The San Francisco 49ers were supposed to be awful this season, but apparently they didn’t get the memo. The Niners pounded the Minnesota Vikings to a 20-3 pulp on Monday Night Football, allowing just 248 yards of total offense.
But it wasn’t the defense that was most impressive in Jim Tomsula’s first game as Niners head coach. No, it was something else – or better yet, someone else.
“Without question it was Carlos Hyde’s running and how well he fits this new scheme,” Bay Area News Group 49ers writer Cam Inman said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They brought in a zone-blocking scheme, and it allows Hyde to be patient as a runner and kind of pick a lane he wants to go and charge through. They started off really sloppy. The game wasn’t a pretty game after that first quarter. That spin move seemed to change everything. It got the 49ers on the scoreboard obviously, but it just kind of set the tone: Watch out. This guy’s going to be running hard.”
Hyde ran 26 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns, one of which came after a Braxton Miller-like spin move that gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead late in the first half.
Yes, if last night was any indication, the Niners have found their tailback for the foreseeable future.
“He backed up Frank Gore last year, and Frank’s really highly regarded here,” Inman said. “He’s the 49ers all-time leading rusher. Hyde just waited his turn and he went nuts tonight. It was really his coming-out party.”
Of course, the same could be said for the offensive line, which opened up holes for Hyde and was solid in pass protection all night.
For Inman, this was surprising.
“They looked terrible throughout the offseason and early in training camp,” he said. “But they changed the line around a lot, and these guys really played well within that scheme. The way they moved Colin Kaepernick around too to keep him from getting sacked – he only got sacked once, but he scrambled seven times so it’s not like it’s a lockdown unit by any means. But there’s signs that this line is going to open up holes for Carlos Hyde. The 49ers want to be a run-oriented team.”
That’s fine with Kaepernick, who was 17-of-26 for 165 yards and ran seven times for 41 yards. He had an inaccurate pass here and there, but overall, he looked comfortable running the offense – which is all the 49ers want out of him.
“They don’t have to rely on him to win games,” Inman said. “They don’t want him to be the 40-pass-attempts guy. It’s not that they’re necessarily concerned about his accuracy, but they just want to run the ball more. Everybody sees it. When he runs the ball, he can be electric. Those long legs, he gets in open space, but you make yourself susceptible to getting hit out there. He got slammed hard early in that game in the first quarter right in front of the 49ers sideline, but he’s a big guy. We’re not talking about a little wimpy quarterback here. He just took that hit and got back up. I mean, we all like seeing him run. All the NFL experts and everybody says, ‘You can’t do that. That’s not how you succeed.’ And that’s probably true, but he’s a unique quarterback and he doesn’t want people to say he can’t do that. But he’s also not stubborn where he’s going to go out and do it just on his own.”