The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos combined for a very ugly preseason game on Saturday, though the latter team didn’t even need to be present to complete the comedy of errors. San Francisco was bad for most of the game, and while there are many dumb things to focus on, right now we’re going to discuss the running game, led by Carlos Hyde.
Hyde carried the ball eight times, probably high for an unquestioned starter in the second preseason game. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything from him or — more importantly — the offensive linemen blocking for him. They didn’t get any push, there was no creativity to the formations and the offense didn’t ever find a rhythm.
Let’s flip this the other way, and look at it from the Broncos’ perspective. For them, Saturday’s game was a showcase of “marked improvement” in the run defense, as noted by The Denver Post. The Broncos were 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed a season ago, and Saturday’s dominant performance over the 49ers — just 37 yards on 19 team carries — is labeled a bright spot and potential turning point.
On top of all of that, the Broncos didn’t even have most of their starting defense on the field when the 49ers had Hyde and starting offensive linemen on the field. More than two thirds of their starting defense wasn’t on the field, and they held the 49ers to just 25 yards rushing on 10 carries in the first half.
San Francisco’s starters played a large portion of that first half.
Hyde was the most productive runner, and that’s disappointing given he had eight carries for 26 yards, with a long of 7 yards. Kapri Bibbs was second on the team with four carries for 6 yards. Joe Williams had a single carry for a single yard, Tim Hightower had three carries for -1 yards and ... yeah.
It could be argued that the most creative formations and adjustments are being saved for the regular season, and it’s a good argument. But even taking that into account, the 49ers were simply flat when it came to running the football.
Then, you could argue that the running game wasn’t the focus on Saturday, but with 25 pass attempts against 19 rushing attempts, I don’t think that holds water. Sure, Matt Breida didn’t touch the ball and Williams only had a single carry, but it is definitely interesting that the 49ers couldn’t get anything done on the ground.
And speaking of the lack of carries for those guys, is Hyde’s job as the bell-cow that secure? Are the spots behind him not nearly as up for grabs as we thought before? I’m not sure I have the answer to that, but it will be very, very interesting to see how Kyle Shanahan approaches the running game for the third preseason game.