The San Francisco 49ers started the season with Alex Smith at quarterback, leading the offense with veteran RB Frank Gore. But after head coach Jim Harbaugh saw how quarterback Colin Kaepernick brought more of an explosive element to the offense, he went with his gut and went with the inexperienced Kaepernick over the more seasoned Smith. Although highly criticized at the time, the 49ers fans have to be impressed with the result of Harbaugh’s decision. Kaepernick has led the football franchise to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994, and he brings the ability to rush for 181 yards in a game (as shown in the Divisional Playoffs vs. the Green Bay Packers). As such, Kaepernick has made the 49ers' offense even tougher to defend, and the Ravens aren’t looking forward to facing off against the quick and agile quarterback. However, fans and viewers must remember that running back Frank Gore is also a crucial part of the 49ers’ success against the Baltimore Ravens this year at Super Bowl XLVII.
Before the days of Kaepernick, and before Alex Smith’s resurgent career under Jim Harbaugh’s leadership, Frank Gore was the focal point of the offense. From 2006-2010, Alex Smith was either injured or inconsistent, which meant that the 49ers would ground-and-pound opposing teams in order to produce a victory. The 49ers were built upon the power and speed of Gore, and despite inadequate quarterback play, Gore was able to consistently put up 1,000+ rushing yard seasons. In fact, Gore has finished in the top-20 of overall rushing yards since 2006, and this includes their current Super Bowl year of Gore finishing 10th overall in the NFL. The days of a merely-managing-the-offense-quarterback are over with Kaepernick at the helm, but Harbaugh knows that he must use his offensive weapon, Gore, in order to beat the great Ravens' defenders Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Ray Lewis.
Harbaugh knows Frank Gore has been crucial in picking up big yardage on the ground, as well as being a decent pass protector. The 49ers have been running the Pistol Formation, which can be a lethal formation if a team has a running back that has speed to hit the hole hard. Frank has definitely been hitting the hole hard, and it shows in this year’s rushing statistics: the University of Miami alumnus has averaged almost 105 rushing yards in the two playoff games, and he’s scored three touchdowns. Two of the three touchdowns came in the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta. Kaepernick was great, but Gore was fantastic at creating a play with his legs when the Falcons’ defenders were flat-footed. The Falcons tried to contain Kaepernick by using a zone coverage scheme, which can force a mobile quarterback to stay within the pocket. However, it can be manipulated with a strong and powerful running back that has great initial speed. Gore had that against Atlanta, and it created headaches for the Falcons all throughout the second half. In addition, Gore was doing a good job of keeping his quarterback from being sacked in pass protection, which disallowed the Falcons from consistently blitzing.
If the 49ers want to win this year's Super Bowl, they will need to make Frank Gore a huge part of their offensive scheme. Nothing against Kaepernick, but he is still a very young quarterback who has only played in two career postseason games. He will be going against the likes of the very experienced Lewis, Reed, Suggs and Ngata. Lewis and Reed are first-ballot Hall of Famers, with Suggs and Ngata also likely to make it to Canton. Jim Harbaugh will want to run the ball with Gore at least twenty times to keep the pressure off his quarterback. The 49ers must make it the Gore-and-Kaepernick show on offense, not just the Kaepernick show. The NFC champions have a great offensive line, so they should try and pound the ball until the Ravens prove they can stop it. If Frank Gore has at least 90 yards rushing on February 3, the San Francisco 49ers should be the 2012 NFL champions. Without Frank Gore’s production, the chances of the 49ers winning against John Harbaugh’s Ravens are drastically decreased.
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