On Sunday, Gore had a chance to return the favor.
Holding an eight-point lead over the Detroit Lions midway through the fourth quarter, the 49ers faced a third-and-14 needing a first down to keep the drive going. So
“That was a big play,” Gore said on Tuesday. “We go over that play a lot in practice and I knew my block was going to be a key block. I told myself I was going to do whatever it takes to spring him out and I did. That felt good springing Crabtree out and getting the first down.”
Following Crabtree’s first-down catch – one of three he had on the drive – the 49ers ultimately scored on a 23-yard
Whereas Gore was the one to execute the big block, he was only prepared because of the meticulous teaching of offensive coordinator Greg Roman and the rest of the team’s assistants.
“We’ve got great coaches,” Gore said. “They work very hard. They do a great job to put is in great situations and I’m happy that we have them. Another thing is this is our second year in the same offense so we’re not learning anymore. We know what to do now.”
It took until his seventh NFL season, but Gore finally experienced the playoffs in 2011. Much of the team’s success starts in the classroom with the coaching staff, giving Gore and his teammates a newfound confidence before even stepping on the field.
Coupled with the development of quarterback Alex Smith, who is currently the second-highest rated passer in the league (115.9), Gore said there’s a different tone in the huddle on gamedays.
“It feels a lot different,” Gore said. “Even coming into the game, just knowing that we have a good team. We’re not cocky because we work hard all during the week. But our squad feels totally different.”
It’s hard to find someone to take credit for all the big plays the 49ers have executed this season. While the players certainly deserve credit, they’re quick to deflect the praise to their coaches for putting them in positions to succeed. Likewise, the coaches have repeatedly deflected the acclaim to the players for their efforts in between the lines.
The Pro Bowl left tackle was a key part of the offensive line’s success on Sunday night, as the unit maintained their blocks and occassionally pancacked Detroit defenders, but he was quick to recognize the coaching of Harbaugh, Roman and company.
“These coaches, they keep it very fun and also very serious,” Staley said. “It’s all about the balance of having fun at playing football, but also being at the same time very, very serious at what we’re getting in to and that’s win games.”
Gore has already rushed for more NFL yards than anyone who has put on the 49ers uniform, but his next carry will also be a historic one. He currently is tied with friend and mentor Roger Craig with 1,686 career carries, the most in franchise history, but will soon vault to No. 1 on the list.
“I’m just happy that God gave me the opportunity to play the game that I love to play,” Gore said. “I’m just going out there and giving my all on the practice field and the game and seeing what happens.”
When the 49ers travel to Minnesota this weekend, the contest will showcase two of the top running backs in the game: Gore and Adrian Peterson. Peterson has 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the young season, but trails Gore, who ranks fourth in the NFL with 201 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a great player,” Gore said.
But the duo also has something else in common. Gore overcame a serious knee injury at the University of Miami before being drafted by the 49ers in 2005. Peterson, meanwhile, has completed a quick nine-month recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament tear and has shown no signs of slowing down.
“You know that he’s a hard worker,” Gore said. “They’ve got so much new technology to get you back so fast and as long as you’ve got work ethic you should be fine. It doesn’t surprise me at all.”