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Too Late to Knock McKittrick’s Block Off

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Ignoring Satchel Paige’s advice, Bobb McKittrick looked back Sunday.

Gaining on him was the Raiders’ 270-pound defensive end, Howie Long.

Instead of proceeding with haste toward the dressing room after the 49ers’ 34-10 victory at the Coliseum, McKittrick, San Francisco’s offensive line coach, slowed down so that Long could catch him.

McKittrick said later that he wanted to tell Long how much respect he has for him as a defensive lineman.

“I wanted to tell him he’d had a fine day,” McKittrick said.

Long also had a few words for McKittrick.

Some of them are printable.

“He said if I had a helmet on, he’d . . . “


McKittrick said he couldn’t remember the rest of the conversation, as one-sided as it was.

“I think he said he’d clean my clock, something like that,” McKittrick said.

Something like that.

McKittrick was a Marine Corps officer a long time ago, but he since has gained the wisdom of a man who will turn 50 later this year.

He didn’t begin looking for a helmet.

“I wear a 6 7/8,” McKittrick said. “We don’t have any helmets that small.”

What McKittrick did was turn and run.

Even when the Raiders’ offensive line coach, San Boghosian, tapped him on the shoulder, meaning to congratulate him for the victory, McKittrick didn’t turn around.

“I was afraid it might be Howie,” McKittrick said.

The chase continued into the tunnel, where both dressing rooms are located, before a couple of 49ers and back judge Jim Pool stepped between Long and McKittrick.

When McKittrick, unscathed if not exactly unshaken, reached San Francisco’s dressing room, he could still hear Long shouting at him about the 49ers’ blocking techniques.

In particular, Long was upset by a technique that the 49ers call a shoulder reverse block .

“We block him low,” McKittrick said. “He falls down. That’s his problem, not ours.”

Asked to elaborate, McKittrick dropped into a three-point stance and demonstrated.

In theory, the 49er offensive linemen block their defensive counterparts at the waist. If the defensive linemen get past them, the blockers swivel their hips to knock the defenders off their feet.

“We end up knocking their legs out from under them,” McKittrick said. “All the great single-wing teams used it. All the not-so-great single-wing teams used it.”


He said he learned the technique when he coached under Tommy Prothro with the Rams in 1971-72 and the Chargers from 1974-78.

“If you’re going to cut down a tree, you don’t hit it in the branches,” McKittrick said.

The Raiders didn’t care for the analogy, mainly because it was their legs that were being cut down.

“I guess they expect to play football from the waist up,” said 49er tackle Keith Fahnhorst, whose task it was to block Long most of the day. “They get upset when somebody comes at their legs. I guess I can understand that.”

Fahnhorst said that other teams use the same technique, but McKittrick said he couldn’t name any.

Probably figuring that he’d said enough already, Long wouldn’t talk to reporters after the game. When he left the dressing room, he was limping.

Other Raider defensive linemen said the 49ers were, at the least, tripping, and, at worst, leg whipping, both of which are illegal.

Told that McKittrick said that the 49er techniques are within the rules, Raider defensive end Greg Townsend said: “He called that legal? I’ll whip his butt myself.

“They were delaying their blocks, letting us get by them. Then, as soon as we had our backs to them, they’d come after our legs. That’s dirty football.”

Townsend said that the Raiders complained to the officials but got no satisfaction.

“Then, when we’d retaliate, the officials would come after us,” Townsend said.

Another Raider defensive end, Sean Jones, said he’s accustomed to taking abuse.

“It’s like defensive linemen are some kind of sub-species,” he said. “We never get calls.”

McKittrick said he was surprised at Long’s reaction, particularly because the 49ers’ have been using reverse shoulder blocks for a number of years.

He said they used the technique the last time they played the Raiders during the regular season. That was the opening game in 1982, when the Raiders won, 23-17.

“Nobody blocked him at all that time,” McKittrick said.

Actually, McKittrick didn’t think that the 49ers had much success blocking Long Sunday.

“I was a little disappointed with the way we played,” he said. “They were in our backfield too much. Sometimes it was because of mental mistakes on our part, but most of the time it was physical.

“They’ve got so many great athletes, and Howie is the best of them.

“But after Howie approached me, I felt better. If something we were doing was bothering him that much, then I guess we were doing something right.”

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