Primetime Win Fuels Confident 49ers


Frank Gore got tired of hearing about the physicality of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In the mind of the 49ers all-time leading rusher, he plays on one of the most physical teams in the National Football League.

It was evident Monday night.

In front of thousands of rowdy fans on hand for "Monday Night Football," the 49ers outplayed the Steelers to the tune of a convincing 20-3 win at Candlestick Park.

The win over the AFC North power bodes well in the mind of Gore and the rest of the 49ers locker room. It means the team can not only handle the big stage, but also hang in a slug fest with one of the league's toughest teams.

"Offense, defense, special teams did a great job against a team that's supposed to be one of the most physical teams in the league," Gore, the offensive captain said. "That was big for us."

The 49ers bottled up the run like they've done in the past 36 games, a streak where they've yet to allow an individual 100-yard rusher. On the flipside, Gore rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries, including a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the game's final points.

Gore's never been known to lack confidence. But now the seventh-year running back is seeing his entire team grow into a determined squad.

Gore's offensive unit especially showed strides in the red zone, scoring on two of its three possessions inside Pittsburgh's 20-yard line. After failing to produce a touchdown in their past seven red zone trips, a Vernon Davis 1-yard touchdown grab and Gore's score, proved the offense can make strides in the closing weeks of the regular season.

"After doing what we did last week, to come in this week and instead of putting up field goals, putting in sevens on the board, that was big for our offense, for our team," Gore stressed.

It wasn't just Gore who kept up his end of the physicality bargain.

With fellow captain Joe Staley out of action with a hamstring injury for the second consecutive week, Larry Grant stepped up once again, recording five tackles and four pass breakups in Willis' place.

"It's not about me. Everyone came to play today," Grant said. "Today showed everybody how good of a team we can be... It's good to see what we can do when we put things together like we're supposed to."

The Steelers outgained the 49ers 389-287 and converted on eight of 14 third downs, but four turnovers, three interceptions and a Justin Smith fumble recovery helped ensure a 49ers victory.

The 13.2 points allowed per game by the 49ers defense in 2011 ranks first in franchise history for any single season. Any team allowing less than two touchdowns in a game should be considered a threat to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The scoring record and the ridiculous rush defensive statistics that keep piling up for the 49ers will also keep them focused in the remaining two games of the regular season. The team is still in the hunt for a first-round bye with the likes of the Green Bay Packers (13-1) and New Orleans Saints (11-3).

In San Francisco's mind, there's plenty left to accomplish before they compete in the playoffs as the NFC West champions.

"We're not letting up," Grant added. "We know where are in the standings, but the good thing about this team is we're not letting up an inch. We're going to continue to do what we've been doing."

The win, however, won't increase San Francisco's confidence.

That's at least according to Gore, the self-assured leader of the offense.

"I've feel like we've always had confidence, but going up against a big team, a good team in Pittsburgh who's always known year in and year out…. It was a good win."

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree shared a similar stance as Gore.

"Nobody can have a perfect season," said the wideout who caught four passes for 35 yards, "but we're doing pretty good out there."

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