Alfred Morris

Jeff Wilson leaves 49ers vs. Rams season finale with shoulder injury

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AP

Jeff Wilson leaves 49ers vs. Rams season finale with shoulder injury

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Wilson suffered a shoulder injury and is questionable to return to Sunday's season finale, leaving veteran Alfred Morris and second-year pro Matthew Dayes as the 49ers' only running backs against the Rams.

The 49ers could lean on fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who has just six carries for 21 yards this season, if Morris or Dayes also are hurt, and Wilson can't return.

Wilson had carried the ball just three times for 9 yards as the 49ers fell behind 14-0 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The undrafted rookie entered the game with 63 carries for 257 yards after taking over for Matt Breida, who had struggled with an ankle injury for most of the season.

Needless to say, it will put more pressure on quarterback Nick Mullens if the 49ers can't get their running game going.

Matt Breida out for Week 17 vs. Rams as breakout season ends early

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AP

Matt Breida out for Week 17 vs. Rams as breakout season ends early

Running back Matt Breida’s successful yet injury-plagued season came to an end on Sunday.

Breida aggravated an ankle injury on Sunday in the first half of the 49ers’ 14-9 loss to the Chicago Bears. Coach Kyle Shanahan said Breida will not be available for the team’s Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis will also sit out the final game of the season with a knee injury. Pettis sustained a partially torn medial-collateral ligament in the first half of Sunday’s game. The injury will not require surgery. Both Pettis and Breida are expected to be available for the start of the team's offseason program.

Tight end Garrett Celek was diagnosed with a concussion. He is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (bruised calf) and cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee) will be re-evaluated on Wednesday, when the 49ers return after two days off.

Breida was one of the bright spots for the 49ers this season, as he was forced to carry the load after being elevated early in the season to a role as the team’s every-down back.

Veteran Alfred Morris was the starter in the 49ers’ season opener, just one week after presumptive starter Jerick McKinnon was lost with a torn ACL. But it did not take long for Breida to win the permanent starting role.

“I think Matt’s had a very impressive season,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters.

“He started out great, filling in, losing McKinnon at the beginning of the year. And I think Matt stepped in right away and played like a No. 1 back.”

Breida started 13 games and rushed for 814 yards and three touchdowns on 153 attempts. He averaged 5.3 yards per rushing attempt while battling knee, shoulder and ankle issues most of the season.

Breida sustained an ankle injury in Week 5 against Arizona that lingered the remainder of the season.

[Related: Mullens, Kittle putting up historic numbers]

“He got hurt early on and he battled every week to get in there and play for us,” Shanahan said. “He ended up hurting it every week, also, so it’s lingered all year. It's just a credit to him to still be effective when he’s been out there, and to be able to help us throughout the year has been unbelievable.”

Breida made the 49ers’ 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie in 2017 from Georgia Southern. He beat out Joe Williams, a fourth-round draft pick, and rushed for 465 yards as Carlos Hyde’s backup.

“He showed what he showed last year at the end of the year and he got only better,” Shanahan said. “That’s what was neat about him. He was still able to play through injuries and stuff.”

If McKinnon returns to full strength for next season, the 49ers should be in good shape with Breida and, potentially, Raheem Mostert in backup roles. Mostert is scheduled to be a restricted free agent. Rookie Jeff Wilson has also placed himself in position to compete for a job.

Mostert entered the season as a special-teams ace, but played well as a running back before sustaining a season-ending fractured forearm in Week 9 against the Raiders. Mostert carried 34 times for 261 yards – a 7.7-yard average.

Kyle Shanahan expects contributions from all three running backs

Kyle Shanahan expects contributions from all three running backs

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.”