Triple-threat Gore faces big challenge against Packers

It’s rare these days in the NFL for a running back to play as much as Frank Gore. But there’s a reason he’s always on the field. Of the team’s running backs, he’s the best runner. He’s also the best pass-catcher. And he also handles all of the blocking chores that come along with it as well as anybody.

 

Gore must be on top of his game Sunday in all three of those areas against the Packers. Here’s an interview I had with Gore:

 

 

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During our talk, Gore said it makes no difference to him whether he runs from the I-formation, the shotgun or the Wildcat. (Last week against the Bears, he gained 25 yards after sweeping around the right side on a direct snap.)

 

Gore said he likes that the defense is spread out a little more in the shotgun. “You can see the defense better,” he said.

 

Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye talked about the challenges of facing the Packers defense on Sunday. He said the Packers like to bring defensive back Charles Woodson on blitzes. That means Gore will have to pick him up. Also, Green Bay has made defensive end Aaron Kampman an outside linebacker.

 

“They create a mismatch over there on that side with a back trying to block a defensive lineman off of a two-point stance,” Raye said.

 

So Gore is going to have a huge challenge ahead of him to diagnose what defensive coordinator Dom Capers dials up for the Packers’ defense.

 

“I just have to know what I’m doing,” Gore said. “They bring a lot of pressure. As long as I feel I know what I’m doing and what man to block. I’m going to try my best to block him.”

 

And how will he go about blocking Kampman, a 260-pounder who has 39.5 sacks the past 3 ½ seasons?

 

“I just have to attack – get as close as I can before he can make moves, attack and keep working,” Gore said.

 

Gore said he is confident the 49ers’ offense can become productive in the final seven games of te season, as long as everybody is on the same page.

 

“Since I’ve been here, this is most-talented team,” Gore said. He noted that Vernon Davis has matured into a big threat, and there are talented receivers with Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Jason Hill. He also noted Delanie Walker is gaining more experience.

 

“They (the defense) has to respect those guys,” Gore said. “And if they respect those guys, it makes it easier on me.”

 

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Prior to the season, the big questions about the 49ers centered on their offensive line and their pass rush. A lot has been made about the team’s line. And the pass rush started the season pretty well.

 

But the pass rush has showed down. The 49ers rank 29th in the league in sacks per pass play – better than only Houston, Kansas City and Jacksonville. The pass rush should be able to get well Sunday against the Packers, who surrender more sacks than any team in the league.

 

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Tying up a couple loose ends . . .

 

A few days ago I wrote that I “didn’t think” the 49ers would be inclined to slap the franchise tag on nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin if they don’t sign him to a long-term extension. I’m officially changing my stance on that one. The franchise tag is likely to rise to about $6.9 million for 2010, and the 49ers have gotten Franklin on the cheap for these past three seasons at $6 million total during that time. This is clearly his most impressive and consistent season. He reported to camp 15 pounds lighter and in great physical condition. The scheme suits him a lot better than in the past, as he can rely on his quickness rather than being responsible for two gaps in the run game all the time. And, heck, doesn’t everybody perform better in a contract year? Based on how well he has performed (he ranks third on the team in tackles!) and how highly his defensive teammates speak of him, I think the 49ers will control his rights for next season with a franchise tender. Rather than see him go to the highest bidder in free agency without getting some nice compensation, the 49ers have to use the franchise tag on him.

 

Also, the 49ers are confident left tackle Joe Staley will be back on the field for the Dec. 14 game against the Cardinals. There is less optimism about cornerback Nate Clements. They’re probably looking at the final two games of the regular season for him. And while there might be some discussion about reducing his contract in the offseason and tinkering with a move to safety, he’ll return as a cornerback, of course.

 

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