Word out of 49ers headquarters is that Frank Gore plans on practicing this week. While there was extra motivation two weeks ago in Miami, there is still some motivation this coming Sunday. Clinton Portis is a fellow running back alumnus of the U and all those fellas (Portis, Gore, Willis McGahee and Edgerrin James) have a bit of a rivalry. Throw in the 22 yards needed to reach 1,000 for the third straight season and I'll go on record as saying I'd be stunned if he didn't play.
Speaking of the rushing attack, a look back at Sunday's game shows not so much of one. Shaun Hill led the team with 45 rushing yards, while every-down back DeShaun Foster finished with 36 yards on 12 carries. Definitely not too spectacular. I'll admit it's a small sample size, but the 49ers have not exactly had an explosive rushing attack this season.
Statistically, this is something Danny could probably provide more insight on. However, I figured I'd give more of a birds eye view of it. The 49ers are averaging 98.5 rushing yards per game, good 26th in the league. They're averaging exactly 4.0 yards per carry, which is the league average. Frank Gore has averaged 4.3 yards per carry this season, .4 yards below his career average, but .1 yards above last season.
Although the 49ers have had success running the ball at times, clearly it has been inconsistent this season. The question is why they're struggling for consistency. One thing I would like to point out is that the 49ers have actually rushed the ball 17 more times this season than last season, with one game to go. Furthermore, Frank Gore was actually on pace to finish with 21 more carries than last season, before the injury. That's a bit of a nebulous figure considering we don't know the context of those rushes. One last interesting bit though (and encroaching on Danny's territory) is that Frank Gore currently ranks 14th in DYAR among NFL running backs with a minimum of 100 carries. Last season, Gore finished 14th among NFL running backs in DYAR. I'll leave further analysis to Danny, but that's certainly an interesting coincidence.
In spite of all this, I'd imagine most of us were not all that satisfied with the rushing attack this season. It wasn't awful, but it definitely lacked a certain something. Of course, we were also spoiled by Gore's monstrous 2006. So what explains the results we've seen? Mike Martz is often the easy choice to blame. The offensive line was looking pretty bad early on, but seems to be coming around. In looking at just the Rams game, it seemed like they were doing a solid job of opening holes. They were beaten at the defensive line several times, but more often than not, holes were there. Of course, who knows if Gore would have seen holes Foster missed.
At the same time, several people have mentioned in the game threads and recaps that defenses don't fear Foster like they fear Gore. Accordingly, they're willing to play more against the pass and handle the run as it comes up. Does that mean Foster has lacked the ability to really make them pay then? It's a tough call. Assuming he can go, what can we really expect from Frank on Sunday against the Redskins? The Redskins have been rather solid on defense, so they should provide some sort of test for whomever is running the ball.
I honestly don't know what I think about the 2008 rushing attack. Early on I think the offensive line was a significant part of the problem. Now, I don't really know. DeShaun Foster was solid against Miami, but given that he finished with 76 yards, that's not exactly glowing. So, right now we're settling for less than good it seems like. I think just about anything is possible this Sunday. While I do think Gore will play, I also am not sure whether to expect him to play much past getting the 22 yards he needs. His weakest performance this year was a 26 yard effort in Dallas. Let's hope that doesn't come back up this Sunday.