This past offseason, the 49ers’ potential running back stable of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon was touted by some analysts as one of the best – if not the best – versatile and talented backfield trios in the NFL.
But as the 49ers head into their final three regular-season games and a postseason berth, it’s Raheem Mostert who has emerged as the team’s best ball carrier in recent weeks.
McKinnon never made the regular-season roster because of injury, Coleman had an early injury to set him back and Breida, who has again been excellent in 2019, also has been hurt lately.
That’s opened the door for Mostert, who has been extremely productive over the past two games, a loss to the Ravens and a victory over the Saints.
Against Baltimore, Mostert carried 19 times for a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown, while also catching two passes for eight yards. Against New Orleans, he carried 10 times for 69 yards and a TD, with two catches for 40 yards and a TD.
The 5-foot-10, 197-pounder from Purdue, who’s been with the 49ers since 2016, has earned larger roles in every season. He had one carry in 2016, 13 in 2017 and 34 in 2018 (for 261 yards and a TD) and now has 102 rushes for 608 yards and four TDs in 2019, with 17 receptions for 159 yards and two scores.
As the 49ers prepare to face the Atlanta Falcons at Levi’s Stadium, Mostert is likely to get the bulk of the rushing attempts Sunday. The former Big Ten track champion is averaging 6.0 yards per carry after averaging 7.7 yards in his limited 2018 attempts.
“Raheem’s earned it over these last few weeks,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “I mean, how many games can you go and how many years can you go averaging six yards a carry, somewhere in there? I mean, we keep trying to balance it out and stuff, but what Raheem has done these last few weeks and has continued to do, we need to give him more opportunities.
“He’s given us no choice. I’m happy for him and it’s been great. He’s been extremely impressive.”
The 11-2 49ers need to continue to win in order to clinch the NFC West title and give themselves home-field advantage in the postseason. Kickoff Sunday against the 4-9 Falcons is set for 1:25 p.m.