The future is now

Kevan Barlow looked into the cameras Sunday and exulted, "I am the future." After the way the third-year running back rumbled through the Arizona Cardinals, Barlow also represents the now in the 49ers' running game.

Barlow will get his second start in a row this week, as starter Garrison Hearst was ruled out of Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hearst underwent arthroscopic surgery last Tuesday to repair cartilage in his right knee. Coach Dennis Erickson said team doctors have told him Hearst will not be ready to play.

With Hearst out of the lineup, Barlow took advantage of the opportunity to rush for 154 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against the Cardinals in a 50-14 victory. His weaving, tackle-breaking 46-yard scoring run was the stuff of highlight-reel material.

"Kevan ran really well in there," Erickson said. "He hit the holes. I thought he pass-protected really well. The only mistake he made was that he put the ball on the ground one time. But, other than that, he has a lot of ability. He had a good opportunity and I thought he took advantage of it."

The opportunity came at a fortuitous time for Barlow, who is scheduled to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Barlow might get some action on the free-agent market if the 49ers give him the approximate tender of $1.4 million, which would require a first-round pick as compensation if the 49ers declined to match a possible offer sheet.

Barlow should become the team's leading rusher during the game against the Bengals. He has rushed for 745 yards on 139 carries this season for a 5.4 average. Hearst leads the 49ers with 768 yards on 178 carries, for a 4.3 average.

QUICK HITS

-- FB Fred Beasley had one of his best games of the season Sunday, Erickson said. Beasley was one of the keys behind the 49ers' run game that rolled up 232 yards on 36 carries against the Cardinals. The 49ers are touting Beasley as a player worthy of selection to the NFC Pro Bowl team.

-- QB Jeff Garcia's passer rating rose more than seven points to 71.8 with his best passing game of the season. Garcia rose from 29th in the league to 25th after his day against the Cardinals. Garcia completed 19 of 28 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions.

-- TE Jed Weaver is becoming a part of the 49ers' passing game. He now has 26 receptions for 291 yards. He caught four passes Sunday against the Cardinals for 76 yards. He caught passes on the first series of the game for 21 and 26 yards.

-- WR Tai Streets has been bothered by bilateral tendinitis in both knees, a painful condition that has forced the 49ers to play him every other series. Streets has caught just four passes in the 49ers' last four games. On Sunday, he had an 18-yard reception, his only catch of the day, for a touchdown.

-- PR Jimmy Williams, who led the NFL last season with a 16.8-yard average, has not really gotten going this season after coming back from a torn ACL. Williams has a 6.8-yard average on 20 punt returns.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Since I have been here, he has been injured and he finally came and performed and made a huge difference in the football game. There are not too many people that have thrown for four and run for two and are involved in six touchdowns. That's pretty good" -- Erickson on Garcia's performance against the Cardinals.


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