Beasley banging among NFL's best fullbacks

When the 49ers need a tough yard, Fred Beasley is their man. And it really doesn't matter if he's carrying the football or blocking in front of it. A lead-blocker supreme who clears the way for San Francisco's potent running game, Beasley also has been perfect this season when called upon to bang for that crucial yard. "I'm always good for at least one yard," the unsung fullback said.

The Niners gave the ball to Beasley five times during their overtime win at Oakland last week, and San Francisco needed one yard each time to pick up a first down. Beasley converted on all five opportunities, including three third-and-1 situations and a crucial fourth-and-1 from the Oakland 45-yard line in overtime that allowed the 49ers to extend their game-winning drive.

It's something Beasley has been doing all season. The Niners lead the NFL in both third-down and fourth-down conversion percentage, and Beasley has had a huge role in those figures.

Of the 49ers' 58 short-yardage situations this season - those in which they needed three yards or less for a first down - they've converted 42 into first downs (72.4 percent). Beasley has been called on to carry the ball in just nine of those situations, but he has been successful on each of his eight short-yardage runs and one short-yardage reception.

"A first down to me is just like a touchdown," Beasley said.

Like always, Beasley also did a job for the Niners without the football in his hands, and coach Steve Mariucci pointed out his all-around play was key in the huge win over the Raiders.

"I don't know who writes the column on unsung heroes around here, but Fred Beasley played one of the most fantastic games you're ever going to see a fullback play," Mariucci said. "He doesn't get his name in the paper very often unless you go for it on fourth down or third-and-a-foot and you hand him the ball once in a while. But, boy, did he block - physical, smart and tough - and he made some yards running the ball, too."

That about covers Beasley's job description. His carries have steadily decreased since the Niners began alternating tailbacks Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow last season, but that has allowed Beasley to display his ability as one of the NFL's best blocking fullbacks.

The Niners rank fourth in the NFL in rushing, and with Beasley as the lead blocker this season, San Francisco's backfield has carried the ball 137 times for 716 yards, an average of 5.2 yards a carry. When Beasley is not leading the way, the 49ers have run the ball 66 times for 232 yards, a 3.5 average.

"My job now is more just as a fullback, and that fits me very well," Beasley said. "But I try to leave a mark on somebody in every game. I try to make sure they know me by the end of the game."

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