Frank Gore charges into November as the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher after recording one of the best months of October ever for a 49ers running back.
Gore rushed for 527 yards during the month while leading the 49ers to four consecutive victories. It was the second-highest October rushing total in franchise history, second only to Gore’s October of 2006, when he rushed for 546 yards on his way to a franchise-record 1,695 yards rushing for the season.
After rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries during last week’s 20-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns, Gore has surpassed the 100-yard barrier in four consecutive games for the first time in his career.
During that stretch, the two-time Pro Bowler became the fourth player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to rush for 125 yards or more and also record a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games, joining O.J. Simpson (1975), Terrell Davis (1998) and Larry Johnson (2005).
Gore is a finalist for the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week for the third time this season. Gore also was a finalist in Weeks 5 and 6 and he won the award in Week 6 after rushing for 141 yards on 15 carries to lead the 49ers to a 25-19 upset at Detroit.
“I really don’t think about the rushing yards,” Gore said. “Right now, I’m feeling good and happy about the situation we’re in. We’re 6-1 and we’re still growing and we’re still moving forward. That’s what I’m happy about. I feel like I can continue to do what I’m doing.”
Gore is quickly closing in on becoming San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher.
He moved up to No. 2 on that chart last week, surpassing Roger Craig, who finished his 49ers career with 7,064 rushing yards. Gore has 7,089 career yards and is primed to pass all-time leader Joe Perry (7,344 yards), perhaps sometime during the next month.
OLB Aldon Smith: The Niners’ first-round draft pick also had an outstanding October, earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for his performance in San Francisco’s four victories. Smith became the first 49er to be named the league’s top defensive rookie for the month since Patrick Willis earned the honor in December of 2007. In four games, Smith registered 17 tackles, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one safety and three passes defensed. He recorded a sack in each of the four games, becoming the first 49er to accomplish the feat since defensive end Andre Carter in 2002. Smith’s 6.5 sacks in the month led all rookies and ranked fourth in the NFL among all players. For the season, Smith’s 6.5 sacks lead all NFL rookies and place him seventh among the league leaders. Smith had two sacks against Tampa Bay on Oct. 9 and two sacks against Detroit the next week, when he also had a career-high seven tackles. He became the first 49er to register two-or-more sacks in consecutive games since defensive tackle Bryant Young did it against Atlanta in 2000. Smith
OLB Ahmad Brooks: Niners coach Jim Harbaugh framed a blown-up photo of Brooks sacking Browns quarterback Colt McCoy on the game’s second play from scrimmage last week, then put it in the team meeting room. Brooks got his helmet knocked off a second before belting McCoy, who fumbled. Brooks sustained a fat lip on the play. "Loved it, loved it. Wished he would have come wiped some (blood) off on my cheek," Harbaugh said. "We have a great picture of it in our team room now, him making the sack without the helmet. Doesn't even have his eyes closed either. A lot of guys would have probably closed the eyes when making that tackle without a helmet, but not Ahmad Brooks. Loved it, loved it. Ahmad had an outstanding game, setting the edge, physical with the tackles, knocking blocks back as well.” Brooks had two sacks in the game, raising his season total to four. He also had a tackle for a loss and two QB hurries to go with his forced fumble.
QB Alex Smith: The seventh-year veteran ranks fourth in the NFL with a quarterback rating of 110.3 on first downs and his 128.9 rating against the blitz this season ranks second in the league. Smith also ranks among the top five in the NFC and top 10 in the NFL in quarterback rating (95.7), interception percentage (1.1), fourth quarter QB rating (104.9), completion percentage (63.2) and touchdown percentage (4.9). Smith has basically sworn off almost all media requests, even from national outlets. Smith speaks in a group setting on Wednesdays and after games, and that's it. Now that the team is winning, Smith is unlikely to change. Even when he does speak, Smith remains cautious. “We don’t talk about scheme around here,” Smith said this week in response to a question. “I think it’s smart. And I like it. I think there’s been too often times I’ve been up here rambling about stuff I shouldn’t be talking about.”
FB Bruce Miller: The rookie seventh-round draft pick said he gets plenty of tips from Frank Gore before every play on where to go and what to look out for. Miller injured his thumb against the Browns but he felt no ill effects a day later and his name did not appear on the team’s injury report Wednesday.
