Niners maul Raiders with power rushing attack

If the San Francisco offense is going to live or die by a power rushing game in 2009, look for the 49ers to be full of life this season with their complete mauling of the Oakland Raiders on Saturday night a promising indication of what's to come.

What was coming during San Francisco's comeback 22-21 victory at Candlestick Park was the 49ers coming right at the Oakland defense – and the Niners just kept coming and coming and coming until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

"That's definitely the identity we want to take on, and it definitely showed up tonight," said rookie running back Glen Coffee, who continued to look like a star with his second consecutive impressive performance of the preseason.

Coffee rushed for 129 yards on 16 first-half carries to take over as the NFL's leading preseason rusher and spark a San Francisco ground game that gouged the Raiders for 275 rushing yards.

When Coffee left the game, Michael Robinson picked up right where Coffee left off with 97 yards rushing on 14 carries. When Robinson left the game, Kory Sheets picked up where Robinson left off with 51 yards on 12 carries, including a five-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter that provided the winning touchdown.

It was complete domination as the Raiders couldn't stop the rather elemental approach no matter who the Niners had in the game.

"The physicality that we wanted to be able to bring in the running game, we did that," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "Our offensive line, both the first group and the second group, really did a good job executing. I'm excited for them and think they're going to continue to jell and continue to get better."

Saturday's game was an excellent place to start as quarterbacks Alex Smith and Shaun Hill – the two veterans competing for the starting job – both had problems getting things going in the passing game, combining to complete just six passes in 16 attempts for 50 yards during the first half.

But who needs passing when a team can run the ball like this? San Francisco's rushing attack picked up the slack, keeping the 49ers in the game and wearing down the Oakland defense before the Niners were able to strike for 18 fourth-quarter points to pull out the win.

"It was important for us to establish an aggressive approach to this game, to really establish the run," center Eric Heitmann said. "I think we accomplished that today. We really did a great job establishing the running game and the cohesiveness of the run-blocking unit. It's something we can build on going into the future."

Heitmann, right guard Chilo Rachal and starting tackles Joe Staley and Adam Snyder each had notable blocks to spring Coffee during the first half.

And given nice openings to work with, the team's third-round draft pick certainly knew what to do with them.

After taking over for starter Frank Gore – who had seven yards on two carries in his token series of work – Coffee did damage both inside and out to spark San Francisco's offense after a slow start.

Coffee broke off runs of 16, 18, 15 and 35 yards and typically pushed for more yardage after the initial hit. He now leads all NFL rushers in the preseason with 196 yards in two games, averaging 6.5 yards a carry.

"Glen did an amazing job," Heitmann said. "He really hits the holes hard. He did that tonight and that's why we were successful running the ball."

The line complimented the backs, and the backs most certainly were eager to compliment the line.

"I'm learning to be a physical runner, and the line definitely made it easy tonight," Coffee said. "They just blocked, blocked, blocked. Our (power rushing game) showed up tonight but we don't want it to end tonight. We want to keep improving on it."

The 49ers kept improving on in Saturday after Coffee and the rest of the front-line players left the game. With center Cody Wallace, tackle Marvel Smith and others leading the charge, the 49ers continued to maul the Raiders up front and San Francisco's backs took advantage by picking up the scraps.

Robinson, who has missed most of training camp with a groin injury, made up for lost time by continually charging into and through the Oakland defense for big yardage, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.

Robinson also was in the game at fullback, making some big blocks to spring Coffee on some of his long runs.

Afterward, Robinson made sure to spread the credit all around – and that meant to offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, too, for his part in San Francisco's devastating rushing attack.

"The offensive line did a great job, but coach Ray did a great job of calling the run game and setting things up," Robinson said. "He's done a great job of applying the attitude that we need to run the ball. He has just been amazing."

Robinson, smiling, relayed some of the vocal inspiration Raye delivers to get the juices flowing in the team's power-rushing attitude.

"‘We're going to go out there and we're going to knock 'em in the mouth! Kick 'em in the teeth, knock 'em in the mouth.' He's always saying that," Robinson said, mimicking Raye. "‘We're going to run that power and we're just going to come off the ball flat back half speed and hit 'em in the mouth.' That's all he says."

And on Saturday, that's just about all the 49ers did.


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