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. 

Fantasy football waiver wire: Target ex-49er Frank Gore in Week 7


Fantasy football waiver wire: Target ex-49er Frank Gore in Week 7

Next week marks the halfway point of the regular season in fantasy football. It also opens a stretch when most of the NFL is out of action.

26 of 32 teams will have their bye weeks in Weeks 7-12, beginning with four (the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Seattle Seahawks) in Week 7. If you haven't really had to turn to your bench so far during this fantasy season, you will next week. 

With that in mind, here are four flex-eligible players to target on the fantasy-football waiver wire ahead of Week 7. Each is owned in fewer than 45 percent 

Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins RB (Owned in 11.8 percent of ESPN leagues, 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Age is but a number for the 35-year-old Gore. The former 49ers running back rushed 15 times for 101 yards, and caught a pass for 18 yards in Miami’s overtime win against the Chicago Bears. He also out-carried Kenyan Drake, who's over a decade younger than Gore, for the third consecutive week. 

The Detroit Lions, Gore’s opponent in Week 7, entered their bye week giving up the fourth-most points against running backs by Yahoo’s count, and the fifth-most by ESPN’s. There aren’t many other lead backs available on the waiver wire, so keep Gore in mind if you’re desperate for another running back. 

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR (39.3 percent of ESPN leagues, 44 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Godwin bounced back from a poor performance in Week 4, catching six passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in a close loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He tied Desean Jackson for the team lead in targets (nine), and scored a touchdown for the fourth time in five games. 

The 22-year-old surely benefitted from the Bucs playing catch-up in the second half, and he has a tough matchup against the Cleveland Browns next week at home. But with so many high-end wide receivers (Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, Doug Baldwin, and Davante Adams, among others) on byes next week, Godwin is a solid streaming option.

Taylor Gabriel, Chicago Bears WR (32.6 percent of ESPN leagues, 22 percent of Yahoo leagues)

A bye week sandwiched Gabriel’s strong outings in Week 4 and Week 6. For the second straight week, Gabriel crossed the 100-yard threshold, catching five passes (on five targets) for a season-high 110 yards. He added 10 rushing yards on one carry. 

Gabriel has proven to be an explosive option for a Bears offense that seems to be finding its stride. He’ll have a tough test in Week 7 against a solid Buffalo Bills secondary, but still has as much big-play upside as any available wide receiver. 

Chester Rogers, Indianapolis Colts WR (11.7 percent of ESPN leagues, 16 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Rogers scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 6, catching four passes for 55 yards against the New York Jets. For the third straight week, Andrew Luck targeted the third-year pro 10 times, and Rogers once again led all Colts wide receivers in targets. 

Headed into Sunday, T.Y. Hilton (chest/hamstring) did not practice, and sat out for the second straight week. There’s no word yet whether or not Hilton will return in Week 7, but if he does not or remains hobbled, Rogers remains a worthwhile waiver-wire option. 

NFL Picks: 49ers vs. Packers Week 6 score predictions

NFL Picks: 49ers vs. Packers Week 6 score predictions

Before the injuries started to pile up for the 49ers, their prime time game against the Packers was supposed to be must-see TV. But with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon out for the year, the 49ers (1-4) take on Green Bay (2-2-1) as 9-point underdogs.

Kyle Shanahan needs a big performance from his defense, and as Matt Maiocco writes, defense end DeForest Buckner is one of four 49ers players to watch against the Packers.

Here's how writers covering the game and others from around the country see the game playing out:

Nick Wagoner, ESPN.com: Packers 31, 49ers 17

Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com: Packers 37, 49ers 17

Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Packers 30, 49ers 14

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Packers 31, 49ers 13

John Gworek, Athlon Sports: Packers 30, 49ers 16

Matt Barrows, The Athletic: Packers 24, 49ers 20

David Lombardi, The Athletic: Packers 26, 49ers 20

Tim Kawakami, The Athletic: Packers 30, 49ers 24

Marcus Thompson, The Athletic: Packers 34, 49ers 17

Tom Silverstein, Journal Sentinel: Packers 37, 49ers 17