SANTA CLARA — Running back Jeff Wilson might have only played one offensive snap in the 49ers' victory over the Cardinals in Week 11 but it was an important one.
The play had the potential for disaster. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo admitted he couldn’t see his running back and Wilson couldn’t see the pass coming out of the pocket. The ball arrived slightly behind Wilson, but the undrafted free agent was able to secure the ball and make his way 25 yards down the field to the end zone.
The 49ers and Cardinals changed leads three times last Sunday at Levi's Stadium, but Wilson's touchdown with 31 seconds left put Kyle Shanahan's crew on top for good, winning 36-26.
Wilson’s first receiving touchdown comes after entering the year with no assurances he would ever see the field during the regular season. With a stacked running backs room to begin the offseason, Wilson was expected to have a spot on the scout team with Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert all ahead of him on the depth chart, not to mention fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Injuries hit the running backs room hard and Wilson's number was called. In seven appearances, Wilson has racked up four rushing touchdowns, filling in as needed. No matter how often his number is called, he stays ready to make an impact.
“That’s just how the game goes,” Wilson told NBC Sports Bay Area. “That’s kind of what you get yourself into, That’s something you go into already expecting and knowing. Obviously, I knew that from the beginning of the season. Never know when I’m going to get called up.”
The support of his position mates has made the process easier for the second-year running back. The group is very close. During pregame warmups they spend several minutes, arm-in-arm, huddled together in the end zone. Players who are inactive for the game or injured always are included.
"To have Matt there, Tevin, Juice, the guys I’m in the locker room with, makes it easier,” Wilson said. “They are very supportive. It’s like if one of us is doing something, it’s like all of us are doing it.
“At the same time if one person scores it feels like all of us scored. That’s kind of how we work. We want to make everyone to feel a part of it. We always call Jet, you know what I mean? He’s the leader of the group still. We always keep Jet involved. That’s kind of how we are.”
That support helped fuel Wilson’s dash to the end zone. His bouncing up and down in the huddle before the play might have made coach Shanahan a little nervous, but Wilson said he was ready thanks to playing 13 special teams snaps to stay warmed up. But he might not have expected the feelings that took over his body once he got into the end zone.
“I don’t know, that was just a lot of emotion,” Wilson said. “A lot of stuff just built up on the inside that kind of came out all at once. I couldn’t control myself. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in control of my body at that point. It was crazy, but it’s a blessing. It was a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”