The San Francisco 49ers may be in first place in the NFC West, but their injury bug hasn’t gone away, and their three-game winning streak hasn’t reversed the bad luck they’ve had with injuries.
In Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints, running back Elijah Mitchell injured his knee, again, spraining the MCL in his left knee.
This injury will keep him out for several weeks, putting him on the shelf again after he sprained his right MCL in Week 1.
But that’s not the end of the bad news for San Francisco, as their other main threat at tailback, Christian McCaffrey, has a knee ailment that is bothering him.
#49ers hoped to avoid a long-term knee injury with Elijah Mitchell. They didn't. Mitchell is expected to miss 6-8 week, per Kyle Shanahan. Meanwhile, the 49ers will manage Christian McCaffrey's "knee irritation" during the week.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) November 28, 2022
McCaffrey Has Been A Huge Boon For San Francisco
When Mitchell was out from Week 2 to Week 9, the 49ers’ lack of depth and production at running back was profound, and it likely blunted their passing attack as well.
Their main tailback during that span was Jeff Wilson Jr., and although he averaged 5.1 yards per carry with San Francisco this season, he just wasn’t a real threat to explode for big, game-changing runs.
That was a big reason the team went out and traded for McCaffrey a few weeks ago.
He has given the 49ers not just a running back who opposing coaches have to worry about on the ground, but in the air as well, since he is one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL.
This play is a perfect encapsulation of what Christian McCaffrey brings to this offense.
Jimmy Garoppolo under heavy duress, nowhere to go and 23's standing wide open in front of the quarterback.
9 yard gain, keep the chains moving. Garoppolo does take a *huge* shot. pic.twitter.com/OOybsYKQlG
— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) November 28, 2022
Just three seasons ago, he posted 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, plus 1,005 yards as a receiver, making him just the third player in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
If McCaffrey is unable to play on Sunday when the 49ers host the Miami Dolphins, they will likely struggle to put points on the board, especially considering the Dolphins have one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Xavien Howard.