The San Francisco 49ers have emerged atop their respective division, off to a hot start at 5-2. The victories have not come without their struggles, as only a handful of skill players have been consistent week-to-week.
Among them, 3-time Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore has stood out as the centerpiece to this 49ers offense.
In San Francisco's most recent outing - Week 7 versus Seattle - Gore carried 16 times for 131 yards on the ground. He also added five receptions for 51 yards on top of that, leading the 49ers in rushing and receiving.
He averaged 8.2 yards on the ground and 10.1 yards receiving on Thursday Night Football.
Gore is an iconic figure in this franchise, as the organization's all-time leading rusher and the first back in 49ers history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Among active players, Gore has the fifth most rushing yards all-time with 8,226, which is good enough for 36th in NFL history.
It's clear that during his career, he's been an incredibly productive player and the key to his team's success. When San Francisco gets Gore going, they put themselves in awfully advantageous position on game day.
When No. 21 gets rolling, the Niners are capable of fielding a top-10 offense. Gore's offensive involvement has developed a strong correlation to the team's winning percentage. In San Francisco's five wins this season, Gore has either broken 100-yards rushing, scored a touchdown or both.
Gore simply does it all for the 49ers on offense. He can score, move the chains, keep drives alive, rip off big plays and demoralize a defense - thus the importance of getting him plenty of touches.
Gore's 47 career-rushing touchdowns have recently placed him only three shy of tying Joe Perry and Roger Craig for the most in 49ers history. And as of Week 7, Gore now has 32, 100-yard games in his career, which happens to be the most of any back since 2005.
Including this year, Gore has been top-10 among players with yards from scrimmage four times since 2006. He is an all-purpose machine, averaging 100-plus total yards per game this season.
In seven games in 2012, Gore has accumulated 711 total yards and 4 touchdowns. As a rusher, he is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and has five breaks for 20-plus yards this season. Out of the top-10 rushers in the league, Gore has the least attempts with 103.
Gore is on pace for 1,200-plus yards on the ground this year, which would be his sixth thousand-yard campaign in 8 seasons.
Gore's vision and athleticism has been a tremendous asset in this offense. San Francisco's offense has to operate through Gore, and then complement his presence with high-percentage passes to receivers. That approach allows them to work so much more fluidly.
The balance he provides is a big reason San Francisco's passing offense has been able to take steps forward. He is such a threat on the ground, that defenses have to respect him by committing to stopping the run. This has opened up windows for other players to have their names called.
So, not only is Gore's presence on the field helping his own numbers, but the numbers of the guys around him.
With the Arizona Cardinals coming up on Monday Night Football in Week 8, and a bye following, I already have Frank Gore as my midseason MVP for the San Francisco 49ers.