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Notebook: Tailbacks Take Over

Posted Dec 9, 2012

Frank Gore entered his postgame press conference on Sunday in the most appropriate attire.

The Miami native donned a grey, hooded sweatshirt that featured an upside down Dolphins logo. After the 49ers bruised their way to a 27-13 victory over Miami at Candlestick Park, the sweatshirt was fitting to say the least.

“I got this before the season,” Gore said, pointing at his chest. “I knew we had the Dolphins on the schedule and I’m not playing there, so I said we’ve got to flip them upside down.”

Mission accomplished.

About the only person who could slow down the running backs on Sunday was Alex Boone, as the 49ers right guard inadvertently helped bring Gore to the ground after a 19-yard pass reception in the third quarter.

“Boone wanted to get on the stat sheet for a tackle,” Joe Staley said.

Gore joined elite company with his touchdown, tying Hall of Famer Joe Perry and Roger Craig for the 49ers franchise record with 50 career rushing scores. He also became just the second active player with at least six 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, joining Rams running back Steven Jackson.

“Frank’s Frank,” Staley said. “He’s just tough, a true professional. He prepares, takes care of his body and prepares really hard. He’s a competitor. Love playing with Frank. Frank’s one of my guys, happy to have him as a teammate.”

On the same day the 49ers rushing king added another chapter to his storied career, LaMichael James opened the book on his NFL playing days. The second-round pick romped all over the college football world for the previous three years at Oregon, but had to wait 14 weeks to hear his name called in San Francisco.

The speedster didn’t have to wait long to gets his hands on the pigskin. He took the opening kickoff from about 8 yards deep in the end zone before making a couple of defenders miss on a 34-yard return. James provided a nice spark for the 49ers rushing game in the second half, finishing with eight carries for 30 yards and a 15-yard reception while spelling Gore throughout the game.

As he stood near the goal line to start the game, James said there were no butterflies fluttering in his stomach.

“I didn’t have any,” James said. “That really surprised me. I really wasn’t nervous at all. I just went out there and I just played. It was stress-free.”

When he wasn’t playing, James had a front-row seat to witness Gore, one of the game’s greatest backs. It was especially nice for James to help contribute on a day when Gore achieved his latest milestones.

“I have tremendous respect,” James said. “Not just for football, but on and off the field. If you’ve ever seen him practice, he practices the same way. So, I see it every day. When you come on the field, it’s kind of second nature. Nothing he does really surprised me because he does it every day in practice.”

But the 49ers backfield was a three-headed monster on Sunday. Gore nearly had a second, 20-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but his dive to the goal line fell less than a yard short of the end zone.

No worries, though, as Anthony Dixon was there to clean things up with a 1-yard touchdown plunge on the next play. In all, the 49ers amassed 155 yards on the ground.

“It’s always good to help contribute and put points on the board,” Dixon said. “I feel like we have the best backfield in the league. We got a lot of talent, we’re super deep. I know coach has a hard time trying to figure out what to do with all of us, but that’s a good problem.”

No description of the game would be complete without the afternoon’s longest run, a scintillating 50-yard touchdown from quarterback Colin Kaepernick to seal the game.

Holding on to a 20-13 lead at midfield in the fourth quarter, Kaepernick stuck the ball in Gore’s gut on a great play fake before keeping it and running down the left sideline untouched to paydirt. Once he got to the goal line, Kaepernick outstretched his arms as if to say, ‘Where’s the defense?’

Many people may have been deked out by Kaepernick’s play-action, but not fullback Bruce Miller.

“I’m getting used to him keeping those now,” Miller said.

Aldon Smith Climbs the Charts

Watch out Michael Strahan, your single-season sack record is on the verge of extinction.

In 2001, Strahan notched 22.5 sacks to set NFL history. The way Aldon Smith is playing, a new record will be set in 2012.

Smith racked up two more quarterback takedowns of Ryan Tannehill on Sunday to bring his season total and 49ers franchise record to 19.5. And it’s only Week 14.

 “This game is about speed and power,” Smith said. “I try to mix it up and make them respect both of them.”

Smith’s first sack was especially impressive, as he bull-rushed Miami tackle Jonathan Martin right into Tannehill’s back before leaping over Martin and tugging the quarterback to the ground. Smith used some nice hand moves on his second sack in the fourth quarter, slipping past his man before spearing Tannehill to the turf.

Asked where he places Smith on the all-time list of sack artists, 49ers All-Pro Justin Smith said, “Right now, he’s No. 1, isn’t he? Nobody’s been on pace for that. Right now he is the guy.”

Sergio Romo Savors Victory

Decked out in his No. 99 Aldon Smith jersey, pitcher Sergio Romo of the world champion San Francisco Giants was in the building on Sunday as the 49ers took down Miami.

Boone was happy see Romo cheering on the 49ers, but took issue with his jersey in the locker room after the game, telling Romo he needed to buy a No. 75.

“You did a great job,” Boone told Romo, who earned the final out of the 2012 World Series. “I’m so starstruck right now.”

Romo carried a football around the locker room after the game trying to get 49ers autographs while soaking in the lively postgame scene. The San Francisco star has been to handful of 49ers games at Candlestick during his time with the Giants, but Sunday marked his first time on the field and in the locker room.

“The city of San Francisco, they’ve accepted me,” Romo said.” The reception I get here is amazing and I really couldn’t ask for more. Definitely feel like a little kid all the time with a smile on my face.”

Notes and Quotes

James wasn’t the only high-profile rookie to make his NFL debut on Sunday, as first-round pick A.J. Jenkins also stepped between the lines for the first time. Jenkins didn’t record a catch, but was used regularly throughout the contest.

Michael Crabtree has emerged as Kaepernick’s favorite target in recent weeks. Crabtree was the top target against the Dolphins, hauling in a game-high nine catches for 93 yards. He now has 16 receptions for 194 yards in his past two contests.

“If you look at our roster,” Gore said, “we’re deep at every position, receivers, running backs, probably have the two best tight ends in the league. So every week it can be anybody’s time to shine. We’ve just got to stay as a team and keeping working and pulling for each other. If we do that, the sky’s the limit.”

Special teams stud C.J. Spillman turned the tide of the game by recovering a muffed punt at the Miami 9-yard line in the third quarter. Gore would score his touchdown two plays later.

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