Toby Gerhart’s first fumble Sunday was troubling enough. The Vikings were protecting a 24-13 lead with less than 4 minutes left, needing only to protect the ball and grind clock to close out an impressive upset of San Francisco. Yet on a second down play with 3:33 left, Gerhart had the ball stripped and recovered by 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.
After the Vikings got the ball back with a Josh Robinson interception, Gerhart coughed it up again on his next carry. This time, he recovered himself. But two plays later, he again fumbled, stripped by linebacker Ahmad Brooks with cornerback Carlos Rogers getting possession back for the 49ers.
For the record: that was three fumbles (two of them lost) within 1 minute, 43 seconds of game time.
Before Sunday? Gerhart had 201 career rushing attempts and 47 catches with four fumbles total.
No wonder his sudden ball security issues had his coaches surprised.
“One of those fumbles it was a routine tackle and you’ve just got to keep the ball high and tight and protect the football in that situation, “ coach Leslie Frazier said Monday. “They need the ball. We’ve been through that situation a bunch of different times. With four minutes, we know we have to protect the football and they’re trying to take the ball away. We trust Toby to protect the ball in that situation and he usually does.”
Frazier admitted having some concern for Gerhart’s psyche going forward after that flood of miscues.
“We’re going to need Toby to make big plays for us throughout this season and we’ve got to keep his confidence up,” Frazier said. “We know he’s capable of holding onto the football. He usually does a good job with that. We don’t want him to go in the tank and get down.”
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