It’s shaping up to be a long season for the Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers. The team on Sunday received its third loss since star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sustained his season-ending injury. And now Matt Breida, who was on his way to another great rushing performance, has landed on the medical report with a sprained his ankle, which most likely keeps him out of this week’s game against the Packers.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard exceeded expectations for the second straight game. He led an injury-ridden offense to respectable numbers, but characteristically held on to the ball for too long, leading to the costly turnovers that eventually lost them the game.
The 49ers’ running backs received more carries than usual in a game where the team had 92 total offensive plays. Breida got off to a hot start with eight carries for 56 rushing yards before an ankle sprain forced him to leave the game at the end of the first quarter. He also contributed to the passing game with a 5-yard touchdown catch on the 49ers’ first drive.
Alfred Morris finished with 18 carries for 61 rushing yards and three catches for 30 receiving yards. He had a few nice runs, but was mostly bottled up. Raheem Mostert was asked to carry the ball a few times because of Breida’s injury, but fumbled in Arizona territory.
Cardinals feature back David Johnson logged 18 carries, but was only able to finish with 55 rushing yards. Part of that is on Arizona relying on its rookie QB to carry the offense, but the 49ers’ defense did a great job of containing Johnson whenever he got the ball.
I have to admit, this week was the hardest for me to crown a star running back of the week. Breida would have been the easy pick to make if he hadn’t gotten hurt because he had over 50 rushing yards in only a quarter of play. Johnson could have also been a candidate, but didn’t play a big role in the Cardinals’ offense even with the two touchdowns he scored. For those reasons, I have chosen Kyle Juszczyk as the Fourth and Nine star running back of Week 5.
Who says the fullback position is dying? Juszczyk was all over the field Sunday and made big plays throughout the game.
In the first drive alone, Shanahan called the same play twice: a full back screen for Juszczyk. On the first screen, Beathard motioned Garrett Celek (#88) across the formation and back to identify the coverage. When the ball was snapped, Celek ran up field and blocked Tre Boston (#33). Juszczyk acted like he’s going to block blitzing safety Budda Baker (#36), but lets him through after a chip block before making the catch. Because of the blitz and the Cardinals being lined up in man coverage, Juszczyk has three linemen blocking in front of him and plenty of space to run upfield. He eventually goes down at the Arizona 33 with a 16-yard gain.
The second screen was set up differently, with wide receiver Richie James (#13) motioning across the formation and faking the sweep play.
That action causes cornerback Bene Benwikere (#23) to follow James when the ball is snapped, taking him out of the play that eventually developed. This time, Juszczyk allows Chandler Jones (#55) to get into the backfield and then takes the ball upfield for a 25-yard reception. Because of those two big plays, the 49ers reach the red zone and cap off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown on a shovel pass to Breida.
Juszczyk came in clutch on a few third down situations this week, as well. In this next play, the offense was lined up in an empty set on 3rd-and-10 with Juszczyk at the bottom.
With no running backs in the backfield to provide extra protection, the Cardinals dial up a blitz and rush six players in an attempt to get to Beathard before he can get a pass off. Kittle (#85) stays on the line to pass block and picks up the extra player. That gave Beathard just enough time to get the ball to Juszczyk, who ran a short slant while the two receivers lined up on his side ran out routes to clear the middle of the field. The 49ers’ fullback was able to gain enough yardage for a first down and keep the drive moving.
In his only carry during the game, Juszczyk was able to take it 12 yards to gain a first down. The game was pretty much over at the point, but he was able to show that he can help lighten the load for Alfred Morris if Breida does in fact miss next week’s game. Juszczyk took the handoff and read Laken Tomlinson’s (#75) block before making his cut upfield and running through the line of scrimmage.
Kyle Juszczyk should get more of an opportunity to show off his skills as both a receiver and running back as the season goes on and more players get banged up. The 49ers continue their tough first half schedule Monday night when they face off against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Fourth and Nine Star Running Backs:
Week 1: Dalvin Cook
Week 2: Matt Breida
Week 3: Matt Breida
Week 4: Melvin Gordon
Week 5: Kyle Juszczyk
Media courtesy NFL