Leading up to the 2017 season there were many questions as to which of the Forty-Niners’ running backs would emerge as the Dr. Jekyl to Mr. Hyde and provide the two-headed monster backfield tandem coach Kyle Shanahan deployed while being the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.
Little did Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner know that when they drafted running back Joe Williams in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL draft, who was seen to be the ideal candidate, that undrafted running back Matt Breida would turn out to be that guy. From day one of training camp, Matt Breida, who signed for three-years at $1.6 million (per OvertheCap.com) began to assert himself and put the coaching staff on notice. Although Williams was clearly not in shape and eventually relegated to season-ending IR, before the start of the season, he was clearly outplayed by Breida who went on to solidify the number two spot late in the preseason.
Looking back on Matt Breida’s Impact on the 49ers Running Attack
As the 2017 season unfolded, it was clear that the 5’11”, 190-pound underdog out of Georgia Southern University needed more touches and opportunities to showcase his talent. In week five against the Indianapolis Colts, Breida had his first breakout game accounting for 49 yards on 10 carries to go along with three receptions for 22 yards combining superb catching ability with his shifty running style.
“I’m a guy who is going to get the job done. I’m not selfish. I’ll play anywhere on the field – special teams, fullback, wide receiver, etc.” (Breida said via the team’s website). “I’m a speed runner, but I also like to run physical. I pride myself in 3rd-and-1 situations when the game is on the line and we’ve got to get the first down.”
Important to note: Breida, on the season, was responsible for 22 rushing first downs and nine pass-catching first downs giving him a combined total of 30 which was good for third on the team behind only Carlos Hyde’s 61 and Marquise Goodwin’s 49 (via ESPN.com).
In week 10, however, Breida finally got the opportunity he needed to showcase his big play ability slicing through the New York Giants defense on a TD run that solidified the Forty-Niners first win of the season.
In week 16 against the Jacksonville Jaguars he again stood out with an impressive performance accounting for 74 yards on 11 carries, putting the game on ice with a 30-yard touchdown scamper. He then took that momentum into week 17 against the Los Angeles Rams amassing 72 yards on 12 carries as he led the rushing charge for a Forty-Niner offense that had suddenly found new life.
2017 stats at a glance: Despite carrying the ball just 105 times, Breida ran for 465 yards and two touchdowns for a 4.4 yard per carry average while reeling in 21 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Pro Football Focus Grade: Breida finished the season as PFF’s 38th-ranked running back with an overall grade of 73.1 (via the team’s website). It’s also important to point out that in four of the last five games of the season, Breida carried the ball at least 11 times, which all turned out to be wins for the Forty-Niners.
It’s how you start and how you finish
It was clear in 2017 that Matt was a new breed-of-runner with a chip on his shoulder and will look forward to being one of the staples in coach Shanahan’s offense going into the immediate future. Breida was able to make the most of his opportunities this season and should look forward to proving that he has the potential to breakout in 2018.
What kind of impact will Breida have next season? Get your popcorn ready and stay tuned to Niners Live for part two of this series, because we’re just getting warmed up.
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course. Often imitated, but never duplicated.
All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Content Creator, Editor Sequoia Sims.