When the 49ers lost No. 1 running back Jerick McKinnon just before the season opener, there was concern about his absence.
McKinnon, a versatile running and receiving threat, was tailor-made for the Kyle Shanahan offense. Could second-year running back Matt Breida or veteran Alfred Morris pick up the slack?
On Sunday in the 49ers’ first victory of 2018, Breida showed the Niners he may be up to the challenge.
Breida, the quick, darting former undrafted free agent from Georgia Southern, rushed for 138 yards – including 66 on a breakaway touchdown run late in the third quarter – to help San Francisco to a 30-27 win over the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium.
The game was still in doubt at that point, with the 49ers holding a 20-13 lead, when Breida essentially put the game out of reach.
After a Lions punt pinned the 49ers at their own 3-yard line, Jimmy Garoppolo completed an 11-yard pass to tight end Garrett Celek to get his team to the 14. Breida than broke off a 20-yard run to get the ball out to the 34. Garoppolo then handed off to Breida (“The Cheetah”), who broke through the line of scrimmage, sprinted past several Detroit defenders, used some key blocks deep in Lions territory and completed his 66-yard scoring run.
The Lions, however, fought back. Detroit put together a pair of touchdown drives, scoring on a 5-yard pass from Stafford to Marvin Jones and a 15-yard pass to Michael Roberts to get within 30-27 with 3:27 to play.
The 49ers caught a break, though, when Garoppolo threw an interception on the next series, only to have it nullified by a defensive holding call, and San Francisco was able to hold on for the win.
Breida was part of a balanced 49ers offense that included a solid game for Garoppolo, who rebounded from a three-interception game in the season opener. Garoppolo completed 18-of-26 throws for 206 yards and two TDs. Breida (three catches, 21 yards) and Morris (two for 32) were among his top targets.
Defensively, San Francisco was effective in stopping the Lions running attack. Still Matt Stafford completed 34-of-53 throws for 347 yards and three TDs.
Now 1-1, the 49ers will try to keep their momentum rolling this coming Sunday against the explosive Chiefs in Kansas City. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m.