49ers

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

NEW ORLEANS – It’s a good problem for the 49ers to figure out who among their running backs they are going to feature.

Leading rusher Matt Breida is scheduled to return to action on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints after missing three games with an ankle sprain. Raheem Mostert is coming off a 146-yard day, the best game from a 49ers running back in three years. But what kind of role will he play on Sunday?

That question leads off this edition of the 49ers Mailbag:

Coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff put a lot of discussion into how they are going to use their backs. Shanahan talks to his entire offensive staff, as well as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, about which plays are best fits for which players.

Then, Shanahan’s in-game decisions are also influenced by which running back is having the most success.

“None of them are bad at anything, so whatever we end up going with, all of them have a chance, whatever play it is,” Shanahan said on 49ers Game Plan, which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area and 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We definitely try to decide which one we prefer during the week. We go into the game with a plan, but then we always stick with what’s hot.”

Tevin Coleman has been getting the starting assignments. It remains to be seen if that will continue, but Breida and Mostert should get their opportunities, too. 

I don’t know about using Daniel Brunskill for any trick plays, but it might not be a bad idea to mix him in for a series here and there to ease Joe Staley back into the action.

Staley has missed nine games this season, and Brunskill has shown to be a very effective player. It could be something along the lines of how the 49ers got Ahkello Witherspoon back into his starting role. At first, they had Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley sharing the playing time before Witherspoon was all the way back.

Richard Sherman will play despite hobbled last week with a knee injury. He appeared to be moving well during 49ers practices this week in Florida.

The only 49ers starter who will not play on Sunday is strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, who may miss multiple games with fractured ribs. Marcell Harris will start at strong safety. But everybody else is good to go, including Breida, Staley and Dee Ford.

My hunch is that if the 49ers do not place the franchise tag on Arik Armstead, he will end up signing a lucrative multi-year contract with another team as an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers' top priorities to sign to multi-year extensions are defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle.

[RELATED: Kittle on pace for best PFF season]

Neither Jalen Hurd nor Trent Taylor will play this season. Hurd will miss his entire rookie season due to a stress reaction in his back, while Taylor is out for the season from complications after undergoing surgery on a Jones fracture in his right foot.

The 49ers elevated defensive lineman Kentavius Street to practice this week. The 49ers might use their final injured reserve/designated to return spot on cornerback Jason Verrett, who has been out with a knee injury. He could return to practice as early as Wednesday.

The odds are very slim that Marquise Goodwin will be back on the team next season. He is scheduled to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2020, and that is not a price the 49ers are going to pay for what he gives them.

The 49ers are not giving up on Dante Pettis, though. They want him to put in the work during the offseason to have a big bounce-back season.

Pettis experienced the same kind of second season as Ahkello Witherspoon. Both players experienced success to ends their rookie seasons and thought they had it figured out.

[RELATED: How to watch 49ers-Saints]

Witherspoon struggled in Year 2, and realized what he had to do in order to perform at a high level. He came back focused for a strong third season.

The 49ers hope Pettis will make the same kinds of adjustments to his work ethic and mindset to become a reliable receiver in 2020.

Emmanuel Sanders offers advice to 49ers playing in first Super Bowl

Emmanuel Sanders offers advice to 49ers playing in first Super Bowl

While Emmanuel Sanders is heading to his third career Super Bowl, many of his teammates on the 49ers will be playing in their first when they take on the Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson moments after the 49ers beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, the veteran wide receiver explained how his mindset changed from his first Super Bowl appearance to his second, and how that will impact how he approaches Super Bowl LIV.

"It's a blessing. It's a blessing," Sanders told Anderson in the 49ers' locker room. "Truthfully, I'm going to enjoy this one, but at the same time, only thing is, we gotta go out and win it. So Miami is gonna be fun, but we gotta go and handle business.

"I remember in 2010 when I went to the Super Bowl, I said I want to make it to the Super Bowl and then we went out there and lost. And then in '15, I said I want to win the Super Bowl and we ended up winning it. Right now, my mentality is we gotta go win the Super Bowl. It's good to make it, but we gotta go win it. That's the only thing on my mind."

Sanders' first Super Bowl appearance came in his rookie season, and he caught two passes for 17 yards in the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

Five years later, Sanders caught six passes for 83 yards to help the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium.

Now, he will try to help the team that calls Levi's home win its sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.

[RELATED: 49ers installing Super Bowl gameplan this week]

So what advice would Sanders give to all the first-time Super Bowl participants on the 49ers?

"Lock in," Sanders told Anderson. "Obviously, this week is going to be big because when we get to Miami, it's going to be a frenzy, so this week, we've got to practice like it is Super Bowl week just so we can stay focused.

"Then next week still have that same mentality, but we know it's going to be crazy out there. All the times that I've been, that first week was the most important week, so that's my message to the guys, just like Kyle [Shanahan] said."

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

How Falcons' Super Bowl loss will help 49ers' Kyle Shanahan vs. Chiefs

How Falcons' Super Bowl loss will help 49ers' Kyle Shanahan vs. Chiefs

SANTA CLARA — As the Falcons’ offensive coordinator three years ago, Kyle Shanahan came away from his first trip to a Super Bowl having learned a few lessons. The biggest one was not that he didn’t call a run play on that fateful second-and-11 situation in the fourth quarter against the Patriots. 

Shanahan will be making his second Super Bowl appearance in less than two weeks and his previous experience has shaped the way he approaches a game forever. While there are always plays that he would like to have back, it’s a bigger lesson that left an imprint on the 49ers play caller. 

“Losing a Super Bowl is extremely tough for everybody especially when you lose when you had a 28-3 lead going into the fourth,” Shanahan said. “The learning moments are — never feel good.

“I mean that’s why I promise you when we we're way up in the fourth quarter on Green Bay and stuff, I know what 28 minus three is. And I know a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter isn’t enough.” 

While 28-3 is the score everyone remembers, the Falcons actually led 28-9 entering the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI.

That mentality hits home for Shanahan during every game, and obviously reoccurred in the 49ers' 37-20 win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. 

“So when we have a 14-point lead with eight minutes to go against Green Bay, I can promise you that I feel, from experience, like the game is tied and that we don’t have a two-score lead.” 

Shanahan will forever feel like a team has the ability to mount a comeback but he knows that one play call towards the end of the game was not the reason Atlanta lost. In the first half of Super Bowl LI, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman ran the ball nine times for 86 yards, averaging 9.6 yards per carry. 

In the second half, the Patriots shut down the run game and the two backs ran the ball nine times for 18 yards, averaging only two yards per carry.

[RELATED: 49ers will install gameplan this week]

Shanahan admits he will never call a perfect game, because that is an impossible feat, but he vows to never take his foot off the gas. 

“I think that’s the stuff that helps you because I think sometimes people can tend to relax,” Shanahan said. "That’s something that I, I won’t say that I ever relaxed in that Super Bowl especially with Tom Brady having the ball. But that’s something that keeps you humble every single moment until the game is over.”