There are a number of reasons the 49ers rank No. 2 in the NFL in rushing.
First, there’s the commitment of head coach Kyle Shanahan to running the football. Like his Super Bowl-winning father, Mike, Kyle believes in the importance of a run game. Second, there is the Matt Breida-Tevin Coleman-Raheem Mostert-Jeff Wilson Jr. stable of running backs. And third, there is the fine group of blockers up front.
Even in the 49ers’ 20-17 loss to the Ravens this past Sunday, San Francisco was able to run the ball well, with Mostert breaking out for a career-high 146 yards.
A big chunk of those yards came on runs just outside the tackles, especially on the right side of the line where right tackle Mike McGlinchey and tight end George Kittle often were positioned. The two strong, mobile blockers consistently opened wide running lanes for Mostert, who had four runs of 10 or more yards and averaged 7.7 yards per carry.
McGlinchey was so effective against the Ravens that the analytic website Pro Football Focus selected him to its Team of the Week while giving him his top game grade since entering the NFL last season. Pro Football Focus noted his blocking “(paved) the way for his side’s outside-zone running scheme.” He also didn’t allow a sack.
“I thought Mike had his best game of the year vs. Green Bay (the previous week), and I think he followed it up with his next best game yesterday,” said Shanahan Monday. “I know Mike has been battling through some injuries to get back. I know when he did get back, it still takes some time to get back on your own self. But I saw that last week, definitely, and I think it only got better this week.”
Kittle, meanwhile, also received a strong run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. He often was singled out for his blocking during the telecast of the 49ers-Ravens game. Kittle caught just two passes, but was a huge factor in the rushing attack.
“I grade my game off the run game,” Kittle told a writer for the team’s website Sunday after the game. “I thought I played pretty well today. I had great battles with (No.) 99 (Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon) all day. He’s a great player. So, that was fun. That was really fun. I’m just looking forward to hopefully getting another opportunity again.”
The 10-2 49ers will try to rebound with a win Sunday in New Orleans against the 10-2 Saints. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. (Bay Area time).