Like any elite running back, Frank Gore is happy to carry the load.
Since being drafted in 2005, Gore has been the 49ers workhorse, taking more than 1,500 handoffs and rushing for 7,089 yards.
On Sunday, in a 20-10 victory over the Bengals, he ran past Roger Craig into second place on the franchise’s all-time rushing yardage list, grinding out yards in typical Gore fashion, carrying 31 times for 134 yards and a TD.
It marked the fourth straight game Gore has rushed for more than 125 yards in a game, and the 49ers have ridden his slashing, cutting style to a 6-1 record and a big lead in the NFC West.
Though Gore is happy to get his carries and his yards, it’s nothing new. In years past, he’s had great seasons and been to the Pro Bowl. But this year is different.
For the first time, Gore has a chance to be on a winning team and go to the playoffs.
“I just want to keep it going,” he told reporters after Sunday’s win.
According to ESPN, Gore joins Larry Johnson, O.J. Simpson and Terrell Davis as the only running backs since 1970 to have at least 125 yards rushing and a rushing TD in four consecutive games. Johnson and Simpson are the only backs to do it in five consecutive games, which Gore could tie with another big effort this coming Sunday in Washington against the Redskins.
Meanwhile, the 49ers already have matched their six victories of 2010, and have matched the best record for an NFL team (through seven games) that had lost 10 games the previous season.
Gore, of course, has been at the heart of the 49ers turnaround under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff. The 49ers’ formula has been great special teams, a strong run defense and run offense and few turnovers.
In Sunday’s victory over Cleveland, even Browns defenders were talking about how good Gore is, and how effective he is in using his blockers.
“He’s just so patient,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson told columnist Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News. “He has those big offensive linemen in front of him, and he understands what the offense is trying to get done when they run the ball. And he waits to make his move. Like I say, he’s just so patient.”
Added 49ers fullback Bruce Miller: “He almost makes the block for you. You just get in front of someone, and he makes the cut. He’s such a savvy football player.”
On a day when he acknowledged how happy he was to have a great game and to pass Craig – whom he admires so much – Gore was even more ecstatic to be part of a winning team.
“I’m so happy man,” Gore told the Sacramento Bee’s Ailene Voisin. “We’re 6-1. We’re winning. I’m just having fun. (Before) I was young, man. I was thinking about Pro Bowls and all other crazy stuff. Now I’m not thinking about yards, just enjoying the ride.”