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Coming Back To Run (two the power of 2)
January 11 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Heading into the season the 49ers knew one thing for certain about their run game - it would be done by committee unlike in years past. Thatís right, with so many talented running backs on the squad, mainly Garrison Hearst, Kevan Barlow, Fred Beasley and Terry Jackson (not to mention Paul Smith and the injured Jonas Lewis), Mariucci figured that he would have to use all of them to replace Charlie Garner. It seemed to make sense after all. To have a featured back with so much talent and so many questions about health and experience simply wouldnít make sense.

Mariucci seemed to be right. Together, the group, rushed for 1956 yards on 498 carries an average of just under four yards a carry. While four yards a carry isnít impressive for a stand alone running back, once fullbacks are thrown into the mix, itís a rather amazing accomplishment. But as the season emerged, it was clear that Garrison Hearst was all the way back from his Ďcareer endingí injuries, and that the 49ers had someone special in Kevan Barlow.

The two lead the 49ers rushers, still operating out of a committee, headed by Hearst. And contrary to what most running backs have experienced in the past, the committee seemed to benefit the two backs. So much so that Garrison Hearst ran for over 1200 yards this season, was nominated to the Pro Bowl and was most recently given his unprecedented second Comeback Player Of The Year award. Hearst is the second 49er to win the award (Bryant Young won after returning to the NFL with a titanium rod implanted in his leg -interestingly, the 49ers are the only NFL team to have to winners of the award), but Hearst is the first player to ever with the award twice. Hearst acknowledges that if it werenít for the rest of the team, his success would never have come.

Perhaps that is gratification enough for the rookie Barlow that was able to keep Hearstís legs fresh so far this season. The two were an incredible change of pace of one another, and worked selflessly to get the 49ers into winning positions. It was the run game this season that played a huge role in racking up the twelve wins and playoff birth. And it was Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow following the blocks of Fred Beasley and the offensive line that headed up the run game.

It will be crucial for the 49ers to be able to run again the their Wildcard opponent, the Green Bay Packers. However it seems logical that the 49ers may look to the pass to help open up the run, as the Packers are likely to focus on shutting down the run. Everything Hearst and the 49ers running backs have accomplished this season would mean so much more if they could win in the playoffs.

Talk about it in the 49ers Paradise Forum

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