• Robert Moore

From the Depths: Breaking Down Elijah Mitchells Historic Game

Image Credit: 49ers

“Any Given Sunday” is a classic Oliver Stone movie starring Al Pacino as the Miami Sharks’ head coach, and Jamie Foxx as Willie Beamen, the Sharks’ third-string quarterback who is thrust into game action only to have a meteoric rise to stardom. The title of that movie perfectly summarizes the game of football and that anything can happen on any given Sunday. If you don’t believe that, ask Elijah Mitchell, who most of us thought would be at best third or fourth on the depth chart Week 1 versus the Detroit Lions. Third-round pick Trey Sermon was projected as the number-two running back throughout training camp and it came as a big shock to most upon hearing the news Sunday morning that Sermon would be a healthy scratch for the game. Little did we know that the Elijah Mitchell had outperformed Sermon throughout training camp to the point where head coach Kyle Shanahan trusted him enough to be the number-two running back for Week 1. That trust paid off in a big way after Mitchell turned in what ended up being a historic performance:

There has never been a Day 3 running back who has run for over 100 yards in a season opener. The likelihood of Mitchell becoming the first was low considering the 49ers’ starting running back was Raheem Mostert. Unfortunately, Mostert suffered a knee injury, thrusting Mitchell into heavy game action. Mitchell turned in many impressive runs on the day, including this 38-yard touchdown run:

One of the most noteworthy aspects of Mitchell’s performance were his yards after contact:

Under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers have often been noted as a team that excels in yards after contact and Mitchell appears to fit in just fine. Mitchell logged the second-most yards after contact (3.84) of any running back in Week 1, also adding six missed tackles and 73 of his 104 rushing yards being after contact.

Mitchell also showed the ability to find and squeeze through holes:

Another aspect of the game was that Mitchell appears to consistently fall forward and gain a few extra yards at the end of each play, as you can see from this clip:

Football is a game of inches and when you have a back who can consistently fall forward and gain an extra yard or two, it can be the difference between getting first downs and bringing in your special teams.

From being a surprise draft pick in the sixth round, to the surprise number-two running back on the depth chart, to the surprise Week 1 historic leading rusher for the 49ers, to the hottest Week 1 waiver wire add in your fantasy football leagues, Elijah Michell appears to have arrived and will be up to him to continue to capitalize and make sure that he is here to stay. He will get his opportunity to expand on that performance in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles and show that it was not just a fluke against a team like the Detroit Lions. If Mitchell can put together another solid showing, his future will be bright.

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