49ers

49ers running back Matt Breida emerges as game-changer in win over Lions

49ers running back Matt Breida emerges as game-changer in win over Lions

SANTA CLARA -- The play started out so simply.

Matt Breida took the hand-off around the right end and headed through a hole. Block after block opened up some breathing room as he hit the 35, 40, 45 and 50. As he approached the Lions’ 45, the 49ers running back cut to the left, and it was on. 

After starting well outside the right hash, the second-year pro out of Georgia Southern kept going left, crossing all the way to the far side of the field, searching for more open space.

“It was just a great job by the O-line, they were blocking well all game and they just opened up a huge hole on that play, and I just followed Pierre [Garcon] to the end zone. He became my fullback essentially down the field,” Breida said following the 49ers' 30-27 win over the Lions at Levi's Stadium. “Those guys blocked their butts off all game.”

Garcon engaged his defender at the 40-yard line, and kept his man at bay as Breida used his block to perfection. The duo weaved back and forth, keeping Lions defensive back Nevin Lawson on skates -- 35, 30, 25, 20.

As Breida approached the final 10 yards, rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis flew in from the right to help seal off the last defender. The end result was Breida's career-long 66-yard touchdown scamper that shifted the momentum of the game in the 49ers' favor. His 138 yards rushing yards on just 11 carries also were a career best. 

This wasn’t the plan coming into the season. Veteran Jerick McKinnon was supposed to be the featured back, but after he tore his ACL one week before the season started, the 49ers have had to adjust on the fly. Alfred Morris was brought in to eat carries, but Breida’s running style fits 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s system very well. 

“Whenever a great player like that goes down, it’s next man up,” Breida said of the loss of McKinnon. “We want to prove that our team is just as good on that second depth or third depth.”

Through two games, Breida has 22 rushes for 184 yards. He’s averaging a healthy 8.4 yards per carry and looks primed to take on more touches. 

“For Matt being a smaller guy, he gets downhill and will deliver a blow,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “I thought they played tremendous today. I thought the O-line gave them great lanes. Fullbacks and tight ends were blocking their ass off. It all plays together.”

The plan remains for the 49ers to use a running back by committee system, but Breida is the hot hand. A few more games like Sunday’s, and he might play himself into a more permanent position. 

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan provides injury updates on six key players

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan provides injury updates on six key players

After two seasons of an inordinate amount of injuries, the 49ers could be peaking health wise at the right time, but let’s not jinx anything. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan gave an injury update via conference call Sunday following the team’s third preseason game, and the news was positive. Several players will be returning to practice, and some will even be cleared to play in Thursday’s game facing the Chargers. 

The only player who sustained an injury facing the Chiefs was Kyle Juszczyk. X-rays on his hand came back negative after it collided with a helmet. The team had not planned to have him play on Thursday regardless. 

Most of the players who were injured prior to the game remained in Santa Clara instead of traveling to Kansas City so they could work with the training staff during the short week. 

Here’s the list of players and what Shanahan had to say about their status for the week: 

DB K’Waun Williams (knee) 

“I think we’ll up his stuff a little bit this week. I don’t know if we’ll be able to have a practice to involve him. We’ll see here over these next two days. We plan to get him back on the field in individual and stuff, but I don’t know if he’ll be ready for practice.” 

Williams has been solid as the slot cornerback for the 49ers. While his job isn’t in jeopardy if he can’t immediately return to the field, it does have an impact on the other defensive backs. If he needs more time to recover from arthroscopic surgery on his knee, Jimmie Ward might need to assume that role, which would open up a spot for Tarvarius Moore at safety. 

S Adrian Colbert (hamstring) 

“We expect him to come back and be able to play this week.” 

Colbert had an impactful end to his rookie season, but has yet been able to live up to the expectations of the coaching staff, partially due to injury. What he really needed was to make the most out of every snap in the preseason to earn a spot.

He has one more shot left during the preseason after missing the game in Kansas City. 

OG Joshua Garnett (finger) 

“Should be able to practice and play.” 

The depth on the offensive line is thin after losing swing tackle Shon Colman for the season. Garnett has needed to prove his worth of being a former first-round draft pick, but there is a little likelihood that he will be cut without better options on the roster. 

C Weston Richburg (knee) 

“Hoping to activate Richburg this week so they can get him into practice this week. It depends on how it went, when we left him behind. I was told over the phone that it went well. 

“We’ll see tomorrow when we bring him out onto the field. If he’s good enough to go with some people, then we’ll get him off of that so at least he can take some snaps with our quarterback and get a guy in front of him instead of just a bag and a trainer.”

The 49ers need Richburg healthy to protect their franchise quarterback, but they also are thinking long term. With Mike Person available to play at guard, Ben Garland had a respectable showing with the first team in Kansas City and could stand in until Richburg is completely healthy. 

RB Raheem Mostert (quad) 

"Mostert, he had that quad over the weekend so I don’t know how he is today, but hopefully he will be able to get back this week. I don’t know if he will tomorrow.”

Because of Mostert’s special teams abilities his roster spot is not in jeopardy, but it could affect how the team looks at Jeff Wilson Jr., and Austin Walters. 

RB Jerick McKinnon (knee)

“McKinnon, we are hoping to get out there a little bit this week not necessarily in the game, but practice.” 

The team will not rush McKinnon back as they have enough depth in the running backs room to be effective until he can return. Expect Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman to carry the bulk of the work. 

[RELATED: 49ers plan to keep three QBs but always listen on trades]

Other players fighting for a roster spot at positions with depth that should be able to practice and then play facing the Chargers are LB Elijah Lee (thumb), DL Jullian Taylor (back) and DL Ronald Blair (groin) 

TE George Kittle (calf), DE Dee Ford (knee) and WR Jalen Hurd (back) will all likely return to practice but are not expected to play in the game on Thursday. 

Watch ex-49er Dekoda Watson make kid’s day with impromptu blocking lesson

Watch ex-49er Dekoda Watson make kid’s day with impromptu blocking lesson

"How you gonna block me?" 

In this case, former 49ers linebacker Dekoda Watson was being sincere. He was asking someone in a Rams uniform, just much smaller and younger than he's used to. 

Watson, now with the Broncos, asked a group of a Rams youth football team who on the team plays offensive line. One lucky player stepped up to the challenge. 

"There you go!" Watson encouraged the kid while youngster attempted to block the 245-pound linebacker.

[RELATED: 49ers RB Wilson makes 53-man roster decisions ever harder]

No matter what this young tyke does with football, he'll never forget stepping on a NFL field and going toe-to-toe with a pro. 

Watson, 31, spent the past two season with the 49ers where he suited up in 18 games.