ATLANTA -- Life as the San Francisco 49ers featured running back hasn’t always been rosy for Frank Gore. Long before his two-touchdown NFC Championship Game performance, Gore spent six seasons without tasting a winning record.
Sunday, after coming from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24, Gore was elated yet reflective.
[INSTANT REPLAY: 49ers 28, Falcons 24]
“You’ve got to go through hard times to enjoy [this],” said Gore. “When you go through hard times things start changing, like my career. Coming out of college after having knee injuries after knee injuries, I kept fighting.”
Gore tore the ACL of his left knee in 2003 when he was at the University of Miami. He tore the same ligament just a year later.
“It’s the same as a team,” said Gore on his first six years with the 49ers. “We kept fighting from ‘05 to now. We were the laughing stock of the league, [now we’re] one of the best. This feels great. I saw and I knew what we went through since I’ve been here.”
From 2005 to 2010 the 49ers never fielded a winning team. After a combined 37-59 team record where Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards four times, San Francisco turned everything around.
[RATTO: New and improved 49ers looking to make their own history]
The 49ers narrowly missed a Super Bowl bid last season with a three-point loss to the New York Giants. Back again in the NFC Championship, Gore’s 90 yards Sunday and two touchdowns contributed heavily to San Francisco advancing to the big game.
Down 24-14 to the Atlanta Falcons at halftime, Gore said the 49ers took solace in the fact that NFC West foe Seattle was down 20-0 at halftime to Atlanta to week prior.
“We felt like we were a better team than Seattle,” said Gore. “What they can do, we can do.”
Gore scored on a 5-yard read-option scamper in the third quarter. His second score was a 9-yard run to take the lead, where Gore was never touched. He teased the Georgia Dome crowd with a little version of the “Dirty Bird” end zone dance.
Gore said he’s heard the Falcons’ defensive players talking all week about how much they expected 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to run the football. During the game Gore said he noticed Atlanta’s defensive front cheating toward Kaepernick, allowing Gore to run free frequently.
“I felt it,” said Gore. “But I didn’t want to tell anybody. I knew it.”
Gore didn’t have to tell anyone, the 49ers showed it on the scoreboard, scoring 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to seal a trip to New Orleans to play in Super Bowl XLVII, their first trip back since 1994.