The San Francisco 49ers upset of the Seattle Seahawks happened in spite of a rough start for running back Jeff Wilson. He fumbled his first handoff after a 14-yard gain, dropped an easy screen pass, and then drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a seven-yard run when he tossed a ball at a Seahawks defender. The three plays nearly cost the 49ers the game, but he got a chance to redeem himself with a solid closing drive in overtime.
Wilson likely would not have seen the field in overtime, but starter Matt Breida aggravated his ankle injury on his third run of the extra period. Breida sat out last week with the injury, but got a serious workload in his return against the Seahawks. On his final play, Seahawks DT Poona Ford blew him up for a five yard loss to set up a 2nd and 15. The 49ers converted on the next play when Shaquill Griffin was flagged for defensive pass interference against Dante Pettis.
With a 1st and 10 at the Seahawks 41, they ran the ball the rest of the way. Wilson came on for Breida and rushed three times for 23 yards to set up the 36-yard game-winning field goal.
After the game, Kyle Shanahan was asked about the confidence he had in Wilson for that final drive. Shanahan made it clear it was less about confidence and more about having no other choice.
“It was tough, especially how it’s gone since he’s been in and what happened today, but [RB Matt] Breida went out on that last drive, so you don’t have much of a choice with it and now that he went in and the way he finished running and the fact that he did hold on to the ball, it was great to him. When he started off that fumble early, then dropped a screen pass, we were going to keep Breida in as much as possible. Then Jeff went in at the end because Breida got hurt and it was awesome the way it ended because now that should give him some confidence and make him ready to get out next week.”
A UDFA running back has very few chances in the NFL. The 49ers are not going to cut Wilson, but his hands could be the reason he does not remain in the NFL. He’s an incredibly physical runner who has shown solid work out of the backfield. And yet, if he can’t hold onto the ball, he could easily lose to Raheem Mostert in next year’s camp battle for a spot behind Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida.
That being said, it was good to see him bounce back in that final drive. Breida’s ankle is going to be a problem the rest of the season, so Wilson is likely to see more opportunities. It will be interesting to see if Alfred Morris ends up active over Wilson once more before the end of the season, but if not, Wilson has two more games to build some more momentum for next offseason.