Kyle Shanahan is known as an offensive innovator. As the coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons offense that went to the Super Bowl in February of 2017, Shanahan’s group led the NFL in scoring and quarterback Matt Ryan was a first-team All-Pro pick, throwing for nearly 5,000 yards with 38 touchdowns.
But it would be a mistake to think of Shanahan as a pass-first coach. Like his father, longtime NFL head coach Mike Shanahan, Kyle believes a team must have an effective running game to be successful.
And, so far, the 49ers’ running attack under Kyle Shanahan has been just that.
As the 3-0 49ers prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns Monday night at Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers are the No. 2 rushing team in the NFL, averaging 175 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. And yet, there is no 49ers running back in the list of top 15 rushers in the NFL this season.
In 2019, the 49ers are using a talented group of backs – many of whom are terrific receivers – to run the ball.
Matt Breida leads the pack with 226 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. He’s No. 18 in the NFL. Following him are Raheem Mostert (202 yards, 5.9 average), Jeff Wilson Jr. (52 yards, 2.9 average but a team-best four touchdowns) and the now-injured Tevin Coleman (six carries, 23 yards, 3.8 average).
In going against the Browns Monday night, the 49ers have a chance to do significant damage with the Breida-Mostert-Wilson trio. Cleveland ranks 21st in the league against the run, giving up nearly 120 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry.
As Eric Ting of the San Francisco Chronicle noted this week, San Francisco’s success is remarkable, considering Coleman, who figured to be the No. 1 back this season, is sidelined for several games.
But the running back-by-committee approach is working.
In a win over the Bengals in Week 2, the trio wrecked the Cincinnati defense. Breida had 13 offensive touches for 132 yards. Mostert had 16 touches for 151 yards and a TD. Wilson had 10 touches for 34 yards and two scores.
It’s a talented, deep group – even without Coleman – and will be even better when he returns soon.
Monday’s 49ers-Browns game is set for a 5:15 p.m. kickoff.