SANTA CLARA — Aaron Banks obviously has spent some time considering the topic.
“What’s the key to a good spike?” the 49ers left guard said, repeating the question posed to him. “First, you got to have the build-up. If you have a bad windup, it takes away from it a little bit.
“And when you spike it, and you’re watching film, it’s got to leave the screen. If you spike it and it goes deadball and is flat, it’s a bad spike. If it gets some air under it, it’s a good spike.”
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Banks and the 49ers’ other offensive linemen have received opportunities to display their spiking prowess, courtesy of running back Christian McCaffrey and quarterback Brock Purdy, over the past couple of games. That's because, after scoring touchdowns, McCaffrey and Purdy sought out the big fellows to take center stage in the end-zone celebrations.
“The running backs really started that,” Purdy said. “They score a touchdown, and they give it to the guys who do the work, the dirty work, who don't get all the glory.”
Right tackle Colton McKivitz had his chance after McCaffrey scored his first touchdown of the 49ers’ Week 3 win over the New York Giants. McKivitz emphasized his windup to the point that he almost tripped and fell while spiking the ball with gusto into the Levi’s Stadium end zone.
He also received high marks on the height test.
San Francisco 49ers
“Christian was waiting for it to come down,” McKivitz said. “It was my first one, so I went all out on it. It’s not something I practice at home.”
McCaffrey already has seven touchdowns this season, and 20 in 18 games since the trade that sent him to the 49ers from the Carolina Panthers last season. McCaffrey established a 49ers record with touchdowns in 13 consecutive games during his active streak.
Along the way, he has provided some memorable individual moments for the 49ers’ offensive linemen, too.
“We are always there to celebrate with our guys, so it’s cool when they give it to guys who don’t touch the ball,” Banks said. “When you’re running the ball and marching down the field, and they know you’re working your ass off, to give us the ball for a spike, it just makes it a little more inclusive.”
Banks had his opportunity after Purdy scored Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
“I got a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown, so to say that it was all me, that's crazy,” Purdy said. “So I turn around and, honestly, the first guy I see right there is Banks. And he gets juiced up.
“To be able to have them spike it and have the celebration and get the crowd and everyone going, it means a lot to us.”
Banks delivered his left-handed spike to rave reviews.
“It’s got to have good bounce and good hang time,” 49ers right guard Spencer Burford said. “Aaron and Colton got pretty good spikes.
“With Christian, it’s bigger than just him. He tries to allow everyone to share the moment with him.”
Left tackle Trent Williams hasn't had an opportunity yet this season, but he got a spike last season after leveling a Green Bay Packers defensive back to enable Trey Lance to score. Lance then gave the spike honors to Williams.
Burford missed his first opportunity this season when McCaffrey tried to hand him the ball, but he was oblivious as he jogged away to set up for the extra-point attempt. Brendel had a spike that didn't quite measure up this season, according to his teammates.
“Jake’s got to work on it,” McKivitz said. “He didn’t grip the ball right. But Banks is a pro spiker.”
Purdy agreed that Banks came through with a strong effort.
“His spike and everyone else's celebration around, man, I'd give it an A,” Purdy said. “We’ll work on it to get to an A-plus this week, though.”
Things are going well for the 49ers, and they’re clearly enjoying themselves. They and the Philadelphia Eagles are the only 4-0 teams in the NFL. San Francisco’s offense is humming with at least 30 points in each of its victories, and the team ranks third in the NFL with 14 offensive touchdowns.
Those scores and the crowd-pleasing celebrations have allowed everyone to get involved in the fun.
“Who doesn’t love an offensive lineman spiking the ball?” McKivitz asked. “Hey, I enjoy it. It’s fun.”