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Aging Gore remains at heart of 49ers' offense

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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New toys are always fun. Add a name like Randy Moss, it's practically a license to print column inches. For all the bells and whistles the San Francisco 49ers have added to their offense, however, the heart and soul remains in the backfield on the shoulder pads of running back Frank Gore, now entering his eighth NFL season. Through all the turmoil and strife, Gore has been a constant for the 49ers over the years as the team's leading rusher in each of his seven NFL seasons. Prior to the team's resurgence last season, Gore was a four-time 1,000-yard rusher for a franchise that had developed an allergy to success with only 37 wins in 96 games (.385 winning percentage). With the 49ers adding the 35-year-old Moss, signing free agent Mario Manningham and drafting A.J. Jenkins during the offseason, it's easy to get carried away with San Francisco's perimeter possibilities, especially given Vernon Davis' maturation into one of the NFL's tight-end elite. However, it would be a mistake to discount Gore, who's 1,211 rushing yards last season helped set the table for the 49ers' game-managing offense and individually his third Pro Bowl appearance. "Frank is an excellent football player and anybody whos had the chance to coach him really appreciates Frank with his talent, his instincts, his power," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who worked with Gore as the 49ers' offensive coordinator in 2005. "Hes definitely one of the better players Ive been blessed to coach. I think that says enough right there. Frank Gore is someone you definitely have to be aware of. Hes between the tackles, his ability to get fast and get into the holes is exceptional. Hes still has the ability to take a long run and hes a lot more powerful man than I think people realize. At 29 years old, Gore is approaching social-security status among NFL running backs and likely won't challenge again for the 1,600 yards he rushed for during his second season with the 49ers in 2006. However, he has proven to be a competent runner despite his lack of flash. According to Pro Football Focus, he rushed for a pedestrian 2.54-yards per carry after contact last season, but also hasn't fumbled a ball since Week 5 of last season. Similar to last season, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh opted to use Gore sparingly during the preseason to the tune of two appearances, four carries and a whopping eight rushing yards, so it's stands to reason to question what he has left. After compiling five-straight 100-yard efforts at the start of last season, he averaged only 3.4 yards per carry and didn't touch the century mark again over the team's last eight contests. Despite adding Brandon Jacobs into the mix during the offseason, Gore's remains the go-to-back in San Francisco's offenses and could present challenges to the Packers' run defense if he's afforded the opportunity on Sunday. "He's a physical rusher who really runs with his pads low, so he doesn't give you a big surface to hit," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He's picking his spots, but he's always going north and south. He'll bleed you for yardage and he has enough quickness in that interior that he can make a big run." -whodkiew@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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