Niner of the Week

Running back Frank Gore is SFI's Niner of the Week for his performance during the 49ers' season-opening 34-27 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Sunday standout: Gore got things started early for the 49ers by bursting over the left side for a 32-yard gain on the game's first play from scrimmage. That big run got the Niners started on a 79-yard touchdown drive that gave San Francisco its only lead of the game. It also was an indication of things to come as Gore was the go-to guy who kept the San Francisco offense moving throughout the afternoon. Gore finished with 16 carries for a game-high 87 yards and two touchdowns rushing and also collected a team-high six catches for 83 yards receiving. Among his 22 touches, Gore had six plays that went for 10 yards or more and six that either went for a first down or a touchdown. His 39-yard catch-and-run led to his own 4-yard touchdown run to culminate another 79-yard drive that brought the 49ers within 21-14 early in the second quarter. Gore carried both times on a short two-play, 7-yard scoring drive that brought the 49ers within 24-21 early in the third quarter, bouncing away from two tackle attempts and carrying defenders with him over the goal line to score on a two-yard run.

Season to date: After one week, Gore ranks seventh in the NFC and 11th in the NFL in rushing. He is one of three NFL players to score two touchdowns in Week 1 games and leads the NFC in that department. He also is tied for fifth in the NFC and 10th in the NFL in receptions, and his 83 receiving yards rank sixth in the NFC and 11th in the league. His 13.8 average on receptions ranks sixth among all NFL players with six receptions or more.

Need to note: Gore started one game at tailback for the 49ers last year as a rookie, but the Arizona game was his first start as San Francisco's No. 1 featured back after the team traded away previous starter Kevan Barlow in August. Despite starting just that one Week 15 game in 2005, Gore surpassed Barlow in the season's final game to become the first rookie in 15 years to lead the 49ers in rushing with 608 yards. Gore had a career-high 108 yards rushing in the season finale against Houston to push him past Barlow (who finished with 576 yards), and his 87-yard effort against Arizona was the third-best of his career. Gore's 32-yard run on the opening play was the second-longest of his career. His reception and receiving yardage totals against Arizona both were career highs. His two touchdowns rushing tied his previous career-high set last year in Week 16 against St. Louis.

Gore says: "I'm going to try my best every week to do the best I can. I'm going to go out there and give my teammates 110 percent. I just want to prove to a lot of people that I can get the job done and let a lot of people know that they messed up when they skipped on me in the draft."

Coach Mike Nolan says: "I thought Frank did an outstanding job, and I've always had confidence in (him), I've said that from the beginning. Frank last year, I know would have played more, but after finding out about his (shoulder) injuries I think we backed off his play. I think if you looked back to the end of last season against St. Louis, (that) was a good example of the Frank Gore you will get almost every week."

Quarterback Alex Smith says: "Frank's a fighter. Frank's all ball. He loves this game. You can see it in his power running. He's not going to quit. I don't know how many times (against Arizona) he got hit and all of a sudden he's falling forward for five more yards. That's not just him. That's the offensive line as well; you know the guys are working for him. But Frank's a very passionate player and loves the game. He loves this game and wants to be great, and I'm just lucky to be able to play with a guy like that. He's a ton of fun to have in there."

Looking ahead: Expect to see more of the same from Gore as the 49ers feed him the football in the running game and look for ways to get it to him in space as part of their passing attack. Nolan says the 49ers would like to get Gore about 25 touches a game, or "somewhere right around there," so he'll be featured prominently as an every-down back. It's way too early to be making season projections, but based on his excellent season-opening effort, Gore is on a pace for 1,392 rushing yards, 96 receptions and 1,328 receiving yards.

ALSO CONSIDERED: QB Alex Smith (23 for 40, 288 yards, 1 TD passing, 88.3 passer rating); CB Walt Harris (6 tackles, 2 passes defensed, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery to set up San Francisco's final TD); WR Antonio Bryant (four receptions for 114 yards, had 52-yard TD reception nullified by penalty).

COMPLETE 2005 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). Week 7: RB Frank Gore. Week 8: K Joe Nedney. Week 9: LB Julian Peterson. Week 10: K Joe Nedney. Week 11: WR Brandon Lloyd. Week 12: CB Shawntae Spencer. Week 13: S Keith Lewis. Week 14: LB Julian Peterson. Week 15: RB Frank Gore. Week 16 LB Derek Smith. Week 17: DB Mike Adams.

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