The San Francisco 49ers offense was nothing short of spectacular at times against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. In what turned out to be a 28-17 victory, the 49ers were able to terrorize the Cowboys through the air and on the ground.
A staple of any Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman offense has been an unwavering commitment to run the football and wear down defenses. Longtime veteran Frank Gore has been the catalyst of this approach since Harbaugh walked in the door prior to the 2011 season. But with Gore now being 31 years of age, general manager Trent Baalke understood that finding his heir apparent was critical.
That man is a 6'0", 232-pound rookie tailback named Carlos Hyde. Hyde's regular-season NFL debut was proof that Baalke made the right decision selecting the former Ohio State Buckeye in the second round of the 2014 draft.
Spelling Gore, Hyde ran with a purpose. Picking up 50 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries, we got to see why this coaching staff loves this young man. He's a devastating runner at heart. Whenever Hyde touched the ball, he exploded through Dallas' run defense like he was shot out of a cannon.
Chris Trapasso of NFL.com tweeted that Hyde reminds him of a young Gore.
The comparison is fair, and perhaps that's one reason he was the man chosen to supplant the great Gore. Back in July, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com wrote that Coach Harbaugh himself compared Hyde to Gore:
"Coach Jim Harbaugh does not like to make comparisons. He often says someone gets diminished when two players are compared and contrasted. But, in this instance Harbaugh, made an exception. He praised running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde in similar terms."
Watching Hyde thrive at the same time that Gore's burst and production has begun to taper off is bittersweet. Gore is not only the all-time leading rusher in club history, but he's without question the most dominant runner this franchise has ever seen.
A continuance of the power running game that has built this 49ers offense will run through Hyde sooner than later. Watching both men play against Dallas, it was obvious who the more effective back was. Hyde's average of 7.1 yards per carry far outweighed Gore's 4.1. Outside of a nice 20-yard scamper by Gore, all of the "wow" moments were provided on the 22-year-old's dime.
Like Gore, Hyde has the pleasure of running behind a physical offensive line—a line that helped the team finish with the third-best rushing attack in the NFL last season.
The 49ers have the luxury of a group of backs with varying skill sets. LaMichael James comes from a Chip Kelly offense while Hyde makes his living in between the tackles, beating up defenders in the trenches.
Then, of course, there's Gore. The leader of this talented running back corps still has the footwork and vision to contribute. Standing at the lectern in his postgame press conference, Gore made it clear that he's still confident in his abilities, via NinersNation.com.
Despite the emergence of Hyde, it's not fair or accurate to completely write off Gore at this early stage of the season. The man just surpassed the 10,000-yard rushing mark for his career and, as we touched on earlier, danced his way to a nice 20-yard gain when he found a crease.
Gore's usage this season could come down to the creative mind of Coach Roman. With Hyde having the ability to break down defenders in the trenches, Roman could still count on Gore's elite vision during goal-line and short-yardage situations.
The key is going to be finding ways to keep him fresh for all 17 weeks. The good news is that Hyde's commanding debut should make that mantra an easier of a pill to swallow for Harbaugh and his staff.
Against the Cowboys, Gore had 16 carries to Hyde's seven. The further we venture into the 2014 season those numbers should start to even out—especially if Hyde continues to torment opposing defenses.
Having Hyde on the roster just makes life easier for this football team. He's a commodity that will make this entire offense perform better. Combine that with the veteran leadership and talent of Gore and what you get is one of the most talented running back duos in the NFL. A duo that is more than capable to win those laborious games in the month of December.