Left tackle Joe Staley, who called the Lions defensive line "extremely" overrated following a win against Detroit earlier this year, has the opposite take on his Sunday opponent. "I think they're the best of the bunch," Staley said of the Bills defensive line. "All four of those guys -- all very, very talented."
That's notable praise considering the 49ers already have faced two of the most acclaimed defensive lines in the league, Detroit's and Minnesota's, and last week squared off against a Rex Ryan-led Jets unit that was supposed to present a challenge to the 49ers offense.
Still, the 49ers have been unanimous this week in saying Buffalo, which ranks 27th overall in team defense, would be the best test yet for an offensive line that is beginning to surge and assert itself as one of the best in the league.
The 49ers gained 245 yards on the ground in Sunday's win against the Jets, the most since a 261-yard performance against the Cardinals on Nov. 29, 2010. They're averaging 5.4 yards a carry, second best in the league. The team's sack numbers are still high. Alex Smith has been sacked 12 times, which ties for sixth-worst in the league. It's slightly better than the 14 sacks the line had surrendered through the first four games last year.
"Big, strong and physical," said Bills coach Chan Gailey said when asked about the 49ers offensive line. "I mean, they're playing extremely well. They are a strong bunch. They're probably overall the best group we've played this year."
Right guard Alex Boone, who has made a quick and seamless transition from tackle to guard this year, said that the competition between the 49ers offensive line and the Bills defensive line was game's best matchup. He called it a "full-day sucker."
The Bills made one of the biggest splashes in free agency this year by signing ex-Texans defender Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract. Williams, who will square off against right tackle Anthony Davis, has only 1 Â½ sacks and nine tackles on the season, and he is starting to attract the ire of Bills fans who note that his earnings have not matched his production.
The 49ers, meanwhile, say a more anonymous Williams - Kyle - is the top defender on the Bills' line. The defensive tackle, who will draw Boone and left guard Mike Iupati at different times Sunday, leads Buffalo with 3 Â½ sacks.
"You know, Mario Williams has gotten a lot of press for a long time but I think the best player is Kyle Williams," Staley said. "Very underrated player. He doesn't get the national press that the other guys do on that line, but he's a very solid, very impressive player."
In fact, several 49ers this week paid Kyle Williams the highest compliment by comparing him favorably to their own top defensive lineman, Justin Smith. "He's a lot like our Justin," Boone said. "He's a hard worker, always trying to get to the ball, doesn't give up. It's going to be a full-day fight with him."
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman called Williams a "buzz saw" "I think he leads their D-line in sacks and tackles," Roman said. "Really heady player, physical, doesn't have the length Justin Smith has, but similar style of play. It's going to be a handful, our guys up front know it and they're looking forward to the challenge."
-- Matt Barrows