NFC Championship Game 2013: Frank Gore's Official Appreciation Story

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

We look at Frank Gore's long-term and short-term impact on this playoff team.

Jim Trotter over at SI.com has a story that every 49ers fan should read. He also has a complementary video too. I would highly suggest going over to check out both of them. Recently, and for good reason, the internet has been flooded with Colin Kaepernick stories. His stunning game against the Packers has earned him a bit of the limelight, but he's done it for eight games now. Frank Gore is now in his eighth season, seven of which have seen him as one of the primary offensive contributors for this team. For many years, he was the only offensive player worthy of recognition on the team. Frank Gore has seen some dark days as a 49er, and it is only fitting that he plays a major role in the nascent Harbaugh Era.

I've said this before, and I don't think it will change: Frank Gore is my favorite 49er player. He was the reason to watch games in 2006 and he is the guy now who gives the offense the stability it needs in order to allow Kaepernick to flourish as a player.

But, more pertinent to the short term, I think Frank Gore will be a necessary player for the upcoming game. The Falcons have a pretty darn good pass defense - Football Outsiders ranks them as the 11th best team in the league. In contrast, their rush defense ranks at a measly 20th in the league. This is in contrast to Frank Gore, who is ranked fourth in the league in both DYAR and DVOA. His recent game against Green Bay was solid, with Pro Football Focus grading Frank at a 3.9 overall and a 2.6 in the rushing category against Green Bay. Both of these grades, based on a player's performance on every play in a game before giving them a number grade, are quite good.

I think that Frank is going to need a good game in order to spring other parts of the offense open. I imagine that the Falcons will employ a QB spy and instruct their outside LBs to not crash on the option play. That should give Frank plenty of opportunities to churn out a few five yard runs before breaking loose. If Gore can do that in the first half, that would force the Falcons to adjust, possibly opening up the option game a bit more.

RB Frank Gore
Press Conference - January 17, 2013
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

You haven't worn that in a while?

"No."

Why'd you pull it out today?

"It's a work day. That's about it. Just want to have a good work day."

What's it going to take to have a good work day on Sunday?

"We just have to play 49ers football. Do whatever it takes to win. If that's running, throwing the ball, playing great defense, special teams, doing whatever it takes to get to that next level."

What would you say are the big differences with your team, especially your offense, this year versus going into the Giants game at this time last year?

"It's our second year with the same coordinator. Last year we were just happy to be in the playoffs and now we know we are supposed to be there."

What was the process like convincing you or teaching you the read option? Sometimes for veteran guys, it's a little different from what you've done before.

"I feel like I'm a football player, I'm a ball player. I can adjust to anything. I just have to be more patient to know if I'm getting the ball or not. That's about it."

I remember talking to Denver Broncos RB Willis McGahee about it last year when he ran it with New York Jets QB Tim Tebow and he said it was very weird at first. Did you go through, was it kind of an adjustment process?

"Yeah, I had to adjust because I don't know if I'm going to get the ball or not. So I just have to be patient and stay on my course and if I have it then I have to adjust to what I see."

There was so much discussion about QB Colin Kaepernick's running last week, obviously just talk about how is Atlanta going to account for him?. Does it have the potential to open up some big holes for you?

"Yeah, it should. Kaepernick did a great job last week. He's big, he's strong, he's fast and they are going to have to look out for him. So hopefully they keep looking out for him and 21 will keep getting the ball and I just do what he did last week."

What's it like to have a quarterback out run you?

"Hey, last week wasn't the first time. He did it a couple other times this year. So like I say, as long as we get the win I don't care who has the most yards and whatever, catching, running. I just want the W."

I know you're a student of football, but do you remember the first time you saw the pistol offense and what you thought of it when you first saw it? Did you watch it in college games?

"Yeah, probably like Oregon."

What'd you think of it when you first saw it?

"I didn't like it at first, but it's working for us. So if it gets us to the Super Bowl, I'm with it."

It looked, after RB Kendall Hunter got hurt, like a pretty seamless transition with RB LaMichael James stepping in. Did it feel that way to you and have you been happy with how he's played?

"Yeah, I'm happy for him. LaMichael has been doing a great job. Special teams, even when he gets a chance to run the ball or catch the ball. When I first saw him in camp, it took him some time to adjust and I'm just happy for him. He's helping the team and like I say, he put the work in."

Why didn't you like the pistol at first?

"I just felt like that's not real football at first. But like I say, it's helping us, helping us get to where we want to go and I'm with it."

You had your second best season in terms of rushing yards, in this your 8th NFL year. What's the key to your durability?

"Just working hard, working hard in the offseason. Listening to my coach during the week. Working out with coach Uye [head strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama] in the weight room to keep my strength and that's about it."

Is there anything different that you've done towards the last few years of your career that's really amped up that offseason workout?

"I think my coach paid attention more in the season about my reps and making sure I come in early in the morning working out every day with coach Uye."

What strikes you about the Falcons when you look at them on film? And are their linebackers, do they play a little deeper than others?

"As a group, they have a good group of linebackers. I like the way [Atlanta Falcons LB Sean] Weatherspoon plays. He's aggressive, fast, big. He kind of reminds me when I watch him of my boy [Carolina Panthers LB] John Beason from Carolina. Very active, makes good reads and gets to the ball. But Atlanta has a great team. If they didn't have a great team they wouldn't be here right now. So it's going to be a good game Sunday."

I know you're on the offense and you're a fan of your team's defense, right? Which player on the 49ers defense would you least like to be tackled by?

"Oh man, that's a hard question right there. I'll go with [DT] Justin Smith."

Because?

"He finishes tackles. When he puts you to the ground, he puts that 315 pounds on you. So I'll say Justin Smith."

So because you said you didn't think the pistol was real football, what sold you? Was there a specific play or a specific game?

"No, just because coming from Miami, it was like pro-style offense. I didn't think really big of it, but now I love it."

Was there a run that either you were able to break because of it or Colin?

"Colin and me, it was both. When he got that big 60-yard run late in the game and we kept the same formation and I was getting it, making big runs back-to-back. It's working."

Coach Roman was just up here saying that you guys have had maybe discussions about being a coach one day. Do you think you'd make a good coach and why might that be an interest of yours after your playing days?

"Yeah, I think I'd be a great coach. For one, I love the game of football. I've been around the game all my life, since I was four. I can tell who are real football players. I got the eye for talent. That's why I think that."

Is that something you'd be interested in after your playing career?

"I'll see. But like I said, I love being around football. So if [offensive coordinator] coach Roman ever get a head job and wants to hire me, I'll be ready."

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