San Francisco running back Frank Gore is in his ninth season, has been named to four Pro Bowls, and is still productive despite being 30 years old.
With the game on the line against Seattle, the NFL’s best team last Sunday at Candlestick Park, Gore’s 51-yard burst was the biggest play to that point and set up Phil Dawson’s game-winning 22-yard field goal with 26 seconds left as the 49ers edged the Seahawks, 19-17, in an NFC West showdown.
Gore’s run came on first down and 10 from San Francisco’s 31-yard line, and was a thing of beauty because it showed that the one-time University of Miami star still has enough speed to beat defenders.
The scamper began with Gore, who has 9,770 yards with 59 touchdowns over a career that began in 2005 after being drafted by San Francisco in the third round, taking a handoff from quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Initially the run went left and did for 10 yards until Gore darted right, shifted into high gear and raced until he went out of bounds at the Seattle 18.
“We knew it was going to be a close game,’’ said Gore, who finished with a game-best 110 yards on 17 carries and now has 931 yards with eight touchdowns. “It was physical. That run was big. I don’t think I’m too old.”
Gore is the 49ers’ all-time leader in rushing yards, attempts and touchdowns, and has topped 1,000 yards six times including a personal-best 1,695 yards in 2006.
San Francisco (9-4), which fell to Seattle 29-3 in the first meeting, took a 3-0 lead on Dawson’s 23-yard kick with 5:04 showing in the opening quarter that capped a 56-yard, 10-play drive.
Dawson’s 48-yarder late in the same quarter made it 6-0 and came after Kassim Osgood blocked Jon Ryan’s punt.
Seattle (11-2) went ahead 7-6 on Marshawn Lynch’s 11-yard ramble with 12:17 left in the second quarter and climaxed an 80-yard, eight-play march, but Dawson’s 52-yard attempt about four minutes later handed the 49ers (318 total net yards) a 9-7 lead.
Lynch is Seattle’s best back and delivered a team-high 72 yards on 20 rushes, but a long of only 11 yards.
San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman made sure Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson were held in check. “It was physical out there,’’ said Bowman, who had a game-best eight tackles with a sack and a forced fumble. “We wanted to keep him [Wilson] in front of us. He’s the key to that offense.”
Wilson (15 of 25 for 199 yards with an interception) did find wide receiver Luke Willson (70 yards on three receptions) with a 39-yard dart and 3:47 left before the half that put Seattle (264 total yards) ahead, 14-9.
San Francisco moved in front 16-14 with six seconds remaining before the intermission when Kaepernick (15 of 29 for 175 yards with a pick) hit tight end Vernon Davis (21 yards on two catches) with an eight-yard bullet that finalized a 72-yard, nine-play excursion.
Steven Hauschka’s 31-yard field goal with 6:20 showing in the fourth quarter pushed the Seahawks ahead 17-16 until Gore’s heroics.
It’s possible that these two powerhouses will meet again in the playoffs, and the prospect is noteworthy because these rivals simply don’t like one another.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.