San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert made the lead role in a crowded and talented backfield his own in Week 14 with an outstanding individual performance in the game of the season so far against the New Orleans Saints.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan conceded Mostert had forced their hand with a string of excellent displays. “We keep trying to balance it out, but what Raheem has done these last few weeks and has continued to do, we need to give him more opportunities,” Shanahan said, per The San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s given us no choice.”

For Mostert, it’s a case of lucky number seven. The undrafted free agent from Purdue is on his seventh NFL team, and the fact a player previously known predominantly for his special teams is getting favorable usage over Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida is one of the fascinating subplots of the Niners’ rise to the top of the NFC.

Mostert is second among all running backs in yards per touch with 6.7. Austin Ekeler (7.1) is the only man ahead of him, and his showing in the Superdome shootout encapsulated why he is now the lead runner in the backfield.

He finished the 48-46 thriller with 109 yards and two touchdowns from just 12 touches. It was an extraordinarily efficient display, but one only good enough for a Pro Football Network Offensive Share Metric (OSM) grade of 18.74, indicating an average level of performance.

OSM uses NFL’s NextGen Stats and a series of algorithms to assess a player’s contribution to a team’s offensive success by looking at the factors only he could control.

Mostert’s score was the sixth-best among running backs in Week 14, with the fact he still ranked that highly on so few touches indicating he could have rivaled Derrick Henry – who was RB1 with a grade of 35.73 – had the game not developed into a remarkable battle of the passing games.

Sixty-nine of Mostert’s yards came on the ground, with his production as a runner a result of excellent decision-making and track star speed.

The latter is evident on this 19-yard run in the second quarter, Mostert displaying the burst to render Laken Tomlinson’s missed second-level block irrelevant as he blows by the linebacker and almost turns the corner on safety Vonn Bell.

Later in the same quarter, Mostert picks up 18 yards after receiving a pitch from Kyle Juszczyk. It is a play the 49ers ran in Week 3 of last season and, while its success is partly down to superb execution and the downfield blocking of George Kittle, Mostert maximizes its impact through his decision to cut his run back to the inside and his contact balance.

That gain set up the 49ers on the Saints’ five-yard line and, though a false start penalty pushed them back five yards, Mostert was still able to punch the ball in to give the 49ers a half-time lead.

Mostert reached 20.09mph on his earlier 19-yard scamper. That acceleration came to the fore again on his second touchdown of the day, which was a startling demonstration of his incredible burst and of how to get skinny through a small crease, which he does by staying tight to the hip of George Kittle.

Mostert’s influence in the second half dwindled as the 49ers won an epic mainly on the arm of Jimmy Garoppolo. However, without his 12-point contribution in opening 30 minutes, the 49ers would not be back in possession of the number one seed in the NFC.

In his four qualifying games, Mostert has averaged an OSM grade of 18.54, good for eighth among running backs. His presence in the top 10, despite the Niners’ backfield timeshare, proves he is worthy of the more significant role Mostert has earned. As his opportunity grows and his impact per touch becomes increasingly devastating, the confirmed top dog in the 49er backfield should soon find himself near the top of the OSM rankings.