Sprint Game Ball of the Week: Brian Westbrook and the 49ers Offensive Line

GLENDALE AZ - NOVEMBER 29: Runningback Brian Westbrook #20 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammates after scoring on a 8 yard rushing touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 29 2010 in Glendale Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

We've got a Sprint Game Ball post this week and Brian Westbrook would seem to be the fairly obvious choice for this "award." After all, he rushed for 136 yards at a 5.9 yards per carry clip. Combine that with the fact that he was coming on in relief of an injured Frank Gore and it was an absolutely monster effort.

However, as is usually the case in football, this truly was a team effort for the 49ers. While Westbrook showed he still has some moves left at his disposal, I can't imagine he would have put up nearly the numbers he did without a strong showing from his offensive line. After the game, Coach Singletary handed the game ball to the offensive line for a bit of a throw-back effort. Before Gore went down he had gashed the Cardinals for 52 yards on five carries. Anthony Dixon got in the mix with 14 carries for 54 yards. The offense as a whole averaged 261 yards. This dominant rushing performance allowed the 49ers to dominate the Arizona Cardinals in spite of a fairly pedestrian performance by QB Troy Smith.

Offensive line performance is going to be absolutely key when the 49ers square off with the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Packers has been solid for the most part with some impressive strengths, but also a few noticeable weaknesses. Football Outsiders ranks the Packers defense fourth overall, second against the pass and 18th against the run. In traditional counting stats they tend a bit more towards the middle of the pack, ranking 12th in total yards allowed per game (the 49ers are actually 11th).

As is often the case, establishing the run early will prove incredibly important. The 49ers will be throwing out a mix of Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon and maybe we'll see a sort of Thunder and Lightning duo like the Giants did with Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs. Coach Singletary indicated Westbrook will be somewhat limited in his number of carries. If he's getting 23 carries again that just might be a bit much, even for how fresh he is this season. If that's the case, we should see quite a bit of Anthony Dixon if this game remains close. If the Packers jump out big all bets are off. But if the 49ers defense can contain the Packers dynamic passing attack and keep this thing manageable, the 49ers will have to get strong contributions from both Dixon and Westbrook.

In order for that to happen, the 49ers offensive line has to step up like it did last week. This could be problematic given the shuffling that might be required if David Baas is a no-go at center. Tony Wragge would get the start in his place. Wragge is best used as a bench option, so we'll see if he can follow up a solid relief appearance with an equally strong start. There's no place for excuses at this point so if Wragge is going to be the guy this week, he needs to handle his business. Coach Singletary is speaking to the press later today and hopefully we'll have an update on Baas at that point.

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