Niners going right at opponents

When you have a horse, you ride it. And when you have two stud horses, you run behind them. So it's no surprise the 49ers spend most of their time running to their right side behind guard Ron Stone and tackle Scott Gragg. "You run to your favorite players, just like you throw to your favorite receiver," O-line coach Pat Morris said. "You throw the ball to Terrell Owens. And if you have good guys on the right side, you're going to run there. And we do have some strength and power over there."

Yes, the 49ers do.

The Niners' eighth-ranked offense has spent plenty of time this season running behind its two biggest players. The 6-foot-8, 315-pound Gragg and 6-5, 325-pound Stone have paved the way for San Francisco to average 5.3 yards each time it rushes to the right side. The Niners average 4.2 yards when they run to the left or middle.

Stone and Gragg played next to each other four seasons on the right side of the New York Giants' offensive line. Now they're partners again in San Francisco, and they've played a big role in pushing the 49ers into Sunday's wild-card playoff game against their former team.

"You develop tendencies because of what you do most often," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said Friday. "What you do most often is usually what you do best."

Stone and Gragg each have enjoyed one of the best seasons of their careers in their first year together in San Francisco.

Stone, signed by the 49ers as a free agent in April, was named a Pro Bowl starter this season for the second consecutive year despite battling elbow and ankle injuries. Gragg, signed as a free agent in 2000, recently was voted by Mariucci and offensive line coach Pat Morris as the recipient of the team's Bobb McKittrick Award. That honor is given each year by the 49ers to their top offensive lineman.

Stone was a good fit next to Gragg since the moment they began playing together in spring mini-camps. They started side-by-side in 63 of New York's 65 games from 1996-99.

"Me and Ron have worked real well together," said Gragg, who has started 112 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NFL among offensive tackles. "There's that familiarity of having played together in New York. Certainly, I like when we're running plays our way and look forward to doing more of that."

Said Stone: "It's just the little things of me and him together that helps out a lot. I know what Scott is going to do. It's just being there with your guy and knowing what's going on."

That cohesion on the right side makes life easier for Niners offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

"I have a lot of confidence calling plays that way," Knapp said. "To see their development into our system grow, obviously, as a play-caller, it helps encourage that. It's just a good one-two punch that complements what we do. They're doing well and executing run blocks and that helps complement our passing game."


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