The 49ers are preparing for the Cincinnati Bengals without their lead back in Elijah Mitchell. He didn’t practice Thursday and has yet to be cleared from the concussion protocol while also dealing with irritation in his knee. Niners head coach and offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan will have to work his magic with a wounded running back room. Cincinnati's defense has not given up more than 79 rush yards in a game in their last three outings.
49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel was asked how the Bengals’ stout defensive front can affect San Francisco’s rushing attack.
This year, the Bengals have been much better against the run than the pass. You guys obviously like to use the run to open up the passing game. How does that maybe affect your guys' game plan at all?
“They’ve done an outstanding job defending the run. I think they have put in multiple fronts and coverages and their defense plays hard. So you try to go into the game, giving your players the most information and the best information possible. You try to say, ‘Okay, this is what they do,’ and give them tools and the game will play out as it will. If they want to overplay things and overplay the run game, you have to make them pay in the pass game and vice versa. But the biggest thing is that you just get guys to be prepared for who they’re playing against. So they’re not caught off guard in the moment on Sunday, because that’s a little too late. So in terms of preparation, we still have the same amount of runs and passes we typically have in a gameplan. And I think our guys believe that they can run and pass the ball and we’ll try to do both at a high level on Sunday.”
San Francisco’s disheartening loss to the Seattle Seahawks is in the rearview mirror as they gear up and travel to the east coast. The running game has been Shanahan’s bread and butter when the offensive is rolling. Losing Mitchell is a huge blow for a team that already lost their star running back Raheem Mostert for the season. Not to mention, Trey Sermon (third-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft) was placed on injured reserve after the Vikings game.
That leaves JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson Jr., and new addition Brian Hill to carry the load Sunday. Wilson’s surgically repaired knee flared up against Seattle and could be something to monitor going into Sunday’s game. In Wilson’s lone game as the lead back (Week 11 vs. Jags), he was held to a measly 2.63 yards per carry.
Hasty has had limited action this year as he freshly returns from the injured reserve. His poor pass-protection was exploited in the preseason. However, Hasty is an explosive back with good vision that can help gash this Cincinnati’s defense. I’d imagine that Wilson will be the starter Sunday, but Hasy can have a huge hand in helping this offense establish the run.
San Francisco’s backfield will be by committee, and Hill could get a few carries Sunday. The rushing attack does worry me as they could not impose their will on Seattle’s lackluster defense last week. The longest rush of that game was a nine-yard carry by Mitchell. Creating explosive runs helps Shanahan’s play-action passes and makes passing situations less predictable.
With the hobbled running back group, the pressure will continue to be on Jimmy Garoppolo. San Francisco is in do-or-die mode, starting with Garoppolo as his time is ticking as the starting 49er quarterback. However, Garoppolo has another chance to show that he can get the job done to help reshape the Niners’ playoff hopes.
It is no secret that San Francisco’s defense will have to get key stops against this high-powered Cincinnati offense. Losing Emmanuel Moseley already has some Niner fans on edge, but defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is the man with the plan.
Are you worried about San Francisco’s rushing attack heading into Week 14?
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Jimmy Garoppolo can carry the offense