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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

49ers-Panthers: RB Tevin Coleman proves ‘he still has it’ with big performance

Oct 9, 2022 at 6:22 PM--

Three weeks ago, no one would have expected running back Tevin Coleman to be making game-changing plays with the San Francisco 49ers this season. But that's exactly what he was able to do after getting the opportunity against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Coleman was without a team to start the season after being released by the New York Jets in August but joined the 49ers on September 21 as a member of the practice squad. He saw his first significant action of the season in Sunday's 37-15 win over the Panthers after being elevated from the practice squad before their Week 4 game against the Los Angeles Rams, rushing eight times for 23 yards and a touchdown while catching three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. The game served as a reminder that the 29-year-old Coleman can still make a difference if given the chance.

"It felt real good," Coleman said after the win. "It felt so good, just going out there and getting touches and proving that I still have it."

Coleman scored the first touchdown of the game for the 49ers against the Panthers on a 9-yard pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, then scored again on the last touchdown of the game when he ran in from five yards out late in the fourth quarter. But the play that had everyone talking during and after the game was a 30-yard catch he made on a 3rd-and-4 late in the first quarter that set up a field goal to give the 49ers a 10-0 lead.

Garoppolo was under pressure on the play and heaved up a pass towards the sidelines, where Coleman was being covered by cornerback Myles Hartsfield. Coleman jumped up above Hartsfield and made the catch, then landed with both feet in bounds to keep the drive alive.

The play was one the 49ers had worked on throughout the week, so Coleman was ready when the time came to run it on gameday.

"It was a catch I was doing all week in practice," Coleman said. "In practice, Jimmy didn't it throw it to me when he was supposed to. So he was like, 'In the game we're going to get it.' So I was just ready for that play and I knew he was going to throw it."

Coleman revealed that Garoppolo actually wasn't supposed to throw it in his direction with a cornerback in coverage but he did it anyway, showing faith in Coleman's ability to make the play.

"He trusted me, so that was good," Coleman said.

The catch might have been the biggest highlight in what was a memorable day for Coleman, who ran for 597 yards and six touchdowns while catching 25 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown during his first stint with the 49ers in 2019 and 2020 before rushing for 356 yards in 11 games with the Jets in 2021. Coming back to the 49ers in 2022 wasn't originally in his plans, but when the 49ers came calling in September after injuries to Elijah Mitchell and rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, he was more than happy to make the trip from his home in Atlanta back to the Bay Area for one more go-round.

"I was at home spending time with my family, getting my family time in," Coleman said. "Then San Fran called me and there was no doubt. I was like, 'Yup, I'm going.'"

With so many players still with the 49ers from Coleman's first stint with the team, he was not surprisingly welcomed back with open arms when he returned to the Bay.

"I was with the Jets this summer and everything was good but they released me," Coleman said. "So I was real surprised and happy to come back here and see the familiar faces and the bond that was here. It was amazing. Everybody loved me coming back so it was just a great feeling for me."

Garoppolo's familiarity with Coleman led him to know he could trust him on Sunday, which resulted in him having the confidence to throw the aforementioned third-down pass in Coleman's direction.

"He's just mister reliable," Garoppolo said after the win. "He really is. He's just one of those guys where you know where he's going to be. You know he's going to do the right thing. Whenever you have a guy like that as a quarterback, you can put that ball up and trust him and it's fun. I didn't even see the play but I heard it was awesome."

Will Coleman continue to have a big role with the 49ers once Mitchell and Davis-Price return from injury? That remains to be seen, but there's no question the team is happy to have him back.

"Tevin's awesome. It's great to have him back here," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday. "Those two touchdowns were awesome. I can't believe that play he made though on that third down, the go-route versus a corner going up for that ball. That was huge keeping us on the field. It was awesome for him to step it up."

In the meantime, the 49ers were reminded that Coleman is an effective option if need be, while Coleman showed he should still be playing on Sundays. There might have been some doubts creeping in after his release in August, but those were put to rest during the win over the Panthers.

"You definitely have a little bit of a doubt just not getting a lot of carries and a lot of touches and coming where I came from with the Jets," Coleman said. "I showed that I still have it, and it was definitely fun out there to play with this team."

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