Carlos Hyde launches post-Frank Gore era with 168 yards, 2 TDs

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Carlos Hyde went to his right, saw traffic and then the San Francisco 49ers' second-year running back instinctively hit the "B" button.

This wasn't a video game, but you get the drift, especially if you saw Hyde's old Ohio State teammate Braxton Miller pull a similar Madden-like spin move in traffic against Virginia Tech.

Hyde spun on a dime, was suddenly going left and saw nothing but open field as he dived into the end zone untouched for a 10-yard touchdown. It might have been the most spectacular run of Hyde's night, but it was his workmanlike performance as Frank Gore's replacement that spurred the Niners to a 20-3 season opening victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.

"Ninety-nine's hips are pretty stiff ... I got a move for him," Hyde said. "That spin move killed him."

Already setting a career high in rushing yards by halftime, Hyde finished with 168 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns (his best as a rookie was the 55-yard effort he had at the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 14).

It was the second-most rushing yards by a 49ers running back in a season opener, behind Garrison Hearst's 187 yards in 1998. Carlos Hyde finished with 77 rush yards after contact, the most for any player in Week 1 this season.

He outshone three-time All-Pro and former league MVP Adrian Peterson, who was playing in his first game since last season's opener and who had just 31 yards on 10 carries.

“Carlos did an outstanding job of running the football,” said Niners rookie coach Jim Tomsula. “But it’s a team effort.”

Hyde was indeed needed as the Niners' bell cow after backup running back Reggie Bush was lost after two carries with an injured left calf. With rookie Mike Davis inactive, the only other running back at the Niners' disposal was Australian rugby league convert Jarryd Hayne.

Hayne, who fumbled away his first-ever NFL touch on a muffed punt and misjudged another, was not a liability as a running back, either. He had four carries for 13 yards.

The threat of a running game allowed quarterback Colin Kaepernick to appear more comfortable in the pocket, a must against the teams in the NFC West with more stout run defenses.

“He comes with that energy and enthusiasm that you want in a running back,” Niners center Marcus Martin said of Hyde. “He motivates the offensive line.”

And Hyde, running behind the Niners’ new zone-blocking scheme, found motivation in a familiar place.

“It felt like I was back at Ohio State,” he said.