Frank Gore helping to lift 49ers offense

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - The San Francisco 49ers can't get Frank Gore off the field.

But with the Pro Bowl running back remaining healthy and productive, nobody is complaining. Gore is on pace for another tremendous season, and after a rocky start the San Francisco offense finally is feeding off the exploits of its backfield star.

Gore lifted the offense around him last week against the Oakland Raiders, rushing for a season-high 149 yards to lead the 49ers to their first victory after a 0-5 start.

"When Frank is going,'' offensive coordinator Mike Johnson said Thursday, "I think our passing game is better. When he's going, the line is blocking better and protecting better. He's one of our best players, and if he's going, then our offense is going to be pretty good.''

While San Francisco's offense finally appears to be going in the right direction, Gore has been going that way all season.

The sixth-year veteran leads the NFC and ranks second in the NFL with 755 yards from scrimmage. The all-purpose performer ranks fourth in the NFC with 471 yards rushing and is sixth in the conference with 33 receptions. He has produced 35 first downs, which also leads the NFC and ranks second in the league.

But Gore has had to work hard for those numbers. He's averaging 24.8 touches per game and is on course to handle the football more times in a season than ever before in his career.

"I just feel like, whenever I'm out there, I have a great chance of making plays and we have a great chance to win,'' Gore said. "I have to be smart with being out there so much, but it's just about us winning now, and I feel great.''

But that raises durability issues and injury concerns, and Gore is one player the 49ers can't do without as they attempt to resurrect their season.
The 49ers brought in two-time Pro Bowler Brian Westbrook during the summer and also have promising rookie Anthony Dixon to help spell Gore. But the 49ers have been reluctant to use those options, sticking instead with their workhorse in practically all situations.

Westbrook and Dixon have combined for just five carries in San Francisco's first six games. Gore has lugged the football 116 times, putting him on pace to approach his franchise-record 312-carry season of 2006, when Gore rushed for a franchise-record 1,695 yards and also had 61 receptions.

Johnson, the team's former quarterbacks coach who has been calling the plays since Jimmy Raye was fired as offensive coordinator Sept. 27, is faced with the challenge of getting the ball in the hands of his top weapon without overworking the catalyst of his attack.

"Frank Gore doesn't like to come out of the game,'' Johnson said. "He's a warrior, he likes to go and we have to make sure we keep him fresh. We are very mindful of that and have a plan going forward to make sure that he's not taking as many snaps. But the one thing about Frank Gore, when he's touching the ball, I think we're winning, or we are going to win.''

Gore has prospered since Johnson took control, rushing for 278 yards in the past three games. The offense also appears to be hitting its stride during that span, recording 364 yards and a season-high 24 points against Philadelphia two weeks ago and 349 yards last week against Oakland. Those are two of San Francisco's top three offensive outputs this season.

Gore showed his frustration last month as the offense bogged down around him during San Francisco's unexpected poor start. But it's a different emotion now with his teammates finally responding.

"When you do great things personally as a player and you don't get the win, it doesn't matter,'' Gore said. "But when I'm playing my 'A' game, Alex (Smith) plays better. The offensive line plays better. The receivers play better. That's real big, because when you do great things to get the W, you feel a whole lot better.''

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus