The Invisible Hand You Should Be Watching
December 8, 2004 at 12:00 AM
They're always there, you just never hear about them. In fact, when they do their job it is assured that you never hear their names. They are the team's linchpins, the invisible hands that keep the team going. They get none of the glory, and they almost never get huge contracts.
But they are one of the things the 49ers don't have, and need desperately; an offensive line.
The ineptness of the line was on display Sunday against the Rams, with the offensive line yielding 4 sacks. Rest assured that quarterback Tim Rattay was battered around more often than the 4 sacks would lead you to believe. Over the last 4 games, the 49er offensive line has allowed 21 sacks. Last season they allowed 28...total.
The fact of the matter is, regardless of the cause, a piece of Swiss cheese would better protect the 49ers quarterback.
No play illustrates the uselessness of the 49er "line" than a fourth quarter play in which Kyle Kosier, the right guard, slides to the right in order to block Leonard Little. It would have been a good move, had it not been for the fact that Damione Lewis was right in front of Kosier and ran right through the space vacated by Kosier, pummeling Rattay. This play, with 5:33 left in the game, pretty much sealed the 49er's fate.
Much of the 49er's offensive woes can be placed at the feet of the offensive line. If the quarterback thinks he is going to get smacked by 300 pounds flying at him at 14 miles an hour he might want to get rid of the ball as soon as he can, even if it means forcing throws. He may even fumble the ball a few times, since he doesn't have enough time to even complete the throwing motion.
As for the running game, until Barlow figures out how to 1) make himself wafer thin in order to squeeze through the "gaps" the offensive line creates, or 2) turns into a gopher and goes under the line, he will have a hard time getting his mojo back.
And who can blame them? No one likes to lose, and no one likes to be last. Both Rattay and Barlow have shown that they can do something in the NFL, but they can't do it alone. To expect them to do so is to misunderstand the team sport that is Football.
So before you start griping that the 49ers should draft a star quarterback or a speedy running back, perhaps you should remember that neither of those players will make an impact if they offensive line continues to be as flimsy as a wet tissue. Start with the line, and the rest will follow.
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