LOS ANGELES — The biggest question before the 49ers' 20-7 victory over the Rams on Sunday was how San Francisco would compensate for the loss of offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, plus fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
It turns out that wasn’t a determining factor in Los Angeles.
The 49ers' run game was held to 99 yards, but the offense didn’t get shut down by the Rams' defense. Backup offensive tackles Daniel Brunskill and Justin Skule held their own on the offensive line without much previous experience on the field.
After the game, center Weston Richburg beamed like a proud older brother when he spoke to NBC Sports Bay area about his young counterparts on the offensive line. To Richburg, inserting Brunskill and Skill has been seamless.
“They’ve stepped in and done a great job,” Richburg said. “We’ve had a really had a great transition going from having both our starters to these guys. We really don’t know the difference.”
Stepping in for Staley, a 13-year veteran, and first-round draft pick McGlinchey, is no small task. Richburg was empathetic for the two inexperienced players, especially with so much on the line in a divisional game.
“Yeah, I’m nervous too,” Richburg said. “It’s a natural thing, but they did a great job settling in and taking care of business.”
The offensive line did get an assist from the tight ends who stepped into Juszczyk’s role and added support along the line. George Kittle, Ross Dwelley and Levine Toilolo all took turns at fullback, blocking and trying to create space for the running backs.
“All of them,” Richburg said. “Levine was in a lot. He made some big contributions and a really big third down conversion. That’s our team. We have guys who can step in and do a good job,”
Helping the players adjust and compensate for the new pieces on the offense also fell on the shoulders of coach Kyle Shanahan and his ofensive scheme. Even though the run game was slowed down a bit, the offense still racked up 22 first downs and 331 total yards on 76 offensive plays.
“I’m very proud of those guys,” Shanahan said. “It’s tough. There is a lot of different factors that go in. You always kind of change things up when you’re missing tackles, when you’re missing two, changes with the fullback. Dwelley did an awesome job with playing fullback most of the day.
"We gave Kittle a couple. Also, the receivers going in and out.”
Richburg isn’t surprised that the offensive line performed well even with the pressure of it being such a big game. The support from the coaches and the veterans has been invaluable.
“I think it’s the room,” Richburg said. “It starts from John Benton, to our assistant and then from the older guys. It’s the culture. It starts with Joe [Staley] really. We’ve set a culture in the room and it’s not like we have to follow a set of rules, it’s just understood how we are expected to play and contribute.
"The guys understand it and they’ve done a good job.”
Brunskill himself described his 49ers debut as surreal. Facing the likes of Rams All-Pro pass rusher Aaron Donald is a big challenge, and the support Brunskill got from his teammates was key to his ability to acclimate.
“I got chills going out, so that was awesome,” Brunskill said. “Definitely nerve racking going out right off the bat. Luckily, we have a great defense and a great group of guys which kind of helped calm that.
“I give it to the scout team. They gave us great looks in practice this week. They were balling. I don’t think I would have been able to get ready like this if it wasn’t for Kevin Givens, who did his best to impersonate Aaron Donald.”
The 49ers will continue to adjust and compensate for several weeks hoping to at least get Staley back before their Monday night matchup facing Seattle in early November.