SANTA CLARA -- When Carlos Hyde missed the 49ers' Oct. 23 game against the Buccaneers, the running backs snaps were mostly evenly distributed among backups DuJuan Harris, Shaun Draughn and Mike Davis. Not on Sunday. Harris took the lion's share of the snaps -- both running and passing plays -- in the game. He played 53 of the team's 60 offensive snaps. Davis played eight snaps and fumbled on one of his two carries. Draughn was limited to special teams.
Harris also had a late-game fumble. But he excelled with the ball in his hand, averaging 5.9 yards a carry and more than 16 yards a reception. That is, he appears to have played his way into a larger role, even when Hyde fully recovers from his shoulder sprain.
The defense, which already is one of the most run-down units in the league, played a season-high 87 snaps against the Saints. Antoine Bethea and Jimmie Ward played all 87. The 49ers say they want rookie defensive lineman DeForest Buckner -- who has played more snaps than any other rookie defensive lineman -- to play 80 percent of the snaps per game. Well, he played 77 snaps on Sunday or 89 percent of the total. Buckner finished with two tackles.
Arik Armstead's shoulder flare-up limited him to six snaps. Tony Jerod-Eddie (32 snaps) mostly filled in on base downs while rookie Ronald Blair (24) got into the game in the substitute packages. Their combined contribution on the stat sheet: One tackle by Blair.
At nose tackle, Glenn Dorsey had his busiest outing. He had entered the game with just 64 snaps this season but played 46 against New Orleans and finished tied for third on the team with six tackles. Dorsey's season has been staggered -- play a couple of games, take one off -- as he recovers from last year's ACL surgery. Sunday's outing suggests he is as strong as he's been in a while.
At inside linebacker, Michael Wilhoite was worked into the defensive rotation for 22 snaps. Chip Kelly has said on multiple occasions there are no more moves for the team to make on defense. But Shayne Skov didn't play on defense Sunday and hasn't had any meaningful time there this season. Gerald Hodges led the team with 11 tackles and registered the 49ers’ only sack. Nick Bellore was second with eight tackles.
At receiver Torrey Smith dealt with a back issue for the second straight game and played 45 of 60 snaps. When Smith was out at the end of the game, rookie Aaron Burbridge, not veteran Rod Streater, entered in his place. Burbridge played 15 snaps, Streater played 6. Quinton Patton, who had his finest game in three and a half seasons, played 55 snaps; Jeremy Kerley played 45.
“Really this is the first time it’s shown up for us in a game and it did affect him in his play yesterday,” Chip Kelly said Monday. “That kind of hurt us a little bit losing him as a weapon. It was good that QP and Vance could step up a little bit in the pass game to kind of offset that loss of Torrey. But, not having Torrey at 100-percent changes things a little bit out there.”
The only 49ers who didn't see the field were back-up quarterback Blaine Gabbert and center Marcus Martin. Backup guard Andrew Tiller played on special teams.