SANTA CLARA – He may be a native of Miami, and even played his college ball for the Hurricanes, but San Francisco running back Frank Gore actually grew up rooting for the team with which he currently plays right now.
Why was he a 49ers fan as a kid?
“They was winning. They were a good team,” the 29-year-old Gore said on Tuesday, from the team’s practice facility.
He’ll get a chance to go up against the Dolphins on Sunday when the Niners try to rebound from Sunday’s disappointing 16-13 overtime defeat in St. Louis. Gore, too, will look to put that game in the rear view mirror on a personal level, after gaining just 58 yards on a season-high 23 carries for just 2.5 yards-per-carry.
“They had eight or nine men in the box. They played good defense. They’ve got a great D-line, their linebackers played good,” Gore said of the Rams. “They did a great job.”
The game will mark the first meeting between San Francisco and Miami since Dec. 14, 2008, and first at Candlestick Park since Nov. 28, 2004.
Gore would actually prefer the game was being played in South Florida, after he missed what would have been a homecoming four years ago with an ankle injury.
“I wish we could have played them down there, that would have been special, in front of all my fans in Miami and [where] a lot of my family is from,” he said. “All my Hurricane fans, they probably miss me.”
* * *
Gore was asked about rookie running back LaMichael James, who could see his first action in a 49ers uniform on Sunday after he was drafted in the second round by the team this past April.
Gore, who is happy to act as a mentor to the young and speedy James, has seen improvement in the 23-year-old since he first laid eyes on in the summer.
“He got better in small spaces,” Gore said. “You watch his film in college, it’s a lot of big spaces. In the NFL it’s different. Early on, he had a tough time with that, but now from when I first saw him, he got a lot better at that.”
Gore stressed to James that patience is a virtue when running the football in the NFL.
“When you’re getting the ball it ain’t about how fast you go, it’s penetration, how fast you can get through. When he used to get the ball he used to just use his speed. I told him you’ve got to let things develop, be patient. When you see it, that’s when you be fast through the hole,” Gore said.
The 49ers are searching for someone to fill the role left by the injured Kendall Hunter, who acted as a change of pace to Gore’s bruising style. In Sunday’s game in St. Louis, Brandon Jacobs, who employs a similar style to Gore, was the only other back to get the ball. Jacobs rushed four times for just six yards.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the team’s leading rusher with 84 yards on nine carries, including a 50-yarder in which Gore delivered a key block.
“Whatever it takes to have successful play to win and I’m a part of it, I’m with it,” Gore said of his block.
* * *
The 49ers know as well as anyone that regular season records get thrown out the window once the playoffs begin. After finishing the regular season 13-3 a year ago, they fell to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game. The Giants, after a 9-7 regular season, went on to defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers stressed that the team needs to finish the regular season strong. After Miami, the 49ers close out with games against New England, Seattle and Arizona.
“It’s really important to finish the quarter strong. We talk about four quarters. This is the last quarter,” Rogers said.
“The teams that do good in the playoffs, at the end of November and December they’re kind of clicking and kind of get going. That’s what’s we’ve got to do. We can’t come into the playoffs with losses like last weekend, not hitting on all cylinders. You see the example with New York, everybody counted them out, and they ended up hitting it at this point last year, and ended up winning the Super Bowl. We’ve got to follow that same path.”
Miami is just 5-7 this season, but has already secured wins against St. Louis and Seattle – one club which has beaten the Niners (St. Louis), and another that gave them a tough battle earlier this season in Seattle, which lost 13-6 to the 49ers on Oct. 18.
“I know they’re a pretty good team,” Rogers said of the Dolphins. “They’ve had their ups and downs but the team is growing: new coaches, new players, and a team that’s coming together. There’s no team that we’re going to take lightly, regardless of what their record is, and we’ll just try to get the W.”