Contra Costa Times

Linemen make running right effective for 49ers
January 04, 2003
San Francisco benefits from Stone-Gragg tandem, as the Giants once did

SANTA CLARA -- It's no secret the 49ers like to run behind right guard Ron Stone and right tackle Scott Gragg. And if any other team knows the value of Stone and Gragg, it's the New York Giants, who'll visit the 49ers on Sunday in a first-round playoff game.

Stone and Gragg played four seasons together for the Giants (1996-99), and they were depended on in a similar fashion there. "We really favored the right side," Giants quarterback Kerry Collins told the Bay Area media Wednesday. "We did become one-dimensional and one-sided."

The 49ers aren't as one-dimensional, but as coach Steve Mariucci admitted, "We are right-handed in the run game. People know that. Why? Because Scott Gragg and Ron Stone are over there and they've been good."

The 49ers have rushed for their most yards via the right side of the line, averaging 5.3 yards per carry to that side (165 rushes, 872 yards). When they run left, they average 4.8 yards (134 rushes, 644 yards). When they run up the middle, 3.8 yards (190 rushes, 728 yards).

"Me and Stoney take a lot of pride in that," Gragg said. "We want our number called." Added 49ers offensive line coach Pat Morris: "You run to your favorite players, just like you throw to your favorite receivers. They're probably our most powerful linemen and holes can be created there."

Stone practiced Friday for the first time since spraining his left ankle Dec. 21 at Arizona. Although he's listed as questionable, he's expected to start Sunday. "It's a playoff game," Stone said. "I've got to try to get back and help the team out the best I can."

Eyeing Owens

Wide receiver Terrell Owens had four catches for 41 yards in the 49ers' season-opening win over the Giants, and he had the exact same numbers in the 49ers' first-round playoff loss last season at Green Bay. "Of course we'd like to get him more production when it's all said and done," Mariucci said. "Therein lies the battle. The Giants say (they've) got to keep the ball out of his hands. That's their plan That's our plan. Let's play."

After skipping the past two games to rest his injured right groin, Owens practiced Wednesday and Thursday, and he caught passes on the side Friday. "He wanted to shut down his legs for a couple days," Mariucci said.

In a corner

Cornerback Jason Webster (left ankle) has not practiced this week and will be a game-time decision, Mariucci said, meaning that rookie Mike Rumph likely will start in Webster's place. "This is a game where my role is very important, just like every other week," Rumph said. "But this is the playoffs and I have to step in there and make something happen."

Praise for LaFleur?

Five games into his NFL career with the 49ers, punter Bill LaFleur has a net average of 30.8 yards per punt and a gross average of 36.6. Those numbers are worse than those of his predecessor, Jason Baker (32.0 net average, 40.2 gross). However, 49ers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven said: "He's kicking so much better than what our situation was before he arrived. He's in what, his third or fourth NFL game now?"

Kickoff changed

Kickoff time has been changed from 1:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m., and gates will open at 11:30 a.m.

-- Cam Inman

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