The 49ers find themselves in a bit of a pickle right now.
Having suffered numerous injuries to the running back position this season, San Francisco has struggled to run the ball each of the previous two games.
With Jimmy Garoppolo under center, the 49ers' offense is heavily reliant on the run game. Without it, Garoppolo is forced to throw a lot more. Rushing for only 67 yards on 21 attempts (3.1 Y/A) in the 49ers' loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday night, the offense forced Garoppolo to throw the ball 40 times, a rarity for him in what usually has been a dominant run-first scheme.
49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young joined KNBR 680's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" Wednesday evening to discuss why the run game is so important to the 49ers' offense, and what kind of role Garoppolo needs to step into if the rushing attack isn't effective.
“When we went to the Super Bowl two years ago, it was really off of the run game," Young said. "Then off of that run game, George [Kittle] is wide open. You come off a play-fake and George is just running right down the field, Deebo [Samuel] is running (down the field).
"It just rolls. So if we’re not going to run the football, if we’re not going to be that explosive running game -- which is ironic because of all the unique and innovative things Kyle does in the passing game ... For quarterbacks that can throw their way through it, the ‘We can’t run the ball today, but I got this.’ That’s where Jimmy needs to graduate to, that’s the next space he needs to be."
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Against the weaker opponents, the 49ers might be able to overcome struggles on the ground. But against elite teams such as the Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers won't be able to overcome the loss of their rushing attack and will need to rely on Garoppolo to step up as a passer.
"It’s just going to get even harder," Young added. "Those big games, if we can’t run it, (Garoppolo) needs to be that guy that can say, ‘Let’s call it and throw it 45 times and I can throw my way through it.’ I think (there needs to be) that trust that Kyle has to allow Jimmy to do it, it’s double-sided. That’s where we were in the offseason when they decided to go all-in with three first-round draft picks, there’s a concern that it can’t happen. If I were Jimmy, I would say, ‘Trust me, I can do this,’ and let him pass or fail on that.”
The 49ers face the archrival Seahawks in Week 4. If running back Elijah Mitchell is able to return from injury and lead the 49ers' rushing attack, the offense could be in store for a bounce-back week. If not, the offense might rely on Garoppolo throwing the ball 30-40 times once more.