Playing left guard in his first meeting with San Francisco, David Diehl slid out a spot two weeks later and will have a different view this time around from left tackle. Meanwhile, Kevin Boothe, who was shuffled around for the first half of the year and didn't play an offensive snap in San Fran, eventually landed next to Diehl at left guard.
Together, they will fortify the left side of the line against defensive end Justin Smith and his younger counterpart, outside linebacker Aldon Smith.
Meet the two Smiths:
Justin Smith, 6-4, 285, 11th yearA Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Smith was named to the All-Pro team twice – first team as a defensive tackle, and second team as a defensive end for when the 49ers are in their 3-4 defense.
"He's the best there is at it right now, a 3-4 defensive end," *Boothe said on Thursday. "He can just do about anything he wants. He's a great pass rusher, and he's very stout against the run. I think he kind of sets the tone for their defense."
*Aldon Smith, 6-4, 258, RookieComing up in the shadow of Justin, a fellow University of Missouri product, Aldon broke his single-season sack record in 2009 with the Tigers, a benchmark the elder Smith set in 2001. Now under his guidance as a professional in San Francisco, Aldon came half a sack short of the NFL rookie record with 14.0 this season.
"I'm sure it helps to have that veteran leadership next to you as a rookie," *Boothe said."I'm sure that he's taught him a lot of things. Aldon is a phenomenal player. You won't get drafted that high if you weren't. So he's done what's expected of him and exceeded those expectations. They're both tough to block."
Two months ago in the 27-20 loss to the Niners, it was Diehl and Will Beatty protecting the left edge. Beatty, playing left tackle, was placed on injured reserve a game later when he suffered a detached retina against the Eagles in Week 11. They held their own as the only sack of the day came from linebacker Patrick Willis while Eli Manning was hit just three times.
As for the run game, the Giants' last-place attack did manage 93 yards against the No. 1 run defense, coming on 29 carries for a 3.2-yard average.
Diehl addressed the progress of the offensive line that has not changed in the last four games (including playoffs) as well as their upcoming challenge one game away from the Super Bowl.
"Anybody who's at this point in the game is studying every single detail of it," Diehl said on Thursday. "You're focusing on the little things. If there's any tips, if there's anything you can do to take advantage of anything, that's what you're working on. And for this game, there's nothing little, there's nothing small. Each point of the game is huge.
"I think that's the way we've made the progress that we have is that even when things are well, when things are good, you're constantly trying to pick up the things you can make improvements on," he continued, "I think you're seeing that across the board on this team."