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Niners’ split backfield loses luster

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Posted Dec. 06, 2010 @ 12:39 p.m. ET
By Michael Blunda

As the lone replacement for the injured Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook would have had serious value. But as part of a tandem, he's suddenly not so appealing.

Westbrook, who looked like a must-add after running for a shocking 136 yards and a TD on 23 carries in Week 12, was stuck splitting carries Sunday at Green Bay. The results weren't promising, as he had just 31 yards on nine attempts. His backfield mate, rookie Anthony Dixon, had an equally uninspiring 9-33-0.

While San Fran should be better than this on the ground most weeks, this team simply doesn't have an effective enough offense to sustain two successful backs, especially ones with far from elite talent. For two rushers to both have value on the same club, it usually has to be a good team that is often playing with the lead. For example, two 8-4 squad, the Chiefs and Giants, have enjoyed success with split backfields because they have quality offensive lines and run the ball frequently. The 49ers are not in a position to do that, as they are playing from behind in most contests.

Owners in need of backfield help can take a chance on Westbrook or Dixon, but neither one has star potential unless the other gets hurt. Given Westbrook's injury history and the fact that he already is banged up, though, that's very possible. It certainly gives Dixon some appeal in the final month, when the Niners play all three NFC "Worst" foes.

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