A year ago, the 49ers were a brick wall for opposing running backs. Not only was there nowhere to run, a large number of ball carriers -- Felix Jones, Montario Hardesty, Jahvid Best, Pierre Thomas, to name a few -- had to be helped off the field and never returned.
This year? The wall has crumbled a bit. Running backs in three of the last four games have broken 100 yards, a sacred barrier a year ago that only one tailback, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, achieved. Lynch's 100-yard game also had an asterisk. He did it in a game in which linebacker Patrick Willis missed with a hamstring injury.
A year ago, teams averaged 77.3 yards a game on the ground against San Francisco. That was easily the best yards-against average in the league. This year, it's 95.3 yards a game, which is still good for seventh overall, but nearly 20 yards a game more than last year. The 49ers already have allowed three rushing touchdowns, the same number they gave up in 18 contests last year.
In 2011, opponents gave up on running against the 49ers. That wasn't the case Sunday. Steven Jackson carried the ball 29 times alone as the Rams held the ball nearly seven minutes more than the 49ers. The last time Jackson has carried the ball more than 29 times: Dec. 28, 2008.
He finished with 101 yards Sunday, so his average was still rather pedestrian -- 3.5 yards a carry. Still, one of the factors in his success was that his offensive linemen were constantly breaking through to the second level of the 49ers defense where they could take on linebackers Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Bowman finished with a game-high 13 stops, but many were several yards downfield. He had one tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Meanwhile, the 49ers on Monday face a Chicago team that ranks ninth overall in rushing and likely will be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler.
© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.
Read more articles by Matthew Barrows
What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com
Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)
Here are some rules of the road:
Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.
Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.
Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.
Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.
Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.
Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.
Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.
Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.
Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.
You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.
If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.