In fact, the Niners are 25 of 28 when faced with any down and 1 yard to go. Twice they punted, so really they have missed just one first down all year long and that was on third and one; they went for it and got it on the very next play.
Fullback Fred Beasley has been one of the key contributors to getting these first downs. He is 12 of 12 in converting short-yardage situations, including two fourth-down runs.
"A first down is like a touchdown to me, and I'm always good for at least one yard," Beasley has said. "You're supposed to be the strongest back there, anyway, as far as just running north and south. It's no secret I just get behind my linemen, they just always give me a good push, and I just drive right behind them."
"Fred's having his best year," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "He's being consistently dominant in the blocking game. He's made a lot of first downs for us. And he's caught a lot of passes out of the backfield. When he's been on the field, he's been very dominant."
Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer added, "Their offensive line is very good, but I think when you look at their running game, you look at No. 40, No. 40 is as good as there is in football at lead blocking. That is the overlooked guy in my opinion."
The coach did not put his number to a name. The reason:
Schottenheimer is respectful of Beasley. He sees the number on his back continually making plays and giving his heart out. When in team meetings rarely does a coach name a player but rather a "Look at that crushing block by No. 40, watch out for him."
Beasley has solidified himself as one of the best fullbacks in the NFL over last two years. Not only has he been solid in short yardage situations he is paving the way for Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow.
"He just blows guys up," said Garrison Hearst. "I never have to worry about Fred's guy because I know he'll have him. By the end of the game, guys are just running away from him."
He has learned from one of the best, 49ers running back Coach Tom Rathman. Rathman spent nine seasons in the NFL working his trade to perfection.
"You've got to him them before they hit you," said Rathman. "It's a simple concept."
The 49ers have become a running team and the Chargers strength is stopping the run.
Now it is up to the Chargers linebacking trio of Junior Seau, Donnie Edwards and Ben Leber to shed those blocks and make plays. Keep in mind that one of these players will also have to shadow 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia and you see the tall task before them.
Edwards leads the team in tackles with 67 and he will need to bring his "A" game as he has done all season.
Seau has been limited in recent games due to an injury he is still recovering from. His timing is slightly off as he comes in on blitzes. Seau will have to regain his top notch form against the Niners. He must gain penetration by timing the snap counts properly and busting through the line to disrupt the play in the backfield whether it be a pass play or run play. Too many times he has been a step late and an offensive lineman has been able to hold him up.
Leber has had a solid rookie season but has been caught out of position at times. His positioning is key in this game. He needs to be able to read the play as it is transpiring and stay in his gaps.
The play of the linebacking corps is essential to win the game this week. A strong game could prove the difference between winning and losing.
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