As we've watched Frank Gore in recent years, we've enjoyed him rumbling down the field and barreling through defenders. Two of my all-time favorite Gore runs came against the Seattle Seahawks in September 2009 when he squirted between the guards and broke off two huge touchdown runs, one for 79 yards and one for 80 yards. He looked bottled up and yet managed to break through the defensive line and linebackers for his monster runs.
As solid as Gore has looked at times, his 2010 stats reveal something that might be a little troubling. Yesterday, Football Outsiders put together a breakdown of running backs and broken tackles (thanks to Mike Sando for his post on the topic). FO used their game-charting system to determine broken tackles. They defined a broken tackle as either "the ballcarrier escapes from the grasp of the defender, or the defender is in good position for a tackle but the ballcarrier jukes him out of his shoes."
According to FO, Gore finished the season with 11 broken tackles. For comparisons sake, Pro Football Focus listed Gore as having 13 "missed tackles" (defined as tackles broken or avoided). While the numbers are different, the general conclusions are similar. Gore was on the bottom end of things among 2010 NFL running backs. More importantly, according to FO, Gore had one of the worst broken tackle/touch rates, finishing at 4.4%. The top running back was Chris Ivory at 19.6%.
Both Sando and FO specifically expressed surprise that Gore in particular was so low. Some would view his style as one that would pile up the broken tackles. However, when I watch him run he seems to run fairly low to the ground. Is it possible that drops him to the ground a little more quickly? Or is it insufficient opening of holes by the offensive line? Or somebody combination of that or something else? I'm just trying to figure out if there's a reasonable explanation for Gore's low broken tackle rate.