Three and Out: 49ers' OL depth; defense, special teams step up
Joe Staley, who is expected to undergo an MRI examination on Monday, returned to the sideline in the second half with a brace on his right knee. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers are hopeful left tackle Joe Staley will return after a week or two on the sideline.
The initial diagnosis on Staley’s right knee appeared to rule out any damage to the ACL, according to sources, which means the team’s best lineman should be back on the field in the near future. He is expected to miss the 49ers' next game, Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
“We’ll see,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I don’t want to make any rush to judgment or repeat anything until tests have been run.”
Staley, who is expected to undergo an MRI examination on Monday, returned to the sideline in the second half with a brace on his knee. It appeared to be a similar injury to what Iupati experienced two weeks ago when he sustained an MCL sprain. Staley sustained the injury during a first-quarter run play when tight end Vernon Davis blocked Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree into Staley.
But the 49ers showed in a 23-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams that they have the depth on the offensive line to cope with injuries to key players.
Adam Snyder started his second game in place of left guard Mike Iupati, who sustained a knee injury on Nov. 17 that could keep him out of action another week. And second-year player Joe Looney stepped in to take over at right guard when Alex Boone moved to left tackle to compensate for Staley’s absence. While serving as the 49ers' starting guard, Boone is also the team's top backup at both tackle positions.
With Staley and Iupati sidelined, the 49ers were playing without two players who made the Pro Bowl last season.
“You don’t have time to think like that out there,” Boone said. “You go out and play football and trust the man next to you. We take a lot of pride in our offensive line meeting room, and when we know when guys are called upon, they must step up.”
Said Snyder, “Those are big shoes to fill for us, but we're excited about the challenge and the opportunity to step up. Hopefully, we can do is come and try to play up to their level.”
Boone said moving to left tackle was “like riding a bike.” He played left tackle during his college career at Ohio State. And he said he gets about three or four practice snaps a week at tackle in case he’s needed to replace Staley or right tackle Anthony Davis.
Looney , a fourth-round pick in 2012, did not suit up during his rookie season. His NFL debut took place last week at Washington when he saw three snaps of mop-up duty late in the blowout victory.
Looney got the call Sunday to play over Daniel Kilgore, who has been active for every game this season and sees regular action as an extra blocker in short-yardage situations.
“I just prepared like I was going to play a game,” Looney said. “Whenever the coaches call my name for the team needs me, I just want to be in a position to help out.”
Looney was called for a holding penalty late in the first half, but overall it appeared he played well in an important role.
“It’s sad what happened to Joe (Staley), and hopefully he’ll be back soon, but I thought Joe Looney did a great job of stepping up today,” Boone said.
And Boone was pressed into action against Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who entered the game with 13.5 sacks on the season. St. Louis recorded four sacks of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but Quinn did not make a dent against Boone.
When told Quinn did not have any sacks, Boone responded, “Zero? Well, that’s good.”