Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Raiders matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at O.co Coliseum.
49ers ILB Chris Borland vs. Raiders RB Latavius Murray
Tale of the tape:
Borland (50): 5-foot-11, 248 pounds, rookie season, Wisconsin
Murray (28): 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, second season, Central Florida
Raiders fans don’t know much about running back Latavius Murray. He has just 14 professional carries in getting drafted in 2013. They know he’s long, lean and incredibly fast. His acceleration is impressive.
He showcased that on national television, when he had 112 yards and two touchdowns on four carries against the Kansas City Chiefs before suffering a concussion. Murray certainly hopes not.
“I’m ready to show I can handle a workload of carries, so there’s no pressure for me at all,” Murray said. “I know what I’m capable of and so however many carries I get or however many plays I get, I just have to make sure I go in there and perfect them.”
He should get 15-18 touches if all goes well. If Murray can find open space, big plays are coming.
“You can see his speed,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Once he got through the line (on a 90-yard touchdown versus Kansas City), there was nobody that was going to catch him. He runs powerful for a guy with his size and speed, so, he’s a legitimate running back.”
While Murray remains an unknown commodity, the 49ers know they have something special in inside linebacker Chris Borland. The rookie third-round pick has been exceptional, tallying tackles at an alarming rate. The reigning NFC defensive player of the month has 80 tackles since joining the starting lineup in Week 7, and has kept the interior defense strong without Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman.
Borland will be chiefly responsible to keeping Murray corralled in a pivotal matchup from the Raiders perspective. They haven’t been able to run well without Murray. When he and Marcel Reece ran the ball well, quarterback Derek Carr was able to play free and move the offense downfield.
Getting past Borland is no easy task.
“He’s a physical player who gets downhill fast,” Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “Some of the collisions I’ve seen on film with him and fullbacks have been unbelievable. And then he’s a guy that’s hard because he’s an inside linebacker and they have the edge rushers that they have, so you can get him matched up on a back in protection.
He’s a guy that gets in there, he can go to power on you but he can also spin. He’s got some pretty good moves in there, so I really think this guy is a good football player. I haven’t had a chance prior to this to watch a lot of 49er film, but that guy jumps off the film when you turn it on.”