The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to host the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the NFC playoffs. The Saints will arrive at Candlestick Park on Saturday with a powerful offense in tow, but they will face off against a defense that was the very definition of "elite" during the 2011 regular season.
But the young offensive line of the 49ers also figures to play a very key role in the game. If the Niners are able to contain Drew Brees and his potent New Orleans offense, the Niners will still need to get points on the board. It will be up to running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis, among others, to make sure that the Niners get into field goal range for David Akers. Or even better, to the red zone and beyond. None of that offense will be possible, however, without the o-line performing at their very best.
Cam Inman of the Oakland Tribune posted an article on Friday night talking about the strong offensive line of the 49ers and how they found their identity over the course of the season. The group of young players has matured and evolved over the course of the long season, yielding Pro Browl starters and alternates.
In the last game of the regular season, the offensive line of the Niners was charged with no holding penalties...indeed, no penalties of any kind. In a close, high-scoring game, especially one on the road, that sort of focus and maturity cannot be overstated.
It is clear that the 49ers will go into the game as prepared as they can be. Tackle Joe Staley had this to say:
"What doesn't get talked enough about is how you prepare off the field with film study, identifying blitzes and schemes."
The coaching staff has enjoyed watching the offensive line grow together and improve. The linemen will have at least one more chance on Saturday to make their team proud.