, bigger, and stronger. After finishing the 2009 season ranking 22nd in sacks allowed, the 49ers entered the 2010 draft with two first-round picks. The Niners desperately needing a tackle, decided to trade-up with the Denver Broncos and nab Anthony Davis with the 11th overall pick. The selection received rave reviews by NFL analyst Jon Gruden as he said, “He has all the tools to be great.”
Just when you thought the 49ers were done shoring up their offensive line, they surprised everyone six picks later, when they selected yet another offensive lineman in guard Mike Iupati, with the 17th overall pick. ESPN guru Mel Kiper provided his two cents saying, “I tell you what, you’re taking a guard over a quarterback, you better hope Alex Smith is better than Jimmy Claussen…you look at this kid, he’s an outstanding run-blocker.” Kiper clearly thought the Niners had more glaring needs to address but the 49ers stuck to their draft board and picked whom they thought best fit their scheme, and the selection proved to be the right one, as Iupati is now regarded as one of the best guards in the game.
With three first-round draft picks in tackles Joe Staley (2007), Anthony Davis (2010) and Mike Iupati (2010), the 49ers were clearly built to run the ball. The investments then are paying huge dividends now.
The Niners offensive line led by coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno, are among the very best in the league. The unit is loaded with talent, including two Pro-Bowl starters, Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. However, there are other players worthy of such praise, like Anthony Davis, Alex Boone, and Jonathan Goodwin. Together, they form one of the best, if not, the best offensive line today.
The 49ers boasts the 4th ranked rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 155.7 yards on the ground, and it’s all thanks to the offensive line. The line is strong, tough, and physical, whom pride themselves in wearing down their opponents in the fourth quarter. Their ability to impose their will across the line of scrimmage is considered “old school,” that only few teams have had success with in today’s NFL, and that’s what makes them so special.
With the Green Bay Packers anticipating their re-match look for the 49ers offensive line to once again dominate in the trenches. In their first meeting, the 49ers racked up 186 rushing yards including 5.8 yards per carry at Lambeau Field. The 49ers line manhandled the Packers front seven and gave running back Frank Gore plenty of real estate to work with. As a Niner fan, it was fun to watch and doubled as a wake-up call for the rest of the NFL.
Fast forward 18 weeks later, and the 49ers now find themselves playing the Green Bay Packers in Saturday’s Divisional Playoff game. This time, for all the marbles. If the Niners have any hopes of winning, they will need an encore performance from their line, as they try and make it two consecutive trips to the NFC Championship game. And with the talent they have, I believe they will succeed.