Gore voices frustration on offensive futility

Frank Gore is carrying around that perplexed, bound-and-gagged feeling of repression this week. It's what happens when you're the leading man in an offensive production that has notably failed since hitting the stage earlier this month. "I'm frustrated, man, real frustrated," Gore said Thursday. But on the Sunday horizon is an opportunity to bring an immediate end to all the aggravation.

After all, this is Seahawks week. And as coach Mike Nolan noted when informed of his star running back's rankled mood, "I know there's a lot of frustration in the Seattle locker room, too, when they were talking about Frank."

As well there should be. Gore ran over, through and around the Seahawks last season for 356 yards rushing in two games, providing the spark that led to a season sweep of the three-time defending NFC West champions. Gore broke loose for a franchise single-game record 212 yards rushing the last time Seattle visited San Francisco last November.

So what better time, place and opponent for Gore and the San Francisco offense to both get well in a hurry?

"We're going to have to, man," Gore said matter-of-factly. "That's the only way I see this team doing better this year is the offense has to play better. If we don't play better, man, it's going to be real tough for us."

Just three weeks into the season, it already has been pretty tough for Gore and the offense that revolves around him. Both entered the season with big expectations that so far have been stifled while the 49ers slipped to the bottom of the NFL rankings in total offense.

It's not a situation to which the mild-mannered Gore is accustomed. He has produced since Day 1 after joining the 49ers as the team's third-round draft pick in 2005.

He became the first rookie in 15 years to lead the 49ers in rushing, averaging 4.8 yards per carry on his way to a 608-yard season. Last year, he burst into the NFL consciousness with a franchise-record and NFC-leading 1,695 yards, averaging 5.4 yards a pop, the best average last year among the league's 23 1,000-yard rushers.

But as the 49ers reach the quarter pole of their season with Sunday's pivotal first-place showdown with the Seahawks, Gore is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry – two full yards fewer than he averaged each tote last season.

It seems almost inexplicable for a Pro Bowl starter and an offense that ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing offense last season and second in average per rushing attempt.

Gore, for one, isn't making any excuses. But he is making some proclamations that the recent downward trend has to change.

"It's on us," he said. "It's not really about our opponent. It's on us, what we're doing. And we're not doing what it takes to get to the next level right now as an offense.

"The defense has been playing great ball. I know it's team ball, but we have to help out, man. Three weeks in a row, the offense has done nothing. We just have to get on the same page and start making plays. Running the ball, throwing the ball – everything. We just have to get an extra push, do extra. We just have to make plays, man."

Those have been few and far between for both Gore and the offense so far during a shoddy September.

Gore was limited to just 39 yards rushing on 14 carries during last week's loss at Pittsburgh, his lowest total in the 20 games he has started since entering the NFL two years ago. Gore rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns to spark the 49ers in their Week 2 victory at St. Louis, but otherwise he has found the going on the ground tough since the season began.

After leading the NFC in rushing and finishing third in the NFL last season, Gore is currently 11th in the NFC and 24th in the league with 175 yards rushing. He's on a pace to gain just 933 yards this season – a far cry from his goals of a 2,000-yard season and possibly challenging Eric Dickerson's NFL record of 2,105, a mark that has stood for 23 years.

With opposing defenses stacking the box to stop Gore, San Francisco's offense failed to produce 200 yards in either of the team's first two games. The 49ers needed a 289-yard output against Pittsburgh to climb from last to 31st in the NFL rankings this week in total offense.

After recording a team-record nine 100-yard games last year, Gore still is searching for his first breakout game of 2007 one month into the season. Considering the manner in which he has owned the Seahawks, this could be the week he finds it.

And he and his comrades on offense better find it soon, Gore said. He had two of his biggest games of the season against the Seahawks while leading the 49ers to two of their biggest victories of the 2006 season.

"We got big runs on them," Gore said. "They couldn't stop me in the open field. We know we can do it because we did it before. We just have to put it all together, keep pushing and keep playing hard. It's bound to happen. We just have to get on the same page, and when we do, we can't look back."

Because, as Gore says, when the 49ers look back, "We won two games and the offense has done nothing." With Seattle up next and sole possession of first place there for the taking, it's time to look forward, and also time to get Gore and the offense moving more frequently in that direction.

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