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Why did the 49ers not run the ball against the Cardinals?

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Carlos Hyde has been the best player on the 49ers roster this year, but it’s been difficult for the team to commit to the run game as they’ve been trailing for most of the season. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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SANTA CLARA — The 49ers lead the league by averaging 40.7 attempts a game. CJ Beathard attempted 51 on Sunday.

With the second-worst collective quarterback rating in the NFL, the question begs to be asked: Why does head coach Kyle Shanahan insist on throwing it so much?

“Yeah, if you would have told me after the game that we were in the 50s compared to 17s, I would say how much did we get killed by?” he said on Monday. “That’s definitely not the goal going in. We want to be balanced always is our goal, especially in a situation that we were in.”

The odd thing about the playcalling on Sunday, when they lost to the Arizona Cardinals 20-10, is that the Niners weren’t out of the game until the fourth quarter.

Shanahan had some explaining to do.

He said the numbers were skewed. First, it was unusual for the 49ers to have four two-minute drives — one at the end of the first half and three toward the end of the game. Also, since they went three-and-out on their first two drives of the game, it took away opportunities to run. And, you see, they had to throw it on every down during the fourth quarter.

“But, those were some of our longer drives,” he maintained.

Shanahan then said that he was told that the 49ers have led for just six plays this season. He said he wasn’t sure if it was a true statistic (it isn’t) and that it was hard to believe (rightfully so), but that it explains why the offense had lost its balance.

“I want us to win a game however we can do that. The way we’ve been doing it hasn’t been working,” he said. “Hopefully we can find a game that we can get out to some early leads and protect that a little bit more.”

Meanwhile, running back Carlos Hyde has been the best player on the team all season. Due to the fact that Hyde has run the ball more than 16 times in a game once this season, he’s fallen off pace for his first 1,000-yard season. But, he has impressed as a pass catcher. On Sunday, he led the team in targets (11), receptions (9) and yards (84).

“He did some good stuff for us in the run game, did some very good stuff in the pass game,” Shanahan said. “I think he was probably our best player in both of those two facets.”

With the lowly New York Giants (1-7) next on the schedule, soon enough the 49ers will have a chance to prove their intentions to establish a run game are real.

Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

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