Niner of the Week

Running back Frank Gore is SFI's NOTW for his performance in San Francisco's 52-17 loss to the Washington Redskins, when the rookie contributed a late flash of brightness to an otherwise dismal afternoon for the 49ers.

Sunday standout: Gore rushed for 90 yards on six carries during San Francisco's final two offensive series, exploding for a 72-yard touchdown dash on the first play of the latter with two minutes remaining to provide the 49ers with their final points. Gore had minus-1 yards on three carries before those final two series and finished with a team-high and career-high 89 yards on a career-high nine carries, a 9.9 average. Gore scored the first touchdown of his NFL career when he took a first-down handoff from quarterback Alex Smith at the San Francisco 28-yard line and banged straight ahead into the line. Gore bounced off a pile of bodies, switched direction, saw a hole open to his left, then rocketed through it to find the sideline. Once the rookie had turned the corner, he simply out-ran the Washington defense to the end zone to complete the 49ers' longest rushing play since Kevan Barlow's 78-yard touchdown run against Pittsburgh in November of 2003. On San Francisco's previous series, Gore carried five times for 18 yards in a seven-play drive that resulted in Joe Nedney's 47-yard field goal as the 49ers scored 10 points on the two series during which Gore was the featured back.

Season to date: Gore ranks third among all NFL rookie running backs with 198 yards rushing on 34 carries this season. The third-round draft pick trails only Tampa Bay's Cadillac Williams (447 yards) and Miami's Ronnie Brown (438 yards), who both were among the top five picks of the first round. Gore ranks 19th in the NFC in rushing and, among the conference's top 26 rushers, his 5.8 average ranks second among running backs. Gore has carried more than four times in a game just twice previously this season, gaining 42 yards on seven carries against Dallas in Week 3 and 31 yards on eight carries against Indianapolis in Week 5. He also ranks fifth on the team in receiving with six catches for 28 yards.

Need to note: Gore's touchdown run was the longest by a 49ers rookie running back since Dexter Carter went 74 yards for the first-round pick's only touchdown of the season in 1990. Gore is on a pace to gain 528 yards this year, which would be the highest total for a 49ers' rookie since Roger Craig's 725 yards in 1983. At 22, Gore is the second-youngest player on the team's 53-man roster behind 21-year-old quarterback Alex Smith.

Gore says: "I made my read and when I saw the crease, I hit it and I was gone. It felt good getting my first touchdown in the NFL. I hope I showed my coaches that if I am in the game, they can believe in me and that I am going to keep fighting, no matter if we are up or down."

Coach Mike Nolan says: "He's doing better all the time. He's flashed ever since he's been here, it's just a matter of Frank getting the ball. Frank hits the hole pretty quickly. When he sees it, he doesn't dance much. Even in the games when you're watching him, you'd think he's a 240-pound man sometimes when he runs up in there. He's a tough nut. Frank's a very good back, and he'll remain that as long as he's playing. Right now, I'd like to keep Frank at about a third just from a health standpoint and to keep him going. He had that little tweak in the shoulder in training camp, and I don't want to wear him down. I want to have him for the season. Right now, he gets about 15-20 plays. I guess he gets about 15 plays, maybe a little bit more, but he gets about eight or nine carries. Maybe a little bit more would be nice, but we'll see."

Looking ahead: Though Nolan says he wants to pace Gore and limit his carries while Barlow remains the lead back, expect to see Gore get more touches as the season progresses as the 49ers give him more opportunities earlier in games. The more Gore continues to produce, the more likely the Niners will stick with him for extended periods when he has the hot hand - or hot feet.

ALSO CONSIDERED: OG Eric Heitmann (Only member of offensive line to have decent game; he continues to be team's best OL this season by a notable margin); LB Brandon Moore (tied for second on team with seven tackles; recorded only sack by San Francisco defense).

PREVIOUS NOTW LIST: Week 1: DE Bryant Young. Week 2: P Andy Lee. Week 3: WR Brandon Lloyd. Week 4: DE Bryant Young. Week 5: LB Jeff Ulbrich. Week 6: No selection (49ers bye week).

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