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  • Jonathan Goodwin The center describes himself as the laid-back lineman on the 49ers, but he'll have to ramp up the intensity Sunday in the Georgia Dome.

  • Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press file, 2010

    Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press file, 2010 Alex Boone said Sunday's NFC Championship Game in Atlanta is one in which the 49ers' offensive line will have to be especially dialed in.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Bee file, 2008

    Paul Kitagaki Jr. Bee file, 2008 Joe Staley is the only 49ers offensive lineman who was drafted by the team when Mike Nolan, now Atlanta's defensive coordinator, was the coach.

  • Kevin Casey / Associated Press file, 2011

    Kevin Casey Associated Press file, 2011 Jonathan Goodwin said he was a little more fired up than usual during Saturday's divisional playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers.

  • Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press file, 2010

    Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press file, 2010 Anthony Davis, who like Mike Iupati was a first-round pick in 2010, is the mean one on the 49ers' offensive line, Jonathan Goodwin says.

  • PAUL SAKUMA / Associated Press file, 2010

    Mike Iupati is the 49ers offensive lineman who carries the sweet disposition, according to fellow lineman Jonathan Goodwin.

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49ers' offensive line aims to block out noise in Atlanta

Published: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 7, 2013 - 10:43 am

SANTA CLARA – Asked to describe the personalities on the 49ers' offensive line this week, center Jonathan Goodwin sounded as if he were introducing a cast of characters for a new sitcom.

Joe Staley is the funny one, he said. Alex Boone is the rowdy one. Anthony Davis is the mean one, while Mike Iupati is the guy with the sweet disposition who happens to stand 6-foot-5 and weigh 331 pounds.

And what about Goodwin?

"I consider myself the laid-back guy," he said.

That's true, but Goodwin will have to adopt a decidedly Type-A personality Sunday in Atlanta. His job is to get his 10 teammates in and out of the huddle as quickly as possible, something the 49ers see as key to defeating the crowd noise in the Georgia Dome.

"We've played in hostile environments before," Boone said. "But this is one of those games where you've really got to be dialed in. The key is just getting into the huddle, paying attention, being quiet. … The more time you have at the line, the easier things get."

Getting the offense rolling away from home has become more streamlined the more quarterback Colin Kaepernick has played on the road – games in New Orleans and Seattle were particularly valuable – and as the young offensive line has continued to jell.

When he became 49ers coach in 2005, Mike Nolan said his first priority was building a dominant offensive line.

"Even before the quarterback," Nolan said two months before his first game with San Francisco. "If you don't create a wall, then the person behind the wall is dead meat."

But despite investing draft capital and free-agency dollars – remember Jonas Jennings? – into the offensive line, Nolan, who is now the Falcons' defensive coordinator, never reaped the rewards.

When he looks across at the opposing offense Sunday, Nolan will recognize only one 49ers offensive lineman: Staley, who was drafted in the first round in 2007. The rest of the team's line has been acquired from 2009 and onward.

Still, the same five 49ers linemen have started every game this season – a rarity in the NFL – and have gotten to the critical point where each man knows precisely where the other four are at all times.

Said Boone, who became a starter just this season: "It's kind of awesome because sometimes we'll get up there and the offensive line knows the offense so well that we know when (the quarterback's) going to kill (the play) and when he's going to audible to something else."

That cohesion will be essential in the noisy dome.

CBS analyst Randy Cross, who played center and guard for the 49ers from 1976 to 1988, said nothing shuts up a hostile crowd faster than big plays by the visiting offense or dominant blocking by the enemy offensive line. The 49ers are capable of both, Cross said.

"There is nothing better than winning on the road," he said. "It's one of the signs you see, especially with young teams, when they start to develop that. Not only do they have the ability to win at home but the ability to take it on the road and, you know, impose their will."

Cross said he saw that dominance start to take effect in the third quarter Saturday against Green Bay. Once the green and gold jerseys started going backward, he said, the outcome no longer was in doubt. The 49ers ended up gaining 323 yards on the ground and 579 yards overall, the most any 49ers squad, including Cross' Super Bowl teams, has racked up in a postseason game.

Goodwin said it all started with efficiency before the snap, which required a bit of a personality change from him.

"Joe (Staley) told me I did a lot of yelling the other night," Goodwin said. "It was the most yelling he's seen me do. I think I was a little fired up. I was trying to get the guys back to the huddle. That way, we can break the huddle and give Kap as much time as possible."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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