Matt Breida went undrafted out of college. No one was willing to select the running back out of Georgia Southern, even in the seventh round, in the spring of 2017.
But Breida seems to be doing just fine.
The third-year back is averaging an NFL-leading 6.5 yards per carry through the 49ers’ first four games this season, after exploding Monday night for 114 yards on just 11 carries, including an 83-yard touchdown sprint on the team’s first play from scrimmage in a 31-3 victory.
Breida was “the Cheetah” at Georgia Southern, where he rushed for more than 1,400 yards in two of his three seasons and averaged 6.9 yards over 542 college carries, and he showed off his speed again on the breakaway TD run that launched his team to its fourth consecutive win to the start the season.
Breida, Raheem Mostert (34 yards) and Tevin Coleman (97 yards) – back sooner than expected from an injury in the season-opening game – led an explosive 49ers ground attack that dominated the Browns. San Francisco ran the ball 40 times for 275 yards and two scores, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
The 49ers now rank No. 1 in the NFL in rushing, averaging 200 yards per game, and Breida is No. 12 individually, with 340 yards.
As Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com noted after Monday night’s win, the 49ers ground attack is evolving into something special.
Wrote Bergman: “San Francisco doesn’t run over teams. No, the Niners run by them, untouched, through open prairie lanes, accompanied by mobile downfield blockers and stumbling, bumbling defenders.”
Breida, Coleman and Mostert are all quick, versatile backs, capable of running any play, and with Jeff Wilson Jr. (inactive Monday night), give Kyle Shanahan’s offense a deep, talented group.
But, Breida is the one who can score from anywhere on the field at any time, with elite speed, as he showed on his long scoring run.
Bergman said Breida reached 22.3 mph on that run, according to Next Gen Stats, “the fastest speed a ball carrier has reached in the last two seasons.”
Added Bergman: "San Francisco has now recorded at least 168 rushing yards in three consecutive games, and Kyle Shanahan’s unit is showing no sign of slowing down.”
Shanahan loves what he’s seeing. It’s a simple formula.
“We got some backs who can run and we also have some guys who can block,” he told reporters.
The 4-0 49ers now have a short week, as they prepare to take on the NFC West-rival Rams (3-2) in Los Angeles Sunday. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m.