Coach Kyle Shanahan did not go into Monday’s game expecting to keep veteran running back Alfred Morris on the sideline.
But that’s the way it worked out. As a result, the 49ers enter Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium with confidence in all three running backs after Raheem Mostert had a breakout game as Matt Breida’s backup.
“You can never have enough backs,” Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3). “We got three guys we can use and I know we’re going to need them all throughout the year.”
A week ago, the 49ers did not expect Breida to be available to face the Green Bay Packers due to an ankle sprain, so the staff made it a priority to get Mostert ready for significant playing time.
“We always believed in Raheem, but he hadn’t gotten that opportunity,” Shanahan said. “He had struggled a little when he had gotten a couple of plays. We didn’t expect to have Breida last week, so we put a lot of pressure on Raheem in practice because we knew we were going to need him.”
Breida started and managed to gain 61 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Mostert had the most production of his 31-game NFL career with a game-high 87 yards on 12 attempts.
On the season, Breida leads the team with 430 yards on 63 carries, while Morris has rushed 62 times for 228 yards.
“We didn’t plan on leaving Alf out,” Shanahan said. “We went with the hot hand. Raheem took advantage of his opportunity. It’s good to know now, going into this week, going into any week, that we have three guys who have proven themselves and three guys we can count on.”
Shanahan said it is not so simple as using Morris between the tackles and the combination of Breida and Mostert when the speed is needed to get to the outside. Outside zone runs are called with each of the three backs, he said, and it depends on the defensive front whether the ball carrier takes it to edge or cuts it back inside.
Shanahan said he does not believe the depth chart is set behind Breida. He envisions both Morris and Mostert being effective against different styles of defenses.
“I don’t think it was a permanent change,” Shanahan said. “It was just what we thought was best for that game.”