Do 49ers dare not run vs. Seahawks?

This is when things start getting tricky for the 49ers. The Niners featured a lot of spread elements with quarterback Alex Smith working predominantly in the shotgun formation against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That made a lot of sense against a team that has no pass rush and was playing without its best cornerback. But what about this week against the Seattle Seahawks?

Running back Frank Gore has thrived against the Seahawks. In fact, when the teams met earlier this season, Gore rushed for a NFL-best 207 yards and two touchdowns on 16 rushing attempts before leaving early in the fourth quarter with an ankle sprain.

In his past seven games against the Seahawks, Gore has rushed for 869 yards and averaged 160 yards from scrimmage. So would the 49ers dare turn Gore into an afterthought against the Seahawks on Sunday at Qwest Field?

Coach Mike Singletary said the 49ers' offensive approach will likely be dictated early in the game when play-caller Jimmy Raye is able to assess what's working.

"The most important thing is we want to go into every game thinking we want to be balanced," Singletary said. "But if you're running the ball better, maybe you're going to run 60-40. And if you're throwing the ball better, maybe you're going to throw 60-40. You don't want to outsmart yourself. If you're team is doing something well that day against that particular defense, you want to try to do it."

Gore would still have to be considered the 49ers' most reliable offensive weapon. But when the club runs so many plays from the shotgun formation it greatly reduces the kind of run plays on which he can excel.

There is less variety of run plays -- mostly slow-developing draws or counters -- a team can utilize from the shotgun formation.

"When you have a running back like Frank Gore, he is a hit-the-hole-downhill guy," Singletary said. "He's not a fidget to the right and then give him the ball. It's not like you're under center when (the quarterback) is going back, he's going forward, and he's hitting that hole.

"So it's different for the running back. For the quarterback it's great. But it's different for the running back when you've got that kind of running back."

The 49ers have lacked a true identity on offense. They began the season with the hope of being a power-running team that could wear down the opposition. But the offensive line has not delivered.

With the emergence of tight end Vernon Davis and the Week 6 addition of receiver Michael Crabtree, the 49ers have become tilted more toward the passing game.

"I think this offense has been in transition since I've been here," Raye said. "You name a week that we haven't been in transition, from an injury standpoint, from a runner standpoint, a receiver standpoint, an offensive line standpoint. It has been a constant flow of transition."

Raye expressed optimism Smith's statistics will continue to improve -- regardless of the offensive formation -- as he becomes more comfortable in his surroundings.

"I would anticipate going forward that as we improve in other areas of our play offensively, his growth will continue," Raye said. "He's become a little more assertive. You've got to remember that as he and the offense become more compatible and friendly, I think the less anxiety he'll have as he anticipates and knows the players he's playing with."

Singletary said he has spoken to Gore about his concerns that the team is becoming a pass-oriented offense.

"Any great player I've been around, whether it's Walter Payton or a great receiver, Jerry Rice, whoever it might be, when they're not getting the ball, they feel like they're not contributing," Singletary said.

Said Gore, "As long as we win, I'm fine with it."

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After "negotiating" with some of his players, Singletary has decided the time is right to stop having practices in pads for the season.

"I want to make sure that I'm asking, and, at the same time, I'm inviting them to talk to me," Singletary said. "It's not that I'm going to agree with everything. If it makes sense, then let's look at it. If not, then we won't do it."

Last week was the first week in which the 49ers did not have on full pads at least once when it had a full week to prepare for a game. The 49ers responded with a 20-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Any time you can take the pads off, it's refreshing," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. "As long as it keeps us fresh, on game days we can hit again and be hungry."

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The cat-and-mouse game has begun. The 49ers and Seahawks played in the second week of the season. But the 49ers' offense has taken on a different form with quarterback Alex Smith and receiver Michael Crabtree being added.

So how much of what the 49ers saw from the Seahawks' defense on Sept. 20 is applicable?

"We've got some good stuff on film with different looks," Smith said. "A little bit of it is going to be just wait and see. We have to prepare for everything and just wait and see how they're going to defend us. We rushed for quite a bit against them and did a lot of good things in the run game. I still think that it's there to think about and that we've done some different things the last couple of weeks personnel-wise and formation-wise. But I think that they will have a lot to think about."

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Safety Dashon Goldson has missed a few tackles in recent weeks, but Singletary said he is fine with the mindset. After all, Goldson is not whiffing because he is tentatively approaching the ball carrier.

"It's not a matter of him not wanting to tackle," Singletary said. "It's a good problem. He wants to come up and knock everybody out, but he has to come up and settle down and tackle a guy. Going forward, it's just something that throughout the rest of the year, we just have to continue to focus on."

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Dwight Clark, whose leaping catch of a Joe Montana pass in January 1982 lifted the 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance, is returning to the organization after leaving a decade ago to become general manager of the expansion Cleveland Browns.

Clark was hired as a business consultant. He will work alongside 49ers chief operating officer Andy Dolich and vice president of football affairs Keena Turner. He will focus on special projects relating to sponsorship development, corporate hospitality, community investment, premium seating and the new stadium sales effort, the team announced.

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Rookie safety Curtis Taylor was placed on injured reserve with a slightly torn hip flexor, and the 49ers promoted fullback Brit Miller from the practice squad.

Miller was activated because the 49ers have sustained major losses to the coverage units. Arnaz Battle and Michael Robinson, two of the 49ers' best special-teams players, missed last week's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Brit has been working his tail off," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "I just think he's a guy who could really help us on special teams going forward."

The 49ers filled Miller's spot on the practice squad with receiver Rodney Wright, who starred for the San Jose Sabercats of the Arena League.
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The 49ers have received exceptional play from veteran Barry Sims, who is filling in for injured starting left tackle Joe Staley.

But when Staley's left knee is healthy and he's able to play, he will return to the starting lineup, Singletary said. And Staley expects to be ready for the 49ers' game Dec. 14, against the Arizona Cardinals.

When Staley sustained a complete tear of his medial-collateral ligament and a grade-2 sprain of the posterior cruciate ligament on Nov. 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, he was told he'd be out of action six to eight weeks.

Staley said he looked at the schedule and saw the game against the Cardinals was exactly six weeks away.

"I'm doing everything in my power to make it six weeks, and not eight weeks," he said.

Staley began running on Monday. He has regained his range of motion and is now working on building strength. He will not play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks but hopes to be on the field for a game against the Cardinals that could have NFC playoff implications.

"It's going to be an awesome game," Staley said. "That's another reason I want to be in there."

Sims has been exceptional, but it does not appear as if Singletary is inclined to keep him in the starting lineup. Singletary said he is pleased with the way the right side of the line has progressed.

"I think that (right tackle) Adam Snyder and (right guard) Chilo Rachal are very solid right now and they're working together and they're getting things done," Singletary said. "When Staley comes back, Staley is the left tackle and those will be our five best guys."
When Staley sustained a complete tear of his medial-collateral ligament and a grade-2 sprain of the posterior cruciate ligament on Nov. 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, he was told he'd be out of action six to eight weeks.

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The 49ers (5-6) have five games remaining, and they do not control their playoff destiny. But there are other questions that need to be answered, regardless of whether the 49ers make the playoffs, such as the direction of the offense and the future at quarterback.

"The thing that's exciting to me is I think in the next five weeks -- really, in the next couple weeks -- a lot of those questions will be answered," Singletary said. "That's why it's so exciting to be 5-6 and still in the hunt, still be in the chase. You're right, a lot of things are out of our control, but the fact that there are five games that remain, we still have a chance to do the things we want to accomplish. I believe that to the core of my being."

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