Gore, 49ers focused on strong finish
Frank Gore and the San Francisco 49ers are hoping for a strong
finish to the regular season, beginning with Monday night’s game
against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 49ers have lost two of three since a 9-1 start, and Gore has
gone five consecutive games with 88 yards rushing or fewer after
stringing together a franchise-record five straight games of 100
yards or more on the ground.
But Gore and his team see Monday’s game as a platform to regain
momentum and resume the resurgence that has pushed the 49ers into
the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons.
”It’s a blessing the situation I’m in and the team’s in, and
everybody wants to win these last three games,” Gore said
Saturday. ”We know that Pittsburgh’s a good team that’s been
playing together a while and is coming in here with a great
defense. We just have to go out there Monday night against a tough
defense and play 49ers ball, the kind of ball that got us here and
Gore has played a key role in San Francisco’s first winning
season and NFC West championship since 2002. He ranks fourth in the
NFL with 1,054 yards rushing, recording his team-record fifth
1,000-yard season in six years while becoming the franchise’s
career leading career rusher two weeks ago.
But opponents have been stacking the line of scrimmage more to
stop him, an approach that has become more effective since
mid-November. That has caused problems for a struggling San
Francisco offense that has been held below 234 yards twice in the
past three games.
Next up is Pittsburgh, which features the same 3-4 defensive
scheme that gave the 49ers fits in recent losses to Baltimore and
Arizona. The Steelers rank second in the NFL in total defense and
sixth in rushing defense, and they’re likely to follow the
blueprint for stopping San Francisco’s offense established recently
by the Ravens and Cardinals.
”Frank can be productive against anybody,” 49ers offensive
coordinator Greg Roman said. ”I think we’ve seen that. But the
running game is a fixture of 11 people doing their job. All 11
people have to do their job to be successful.”
Gore has been hampered by ankle and knee injuries, and the 49ers
have had to consider balancing his playing time with keeping their
Gore’s 37-yard touchdown run last week gave San Francisco a 19-7
lead early in the third quarter. But Gore carried the ball just
twice more the rest of the game and San Francisco managed just 41
yards of offense over the final 27 minutes while Arizona rallied to
end the 49ers’ five-game winning streak between the two NFC West
The 49ers settled for field goals in all three of their red zone
opportunities and were just 3 of 17 on third-down conversion
attempts, continuing their season-long problems in both areas.
”There’s certain situations where we have to get better, and
we’re going to get there,” Gore said. ”We just have to start
scoring more points when we have the opportunity. We’ve had a good
week of practice and feel good. We’re going to go out there and
enjoy this game.”
The 49ers might be without Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis
for the second consecutive week. Willis missed practice again
Saturday and is listed as questionable to play against the
Left tackle Joe Staley, who suffered a concussion last week,
returned to practice in a limited fashion after sitting out
Thursday and Friday. He’s also listed as questionable.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has been pleased this week with how his team
reacted to a recent stretch of adversity that included injuries and
offensive ineptitude. He’s eager to see how the 49ers respond
”I feel good about where we are right now,” Harbaugh said
Saturday. ”This is what we prepare for. Look forward to going out
there and putting it on the line. That’s what these guys do: They
go put it on the line. That’s the pressure. That’s the excitement