SANTA CLARA — Call it the Magic 40, and it has helped turn around a 49ers season that appeared to be on the rocks three weeks ago.
Coach Kyle Shanahan set an ambitious goal of 40 rushing plays in Week 10 against the Los Angeles Rams, and his offense came through with 44 rushes for 156 yards in a 31-10 win.
The 49ers followed that up with a 42-carry, 171-yard effort in beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-10 to even their record at 5-5.
Next up are the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, who know what it’s like to be on the other end of a full-on ground and pound, having lost to the 49ers 27-10 in the first round of the playoffs following the 2019 season and absorbing 47 rushes for 186 yards.
Shanahan covets 40 carries for good reason. In his 15th season as a play-caller, Shanahan has reached or exceeded 40 rushes 18 times. He was the offensive coordinator in Houston (2008-09), Washington (2010-13), Cleveland (2014) and Atlanta (2015-16). He’s called the plays for the 49ers as head coach since 2017.
Including the postseason, that’s a span of 224 games. Shanahan’s record in games with 40 or more rushes is 18-0.
If it were as easy and putting 40 running plays on his call sheet, Shanahan would do it every week. A lot of things have to go right to get to 40.
“Forty entails the whole team,” Shanahan said. “The defense has to play that way, the offense has to play that way and the special teams.”
Against the Rams and Jaguars, it’s not as if the 49ers have been overly explosive, gaining 337 yards on 86 carries and averaging 3.9 yards per attempt. But setting the tone early with opening scoring drives of 18 plays for 93 yards against the Rams and 20 plays for 87 yards against the Jaguars got the 49ers off to a good start while the other two phases did their job and enabled Shanahan to keep calling rushing plays.
“It’s not like we’re just gashing people in the run game,” Shanahan said. “We’re finding a way to stay out there. Our defense has been stopping guys at a higher level and we’ve gotten turnovers on special teams and defense.”
A deep dive into the 18 times Shanahan has called 40 or more runs in a game speaks to all the good things that come with that kind of persistence:
— Shanahan’s offenses have gained 3,483 yards on 761 carries, averaging 42.3 carries and 193.5 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt.
The most carries in a game were 52 (for 170) yards for Cleveland in a 24-3 win by the Browns on Nov. 6, 2014. The most yards were 285 (on 42 carries) by the 49ers in a 37-20 win over Green Bay in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 19, 2020. The fewest was 99 yards (on 41 carries) for the 49ers on Oct. 13, 2019 in a 20-7 win over the Rams.
— The 18 games have featured 12 different backs as the lead rusher …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment