SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers’ running back situation is comprised entirely of new faces.
Kendall Gaskins has been on the practice squad since the beginning of last season, but last week was his first NFL regular-season appearance. Pierre Thomas signed last week after spending eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
And journeyman Shaun Draughn has been with eight teams, but had never established himself with any one team.
On Sunday, Draughn got the start, and Gaskins finished off the 49ers’ 17-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Levi’s Stadium.
“We did this by committee and everybody played well,” Gaskins said.
Draughn gained a career-high 58 rushing yards on 16 attempts. He also caught four passes for 38 yards.
“I really haven’t played offense in a while,” said Draughn, who was mostly a special-teams contributor before the Cleveland Browns recently released him. “It was a bit of an adjustment. When you’re called, that’s part of the job.”
Draughn certainly did not know he would play as many snaps as he did. It was not until pregame warmups that coach Jim Tomsula informed him he would get his first NFL start in his 36th career game. He signed with the 49ers six days earlier.
“Coach walked up to me during pre-games like ‘Oh, you’re starting, by the way,’” Draughn said. “I was like ‘OK, let’s go’. But during the week he said we would play, they would use us, but we just didn’t know how much. I guess they made a decision and went with it.”
Thomas, who has the most extensive NFL resume of anyone on the 49ers’ roster, had four rushing attempts for 12 yards. And when the 49ers needed a first down to be able to run out the clock, they turned to the player with the least amount of NFL experience.
After the two-minute warning, Gaskins got the call and gained eight yards on first down. He followed that up with a three-yard run for a first down, allowing quarterback Blaine Gabbert to twice take a knee to wrap up the victory. Gaskins said he knew the Falcons would be trying to strip the ball, so he was determined to hold on tightly.
“As a football player, that’s one thing you have to know,” Gaskins said. “And my coaches and teammates trusted me to put the ball in my hands, fortunately. And I wanted to make a play and solidify this win, and that’s what we did.
“That was pretty cool to see. Coach (Tom) Rathman and (offensive coordinator) Geep (Chryst) have confidence in me to close out the game. And the O-linemen just encouraged me the whole time. They blocked their behinds off.”
Gaskins finished with 20 yards on seven rushing attempts. He also converted a fourth-and-1 in the first half that led to the 49ers' first touchdown of the game.
The 49ers have been decimated by injuries at the running back position. Reggie Bush is on injured reserve after undergoing season-ending knee surgery. Rookie Mike Davis is out for at least six weeks with a fractured left hand. And Carlos Hyde’s status remains uncertain as he rests a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot.