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Seeing Red


Five drives inside Seattle's 20-yard line yielded four David Akers field goals and a 1-yard touchdown run by Alex Smith in last Sunday's 33-17 season-opening 49ers win over the Seattle Seahawks.

And while members of the 49ers offense were pleased to start the season in the win column, to a man, players and coaches know their performance in the red zone needs improvement if the team wants to stay undefeated.
* *"We didn't execute everything the way we wanted to, but there were a lot of bright, positive things to build on," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said on Thursday.

One of those positives Roman alluded to was a nine-minute drive in the fourth quarter, one that set up Akers' fourth field goal of the game from 18 yards out.

Frank Gore was held to gains of -2, -1, and 3 yards prior to Akers' final field goal. The lack of red zone production, however, didn't discourage the running back who totaled 78 yards from scrimmage against the Seahawks.

"It was tough," Gore said this week, "but we knew they were going to try and stop the run since we've been successful over the years against them on the ground. We just have to get better. We will."

After the Seattle win, Gore now has 8,775 career yards from scrimmage which moved him into third place in franchise history behind Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice (19,752) and 49ers Hall of Fame running back Roger Craig (11,506).

Gore and the 49ers as a whole would like to increase their output against Dallas. The 49ers, who totaled 85 yards on the ground on 32 carries (2.7 yards per carry), face a Cowboys defense that allowed 45 rushing yards to the New York Jets in defeat.

Gore expects to face a hungry defense.

"They play good ball," Gore added. "They lost last week and they're going to come in here and play hard."

Surprisingly, it was the 49ers quarterback who scored the only rushing touchdown in the season opener. It also happened to be the unit's only touchdown of the game.

But Smith's fearless play didn't quite surprise his teammates – over the years they've come to expect that type of play from Smith.

"Alex is a tough guy and I know he's going to give it his all on the football field," said Gore of his quarterback, who has seven combined touchdowns (six passing, one rushing) and one interception in his past seven contests.

Smith, too, understands the importance of giving maximum effort in order to cash in drives once inside the opponent's 20.

"If we did that last Sunday," Smith said, "it changes the game."

This week, the 49ers will likely have more options in short-yardage and goal-line situations with the addition of blocking tight end Justin Peelle. It's not known if the 10-year veteran will be one of the team's 46 active players this Sunday, but the Dublin native is hopeful he can contribute right away.

For now, he's going through a crash course of studying a new offense, Dallas' defense, as well as learning his teammate's names.

"It's been tough, but everyone's been helpful," Peelle said. "I think once I get a grasp of it, I think we'll be able to do some three-tight ends stuff and we'll all be able to succeed because we have more options."

Roman is confident Peelle can give the 49ers more choices when calling plays in close quarters.

"As much as we use tight ends, you want to build some contingency plans," Roman said. "(Peelle) gives us a little flexibility there at the tight end position."

But no matter how many formations or personnel combinations the 49ers use on Sunday, the emphasis remains on finishing drives with touchdowns.

Committing no turnovers last week was an accomplishment for the unit. Now it's time to build on it against Dallas.

"When we're in the red zone, we have to score," guard Chilo Rachal said. "When you're so close down there, you have to punch it in. Last week, we didn't get that done. So we've looked at that, critiqued ourselves and saw how we can fix that. This week we'll execute and play 49ers football."

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