Gore, 49ers run over Seahawks to top of West

There's a new boss in the NFC West, and it wears red and gold. With San Francisco breaking out of its rushing funk Sunday as Frank Gore busted loose for two historically long TD dashes, the Niners ran all over the Seattle Seahawks 23-10 in their home opener, taking early command of first place in a division where their 2-0 record has come at the expense of the two teams in 2nd place behind them.

This one was all about the 49ers re-establishing the run and their persona as a power-rushing team after last week's rushing failure in Arizona. And by the time San Francisco was trotting off the field as the only unbeaten team in the NFC West, the Niners left little question they are ready for a run at the top of the division.

"We just knocked off the two other best teams in our division," Gore said. "Now everybody is going to know we're for real."

Well, San Francisco's running game is for real, just as advertised before the season. After getting stuffed for 21 net yards rushing on 25 carries in last week's opener at Arizona – and entering Sunday's game ranked last in the NFL in rushing offense – the 49ers exploded for 256 yards on the ground to take control in a match-up of divisional front-runners, averaging 8.8 yards per carry.

Gore was the spark that lit the fuse to San Francisco's offensive dynamite, breaking through the middle of the line twice and out-running the entire Seattle defense down the field on game-defining touchdown jaunts of 79 and 80 yards.

The first big breakaway gave San Francisco a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter as Gore followed a trap block by pulling guard David Baas and another block by fullback Moran Norris through the first wave of defenders and into the clear.

"It was just me and the safety and the referee after that," Gore said. "I hid behind the referee for a bit and I was gone."

The second bolt of lightning from Gore was equally impressive. It came on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, as Gore followed a blowout block by tackle Joe Staley over the left side and again blew down the middle of the field with Seattle defenders unable to catch him before he hit paydirt.

"It's just a matter of Frank Gore being Frank Gore," Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry said. "It's just as simple as that. They gave the right man the ball. He's one of those guys that's going to have your attention. It's not hard to find him. He runs hard. You sometimes hear him grunting out there when he runs. Frank is just a great running back. He's one of those guys where you can take away every hole and he will create one."

Gore's second long run pushed San Francisco's 13-10 halftime lead back to a 10-point advantage and was a knockout blow from which the Seahawks never could recover.

It also put Gore into the NFL record book as just the second player in league history to record two touchdown runs of 79 yards or more in the same game. Barry Sanders had touchdown runs of 80 and 82 yards for the Detroit Lions in 1997.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything like that," 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill said. "Frank was moving and running away from people. The offensive line was opening big holes and driving people back. It was fun to see from the back end, seeing the same thing Frank was seeing."

Gore had 206 yards rushing at that point, but carried only three times the remainder of the game to finish with 207 yards on 16 carries and fall short of his team-record and career-high 212 yards rushing in a November game against the Seahawks in 2006.

But it sure didn't seem like Gore or the Niners fell short in much else of anything Sunday.

With Hill efficiently running the offense with another steady effort – he finished 19 of 26 for a 144 yards passing to complement the running attack – the 49ers finished with a healthy 379 yards of offense after finishing with just 203 the week before in a hard-fought 20-16 season-opening win at Arizona.

"What we do is run," 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said. "If we can get a hat for a hat, we're going to control things with the run. We had 17- and 14-play drives. We managed the clock well, which is what our intent was. If we get the breakouts great, but we can run the ball and get the short throws and completions."

The Niners held a nine-minute advantage in time of possession as San Francisco's resurgent offensive line took control in the trenches to open space for Gore and others. Even fullback Moran Norris got in the act, breaking loose for a career-best run of 15 yards.

"We had a nice attitude going into the game that we wanted to run the ball, and we ran the ball," Baas said matter-of-factly. "I think it's something we needed to do, especially after last week. We needed to get on the right path, and I think we took a step today."

San Francisco's surging defense – which keyed last week's upset over defending NFC champion Arizona – also took another step toward becoming one of the dominant units in the league by sticking the Seahawks early and often and then shutting them down in the second half.

After being stopped most of the first half, the Seahawks assembled an 11-play, 70-yard drive to their only touchdown late in the second quarter to come within three points at halftime.

But on the 10th play of that drive, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was stuck in the back by linebacker Patrick Willis as Hasselbeck dove for the end zone. Hasselbeck suffered bruised ribs on the play and did not return.

The Seahawks scored on the next play when Seneca Wallace, Hasselbeck's replacement, threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Julius Jones. But the Seahawks got past the San Francisco 45-yard line just once the rest of the way while being held scoreless in the second half and finished with 283 yards.

"We can run the ball when we put our minds to it, and we can play pretty good defense," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said in summarizing the victory.

Once again, the San Francisco defense stuffed the run – Seattle gained just 66 yards on the ground, averaging only 2.9 per carry – and the 49ers were strong when it counted as Seattle converted only 29 percent of his third-down plays.

Safety Dashon Goldson also came down with the first interception of his career in Seattle territory to halt one Seahawks drive as the 49ers played opportunistic defense throughout the day.

And now, just two games into the season, the 49ers have already made a statement with divisional wins over their top two challengers in the NFC West.

They can make an even bigger statement next week when they travel to play NFC frontrunner Minnesota, also 2-0, but the message sent to the rest of the NFL on Sunday is that the 49ers are a team that now must be taken seriously.

"If they're not taking us seriously, that's OK," Singletary said. "They can keep doing that. But we're going to continue to take ourselves seriously. We're going to continue to take steps each day. If we can get a little bit better each day, then at the end of the day we're going to get done what we need to."

Consider Sunday's home opener another step forward for a team that got a little better and is now 2-0 to start a season for just the second time since 1998.

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