DETROIT – The 49ers’ running backs powered what was perhaps the team’s best half of offense this season.
And the two players who did most of the damage in the first half were not even on the 53-man roster a week earlier.
DuJuan Harris, whom the 49ers picked up off the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad on Tuesday, rushed for 74 yards on nine rushing attempts. And Jarryd Hayne, the former Australian rugby league star, saw his first action since Week 6 and added 27 yards on eight rushing attempts.
“DuJuan came in, stepped up, ran the ball well,” 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. “Jarryd Hayne stepped up, ran hard, caught the ball out of the backfield. Trent Brown came in against a tough defensive front and held his own.
“Those are the positives that we saw as an offense, but like I said, there’s no moral victories in the National Football League. We’ve got to find a way to get wins, plain and simple.”
Hayne, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, got his first NFL start due to a rash of injuries that have plagued the 49ers’ running backs this season. Hayne said he feels as if he earned some trust from the 49ers’ coaching staff.
“Definitely,” he said. “I think that’s just, with the amount of reps I got on the (scout) team and just kind of being by myself for the last couple of weeks on the practice squad as well. So, that’s been huge and for me to be able to get that experience.
“It’s invaluable because I’ve got obviously, so much to catch up on and I think today I felt great out there and probably one or two things that I could have done better. But, overall, I was happy.”
One of those things came when Hayne cut short his route on a fourth-and-3 pass play and gained just two yards on a pass from Gabbert.
“It was going to be a bang-bang play,” Gabbert said. “Their linebacker did a good job kind of stuffing off the shallow cross and we knew it was close, but it’s a game of inches and we fell short.”
The 49ers managed only four first downs on four offensive possessions in the second half, and the run game was nonexistent. The 49ers had just three rushing attempts in the second half for minus-1 yard. Harris had two carries for minus-1 yard, and Hayne was stopped for no gain on his only second-half attempt.
When asked about Hayne’s performance, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said, “I thought he represented himself well.”
Hayne also caught five passes for 20 yards, as he got most of the action in the second half because Harris has not had much time to learn the 49ers’ blitz pickup package.
“DuJuan's been here a week, so teaching the pass-protections to a running back in a week is a big deal,” Tomsula said.
Harris became the ninth different halfback to suit up and play for the 49ers this season. Three of those players who opened the season on the 49ers’ 53-man roster are on injured reserve: Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and rookie Mike Davis.
Hayne was promoted after Shaun Draughn was ruled out for the game with a knee sprain. In addition to Hayne and Harris, the other running backs the 49ers have played this season are Travaris Cadet, Pierre Thomas and Kendall Gaskins, who had 12 yards on two carries on Sunday.