ATLANTA -- Their effort was nearly lost in the vapor trail of Colin Kaepernick's playoff-opening performance. But the 49ers' offensive linemen will carry the burden of forward progress with a berth in Super Bowl XLVII at stake on Sunday.

They neutralized outside linebacker Clay Matthews and dominated the Green Bay Packers, with Kaepernick rushing for 181 yards and Frank Gore 119 en route to 323 yards on the ground.

The approach against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome figures to be similar.

"We're going to plow ahead," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

The 49ers line is full of the "humble hearts" Harbaugh holds so dear, and flattening the Packers brought little more than quiet self-recognition for a job well done.

"It was definitely a great game for this line, but we've had a lot of great games this year," center Jonathan Goodwin said. "It's a game to be proud of, but we know we can make it even better."

Left tackle Joe Staley said he was "proud of the way he played," battling through an arm injury. Mike Iupati, the left guard who at one point planted Matthews into the Candlestick Park turf and had his best game of the season, kept it simple.

"We always go out there and bust our behind trying to block," Iupati said. "You have good games, bad games."


Advertisement

They may not slap themselves on the back, but devotees of offensive line play are certainly impressed with a line put together by general manager Trent Baalke. It includes three first-round draft picks (Iupati and right tackle Anthony Davis in 2010 and Staley in 2007) a veteran center in Goodwin and a converted tackle in Alex Boone, a first-time starter this season.

"They dominate the line of scrimmage," former Raiders coach and retired analyst John Madden said. "They get movement. They did a great job on Matthews. When the defense has a disruptive player, you have to take control of him. The 49ers line is good at taking control."

Fourth in the NFL in rushing this season at 155.7 yards per game, the 49ers rang up 323 against Green Bay, the fifth-best total in NFL postseason history.

Matt Millen, an analyst for ESPN and the NFL Network, breaks down tape of his former team every Monday. Millen said: "This is probably their best line ever -- better even than the 1989 team that some thought was the best team ever."

The 49ers that season lined up with Bubba Paris at left tackle, Guy McIntyre at left guard, Jesse Sapolu at center, Bruce Collie at right guard and Harris Barton at right tackle.

Coach Bobb McKittrick's lines were known for quickness and athleticism with lots of trapping, pulling and cut-blocking. The current 49ers can do some of that, but their preference is pure power.

"Comparatively, it's bigger, stronger, faster," Millen said. "It may not be as athletic, but it's a different makeup and a talented group. Staley and Iupati complement each other very well. They're not as far along on the right side, but they have what makes good offensive lines good -- they work in unison."

With all five starters making every start, some line calls and communication has given way to a nod and a knowing glance -- something that will be helpful in a domed environment against the Falcons.

"Sometimes we get up there and the line knows the offense so well we know when Colin is going to kill it and audible to something else," Boone said.

Former 49ers center Randy Cross credited Harbaugh for a philosophy that emphasizes the run and physicality over X's and O's.

"It's unusual for a top-notch coach to get his ego out of the way and not try and be the chess master and outdraw somebody at the board," Cross said. "The Niners take a very basic approach -- I will take my right fist and put it just under your nose until you tell me I can't do it any more and block it. Then I'm going to do it with my left hand."

Damien Woody, an ESPN analyst and former lineman for the Patriots, Jets and Lions, said the Packers game only underscored what he believed to be true.

"They've been the dominant line in the NFL for the past two years," Woody said. "They just seem to impose their will on people. They've got a lot of different runs and formations, but the thing that never changes is their physicality and smarts.