S Dashon Goldson: The fifth-year veteran has produced a number of big hits this year, but against the Browns, he was flagged for a personal foul when he smashed Browns WR Greg Little. Referee Bill Leavy said he "led with his head." But it was a questionable call, and Goldson was not fined for the hit this week and never has been. "I don't lead with my head, so I didn't have to change anything," Goldson said. "I think I was taught pretty well growing up how to tackle." Nevertheless, Goldson is concerned that a 15-yard penalty for a clean, hard hit might determine a game's outcome and he said he'd been in favor of making that penalty a reviewable play.
CB Carlos Rogers: The free-agent newcomer once again this week voiced his preference for a contract extension with the 49ers. Rogers signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Niners in August after spending his first six seasons with the Washington Redskins. Harbaugh said Rogers has contributed off the field as well, suggesting a scout team player of the week get recognized. Harbaugh said he immediately instituted the change. Rogers ranks among the top four in the NFC and the top eight in the NFL in both interceptions (3) and passes defensed (9).
WR Michael Crabtree: With the return of Braylon Edwards to the starting lineup, Crabtree has been moved to the ‘Z’ receiver position, which is the flanker in San Francisco’s West Coast offensive system. “It’s what was best for our team,” Harbaugh said of the move. It also is working out pretty well for Crabtree, who has been targeted 24 times in San Francisco’s passing game over the past two games. Crabtree has 14 receptions during that span to take over as San Francisco’s leading receiver among wideouts with 25 receptions 263 yards. “Didn't (former 49ers WR) Jerry Rice play Z? Greatest receiver of all time," quarterback Alex Smith said this week about the move.
DE Ray McDonald: The fifth-year veteran suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter against the Browns and did not return to the game. McDonald did not practice Wednesday and his status for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins is uncertain. “Hopefully we’ll have more information for you as the week goes on here,” Harbaugh said of McDonald’s status.
OLB Parys Haralson: The sixth-year veteran was used on passing downs to replace injured Ray McDonald in the second half against the Browns, and he will likely continue to do that if McDonald is sidelined against the Redskins. Haralson starts at right outside linebacker but is usually replaced on passing downs by rookie Aldon Smith. Haralson forced another fumble against the Browns and is tied for the NFL lead with three forced fumbles.
LT Joe Staley: The fifth-year veteran received a game ball for his play and his 17-yard catch against the Browns, the first reception of his NFL career. Staley said that he has "made it known" that he can catch the ball. Once he realized that he might be a part of the passing game, he practiced his first-down signal, which he brandished after his catch against the Browns. Staley has also choreographed a touchdown celebration that he will keep under wraps when and if he scores again. He already has scored one NFL touchdown, falling on a fumble in the end zone against the New York Jets in 2008. Staley continues to be the leader of San Francisco’s improving offensive line. “We don’t have that title of captain of the offensive line, but if we did, he would probably be that guy,” Harbaugh said.
WR Braylon Edwards: The seventh-year veteran returned after missing five games with a knee injury to make four catches for 42 yards against the Browns, including a dandy diving catch on an 8-yard pass. He was limited in practice Wednesday but said he felt fine after Sunday’s game.
LB NaVorro Bowman: The second-year veteran continued his stellar play and bolstered his Pro Bowl quest with 11 tackles against the Browns. He also had one pass defensed and one tackle for loss. Bowman leads the 49ers with 78 tackles on the season.
KR Ted Ginn Jr.: The veteran speedster ranks third in the NFL and second in the NFC with a 29.8-yard average on kickoff returns. He ranks fourth in the league and third in the conference with his 13.2 average on punt returns. Ginn’s returns have helped the 49ers begin their offensive drives this season, on average, at their 31.2-yard line, which ranks second in the NFL.
P Andy Lee: The two-time Pro Bowler leads the NFL in net punting average at 44.2 yards per kick. He ranks second in the NFL and first in the NFC with his 50.9 gross average.
DT Isaac Sopoaga: Niners coaches had no issues throwing last week to tackle Joe Staley, who was once a college tight end. But Isaac Sopoaga? The nose tackle, who caught a crucial 18-yard pass after lining up as a fullback in the fourth quarter, is 330 pounds and doesn't have much of a football background. Growing up in American Somoa, Sopoaga played rugby, not football. He said catching an American football is easy. "The ball in rugby is much bigger," he said.