Barlow: 'I can't run the ball'

Kevan Barlow said late Sunday afternoon that the problem with the 49ers' floundering running game "probably is me." And, though he questioned the decision of coaches to leave him on the bench in the second half of an offensively-challenged 24-17 loss to Miami, Barlow stated, "I'm willing to step down and let Maurice (Hicks) start for the rest of the year if (coaches) feel like he's going to help us win games."

Once again, Barlow couldn't help much in that pursuit Sunday as he rushed for just 20 yards on nine carries. After Barlow was stuffed for no gain on his first carry of the third quarter, he never touched the ball again as the Niners went with Hicks at tailback most of the second half.

Barlow also produced zero yards on three receptions to finish the game with 20 net yards on 12 touches. Hicks finished as San Francisco's leading rusher with 46 yards on 13 carries. He also had receptions that produced 19- and 14-yard gains.

Niners coach Dennis Erickson said during the past week that he planned to give Hicks more carries against the Dolphins and rotate him more often with Barlow. But by the middle of the third quarter, Hicks was getting all the carries and there was no longer a rotation.

Hicks – who began this month on the Niners' practice squad – was getting the nod for full duty over Barlow, whom the Niners signed to a $20 million deal earlier this year to be their featured franchise back.

"We thought Maurice was giving us some good things," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. "He was catching the football and he was running up in there, he was blocking. He was giving us a spark that we needed, and we just felt that he gave us the best opportunity to move the football. So we made the change."

When asked what Barlow's problem was, Erickson said, "It's a number of things. He's not hitting it up in there. It's the same thing. We've seen it for 10 weeks now."

Barlow averaged 2.2 yards a carry – his third consecutive game averaging that figure or less. He has averaged less than three yards a carry six times in San Francisco's last nine games.

"I can't run the ball," Barlow said. "Obviously, I'm not getting the job done. So coaches looked at Maurice to give us a spark, which he's doing. Obviously, I don't want to be out of the game, but if (coaches) want to keep Maurice in the game, that's (their) call. They're the coaches. There the ones that are going to make decisions, do what they have to do. "Do I agree with me sitting on the bench? No, I don't agree with that. But there's nothing I can do about that."

Well, maybe he could play better. And start producing like he did during his first three NFL seasons, when he averaged 4.6 a carry. Barlow averaged 5.1 a carry last year, when he rushed for 1,024 yards despite starting just four games. This year, he has started all 11 games and has just 581 yards rushing, averaging just 3.2 a carry.

Barlow left questions regarding his dramatic drop in production unanswered, but said nobody should question his talent, work ethic or effort.

"Am I running hard? Yes," Barlow said. "You can't question my effort out on the field. Because I'm a hard player. That's why I'm in the NFL today, that's why I got my contract this last year. So, you can't question my work ethic, because I got pride and I'm a competitor and I want to win and play hard. When you start questioning me, you're full of mess."

Erickson said after the game that Barlow still is the team's starting tailback at the moment, but the coach also left open the possibility that status could change during the next week. The 49ers play at St. Louis next Sunday.

Hicks, meanwhile, will be ready for whatever comes his way. He started getting comfortable in the lead role during his extended playing time Sunday.

"When you're staying in the game, you kind of develop a rhythm and that's what I was getting when I was in there for that amount of time, the rhythm," he said. "I would love to be out there any way to help my team be successful. But that decision's not up to me. It's up to the coaches, what they want to do."

But, when asked how he'd feel about taking over as the starter, Hicks replied, "If they call my name, I'll be ready."

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