The San Francisco 49ers look poised to turn to a battle-tested and trusty method of chewing up yards Monday: Putting the ball in Frank Gore‘s hands.
Following a pair of 100-plus yard outings against the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, Gore looks ready for yet another big game against a St. Louis defense that has surrendered 610 rushing yards, the 15th-worst in the NFL.
After a Week 3 showing against the Arizona Cardinals with a season-low 23 rush attempts, offensive coordinator Greg Roman has returned to the run-first philosophy that has been the staple of the 49ers offense.
Roman’s faith in his seasoned veteran hasn’t been misplaced either. Gore has erupted for 226 yards on 42 carries in the last two games, leading the team’s offense in total yardage over that span. Gore’s 365 yards this season is good for the fifth most yards in the NFL, averaging 4.7 yards per carry in the process.
With youngsters like Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore lurking, the 31-year-old Gore’s successor may already be on the roster. However, his starting position is secure, at least through the rest of the season, as Harbaugh said the spry veteran hasn’t appeared to have lost a step after 10 years in the league:
“We’ve talked about it before. He is playing at the highest level. When you look at Frank game-after-game, he keeps doing it and doing it and doing it. He’s done it and done it and done it. He keeps doing it.”
Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher is likely to key his defense on stopping Gore, who he called the “nerve center” of the 49ers offense:
“He’s an outstanding runner. There’s not been any drop off. He started this year like he finished last year. He’s the same runner. He does very well without the ball. He’s really good in protection.”
To compound Fisher’s concern, Gore has historically given the Rams’ fits. He currently ranks first in NFL history in rushing touchdowns against St. Louis, with 14 in as many games, totaling 1,149 yards in the process. Last season Gore tallied his fifth career 100-yard game against St. Louis with a 153-yard, one-touchdown outing in September on the road.
Even if Gore is unable to get going against the Rams, the supposedly-threatening pass rush, hasn’t actually been all that threatening. St. Louis has tallied just one sack on the season so far, with defensive tackle Aaron Donald earning the honors.
This is sure to be good news to quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has taken some hard knocks early in the season having been sacked 13 times already.
Even if Kaepernick finds time in the pocket, finding the open man may prove to be an even harder task. The Rams have allowed a league-low 769 yards through the air so far, giving the fourth-year quarterback a tough challenge should he take to an aerial attack Monday night.
But even with his defense stifling the opponents pass game, Fisher felt no comfort in facing the 49ers vast array of talent at the wide receiver position.
“It’s an outstanding group.It’s the best group that we’ve faced since I’ve been here. … The best that the 49ers have put on the field.”