Every week, the San Francisco 49ers seem to regress at stopping the run.
The team is allowing an insane average of 193 rushing yards per game, which is 46.6 more than the 31st-best run defense — the winless Cleveland Browns.
In Week 9, coming off a bye, the Niners surrendered 248 yards on the ground to the New Orleans Saints, a team that typically runs the ball as an afterthought.
Now the 49ers travel to the desert for a game against the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday. The Cards are just outside of the top-10 when it comes to running yards per game and they have David Johnson, the fourth-leading rusher in the league.
“I think he’s got a unique presence,” Niners head coach Chip Kelly said Wednesday. “You don’t see a guy with that size that has that athletic ability. … I think he has the ability to run inside the tackles because of his size, but he also has the ability, speed and athleticism to get to the perimeter.”
Basically, he’s a better version of Mark Ingram, who torched the 49ers for 158 yards on just 15 carries.
What that means: If Bruce Arians, a solid coach who is coming off an extra week of preparation, chooses to consolidate his approach by giving Johnson around 30 carries — which is perfectly reasonable — we could see Adrian Peterson’s single-game record for most rushing yards shattered. All Johnson would need is a measly 297 yards.
Johnson logged 157 yards in the teams’ first matchup earlier this year. But that was before the wheels completely came off for the Niners’ front seven and was in a Thursday night game, which are plagued by less time to prepare.
I think Arizona will be leading by too much to risk injury to its featured running back to allow him to approach the record. But if 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick can keep his team in the game — a tough ask — Johnson should be primed for a day unlike many before him.
And maybe that would be a development that would make the Niners worth watching. Because if you squint hard enough, Faithful, Johnson will look a little like Frank Gore in his prime.
There’s just something about going back to 2012 that seems so palatable right about now.