Raheem Mostert’s emergence over the last three weeks has buoyed a struggling 49ers run game. It’s not the first time he’s flashed as a productive NFL running back, but now he’s leaving the 49ers’ coaching staff no choice but to play him.
With Tevin Coleman struggling and Matt Breida dealing with an injury, Mostert has become an integral part of the rushing attack. He’s responded to the opportunity with 35 carries for 260 yards (7.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, along with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
His three touchdowns have come in each of the last three games, including one against the Ravens when he set career highs in carries (19) and yards (146).
His 29 carries the last two weeks are his most ever in a two-game stretch.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said the touches aren’t going away as long as Mostert keeps producing.
“Raheem’s earned it over these last few weeks,” Shanahan said. “I mean, how many games can you go and how many years can you go averaging six yards a carry, somewhere in there? I mean, we keep trying to balance it out and stuff, but what Raheem has done these last few weeks and has continued to do, we need to give him more opportunities. He’s given us no choice. I’m happy for him and it’s been great. He’s been extremely impressive.”
Mostert is averaging 6.0 yards per carry on 102 attempts. Only 27 players have ever averaged 6 yards per carry on 100-plus rushes over the course of a season, and 11 of them were quarterbacks.
This is proving to be more the norm than a flash in the pan for the former undrafted free agent. His numbers in three seasons have been eye-popping despite inconsistent work.
Since Shanahan arrived in 2017, Mostert has 899 yards and five touchdowns . on 142 attempts. That’s good for 6.3 yards per carry. Only five other players have ever done that in their careers: Michael Vick, Tavon Austin, Bobby Douglass, Randall Cunningham and Percy Harvin. Mostert is the only running back in that group.
Shanahan said part of the reason for Mostert’s success is his speed, and teams’ inability to adjust to it:
“Well, he’s faster than most people and I think sometimes it’s a little bit deceptive,” Shanahan said. “I mean, you see guys who have an angle on him and all of a sudden, they just don’t. I don’t know if they don’t know that he’s that fast, because our other guys are fast too. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but when you do it week in and week out, I mean, it’s time for people to notice. I mean, he’s been pretty damn good and he needs some more opportunities because he’s making the best of it.”
Mostert didn’t enter the season with a big role on offense, but he’s played his way into one just in time for the most important stretch of the year.