49ers garner NFC honors

Offense, defense, special teams. Despite an effort that wasn't always easy on the eyes, the 49ers excelled in all three phases of the game during their victory over the Raiders, and the rest of the NFC has taken notice. Standout individual play by 49ers gained recognition this week in all three areas, with Frank Gore leading the way after a performance that vaulted him into the NFL rushing lead.

After rushing for a career-high 134 yards on 27 carries to keep the San Francisco offense moving throughout the day, Gore was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, the first 49er to be so recognized since quarterback Tim Rattay captured the honor in Week 5 of the 2004 season.

"I'm happy, because I worked hard all week," said Gore, who now is tied with St. Louis running back Steven Jackson for the NFL lead with 465 yards rushing through five games. "The offensive line did a great job, and so did Mike (Robinson) and Mo (Hicks) and Moran (Norris). When we got our name called, we decided to make a play. It was a big game, and our team played together."

Gore, who was selected over eight other nominees for the NFC award, wasn't the only 49er making big plays that could not go ignored by the league.

Cornerback Walt Harris had a career-high three interceptions to gain honorable mention NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors behind Philadelphia cornerback Lito Sheppard, who wouldn't be denied of the award after recording an amazing seven passes defenses and two interceptions in a win over Dallas, returning his second pick 101 yards in the final seconds for a game-clinching touchdown.

To complete the San Francisco trifecta, rookie Manny Lawson also gained honorable mention status as NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his blocked punt turned the game in San Francisco's favor. Lawson charged in to block a Shane Lechler punt - Lechler's first blocked punt in five seasons - early in the third quarter to set up a touchdown that gave the 49ers a lead they never would relinquish. Lawson also tipped a pass that resulted in Harris' second interception.

Lawson, the second of San Francisco's two first-round picks in this year's draft, now has been recognized by the league for standout play twice in his first five career games. Lawson was named NFL Rookie of the Week for his performance in the 49ers' Week 2 victory over St. Louis.

Gore had his second 100-yard game of the season, averaging 5.0 yards a carry and recording six first downs and a long run of 26 yards while running behind an offensive line that did not allow a sack or commit a penalty. Gore's total rushing yards were the highest recorded by a 49er in a game since 2004.

Gore also had three receptions for 38 yards and continues to lead the 49ers in receiving with 19 catches for 167 yards. He had 172 yards from scrimmage against the Raiders, raising his season total to 632, which ranks second in the NFL behind Jackson's 649. Gore also leads the NFL with 23 rushing first downs, and his 4.6 average is the highest among the league's six leading rushers.

"It's a long season," said Gore, who also ended his disturbing string of losing a fumble in each of San Francisco's first four games. "I just am going to work to keep it going. I just have to play, not think about anything, just play ball."

Gore took over the NFL rushing lead from former University of Miami teammate Willis McGahee, who had topped the league in previous weeks. Gore beat out McGahee for the starting tailback position at Miami as a true sophomore, but his season was ruined by the first of two devastating knee injuries. McGahee went on to become an All-American star that season, rushing for 1,753 yards and 28 touchdowns in Gore's place.

Gore was the promising upstart among a stable of Miami backs that would go onto NFL success, a group that at one time included McGahee, Washington's Clinton Portis and Najeh Davenport, now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. McGahee now ranks third in NFL rushing behind Gore and Jackson with 439 yards. Portis, who has been battling injuries, currently ranks 20th with 313 rushing yards after finishing fourth in the league last year with 1,516 yards.

"As I've said all along, Frank is a guy I've got a lot of confidence in," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "Frank comes from Miami. He's got Portis, McGahee, and I think there's another one or two that he talks with all the time. They insulted him in the offseason somehow or someway. It bothered him a lot. He's motivated to show those guys, because when he was there, he was the man, so to speak, and then he got hurt and they got to take his place. Then, they go on to bigger and better things.

"Frank's got things to prove. There's nothing better than having a football player who's good and who has something to prove, as opposed to a football player who thinks he has arrived. Frank's far from that."

But Gore already is proving plenty, and now he obviously has the rest of the league's attention.

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