Can Raheem Mostert Continue His Surge Against Chiefs?
After putting up 232 rushing yards against Carolina in week eight, the 49ers hit a slump. The NFC’s best rushing attack put up three straight games of under 110 team rushing yards, capped off with a dismal 34 yards in week 11 against Arizona.
A 112-yard gashing of Green Bay week 12 broke the slump. That late-game beating set the blueprint for what they would ride throughout the postseason. They were going to demoralize their opponents with a dominant run-game.
It wasn’t going to be Matt Breida or Tevin Coleman, but rather backup running back and special teams player Raheem Mostert leading the charge.
Over their last eight games, the 49ers averaged 160.75 yards a game and Mostert was the leading rusher seven times. The former depth-piece opened a lot of eyes with his two-touchdown performance against Seattle week 17.
Eyes once again seemed to shut on Mostert after a first-round bye and a complementary role against Minnesota. But in the NFC Championship Game, Mostert made sure no one would sleep on him again.
The running back rushed for the second most yards in NFL playoff history (220) while scoring four rushing touchdowns. His speed and vision absolutely devastated the Green Bay defense. There was rarely a time on his 29 carries where Mostert didn’t produce a positive play.
As head coach Kyle Shanahan said postgame, San Francisco continued running the ball because it worked. The longtime special teamer rewarded his coach’s good faith.
Although a poor performance on Super Bowl Sunday against the Chiefs would not change the fact that Mostert has completely flipped the script of his NFL career. I t would go a long way toward immortalizing him in Bay Area lore.
Mostert might not need to break any records on Sunday, but the 49ers will need him to continue his resilient, electrifying running style.
Standing in Mostert’s way will be the NFL’s 26th-ranked run defense. In the regular season, Kansas City allowed 128.2 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. The Chiefs have turned it around in the postseason, however, allowing 94 and 85 rushing yards in their two playoff wins, including a shutdown performance against the NFL’s leading rusher Derrick Henry.
As great of a surge that Mostert has been on lately, the defense of the Chiefs has started a surge of their own. They are peaking at the right moment, which bodes well for them to contain Mostert.
Some of their success against the run can and should be attributed to their prolific offense which forces opposing teams to keep up, but their postseason success cannot be denied.
In the AFC Championship, the Chiefs eliminated any catastrophic long runs by Henry and forced Ryan Tannehill to beat them. Their defensive game plan will likely look fairly similar in the Super Bowl given how poorly Green Bay and Minnesota’s approaches failed.
There is a major difference in how the Titans and 49ers operate their run-games, however. While Henry is a bruiser that will punish would-be tacklers, Mostert is elusive and speeds past defenders. Against Tennessee, the Chiefs had to surround Henry and gang-tackle him, against Mostert, they will have to try and keep up.
Mostert is not your prototypical running back. He has also never really been thought of as the focal point of the offense. That will change Sunday. The Chiefs could choose what Minnesota and Green Bay didn’t, by selling out on the run and forcing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to throw.
Regardless of how the Chiefs play Mostert, expect him to run with the same energy he’s shown all season.