Why Frank Gore, Ground Game Is Vital To 49ers Success


October 18, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Seahawks 13-6. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

In a league where quarterbacks are kings, and wide receivers their princes, it sometimes feels like the running game takes a back seat to dynamic passing. In cities like Green Bay, New York, Denver, and New Orleans, elite quarterbacks with huge arms and an incredible ability to make plays fling the football down the field with excellent results.

This is not the case in San Francisco, however. Alex Smith is never going to be considered an elite quarterback in the NFL. Not because he doesn’t try; he can air the ball out with great efficiency, and at times looks every bit as elite as Brees, Manning, and Rodgers. Unfortunately, those flashes of greatness are few and far between, regardless of the record he has against some of the best passers in the league over the last 24 games. Alex Smith has put together stunning drives, and thrown some amazing passes to beat Rogers, Brees, and yes, even Eli.

But all of those wins have an important common denominator, the ground game. Frank Gore exploded in last night’s game, carrying the ball 16 times for 131 yards and picking up another 51 through the air. Kendall Hunter ran the ball 9 times for another 31 yards. That’s 162 yards on 25 carries from just those two backs, and apparently 25 is the magic number.

In the Harbaugh era, the 49ers are 17-0 when they have 25 or more rushing attempts. That is a huge statistic because in three losses last season they ran a total of 59 times, an average of 19.6 attempts per game. In their two losses this year they attempted 28 carries, an average of 14 per game.

The statistic that makes that 17-0 win record even more glaring however, is when you stop to think that, in the Harbaugh era, the 49ers have 18 wins total, not including the post season. That means that the Niners have only managed to win one regular season game in which they carried the ball less than 25 times. One.

When put in that perspective the facts are clear, Frank Gore and the ground game are the keys to the 49ers success.

The formula should be simple enough to follow, establish the run, and work the passing game off of play-action. Let Frank Gore pound the ball down the field with the help of Kendall Hunter, and Anthony Dixon, and don’t give Alex Smith the opportunity to make big mistakes in the air. Running the football means protecting the football and no one does that better than the rushing corps of the 49ers.