Frank Gore shows few signs of slowing down

Santa Clara, Calif. - Frank Gore turns 30 in May and is fast approaching 2,000 career carries in the National Football League.

Usually, those numbers signal a running back's imminent decline. There are, after all, a finite number of thudding collisions and helmet-to-helmets in a man's body.

But in Gore's case, it's hard to find evidence that the odometer has turned over. The heart of the San Francisco 49ers' offense had one of the best seasons of his eight-year career in 2012, rushing for 1,214 yards on 258 carries (4.7 average).

The 49ers (11-4-1) earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, which gave Gore an extra week to rest his body for the NFC divisional round game against Green Bay on Saturday.

"Frank's moving around really well," said 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. "I look forward to a great playoff game from him this week."

After back-to-back weeks facing Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, the Packers now get the 5-foot-9, 217-pound Gore, who remains an elite back with speed to get outside and power between the tackles.

In the 49ers' season-opening, 30-22 victory over the Packers, Gore had 16 carries for 112 yards. He got to the edge several times and ripped off runs of 10, 16, 21 and 23 yards, scoring San Francisco's final touchdown on the 23-yarder.

But much has changed since then. Colin Kaepernick has replaced Alex Smith as the starting quarterback and the 49ers are running a lot of read-option to take advantage of Kaepernick's strengths.

Kaepernick has carried the ball 63 times for 415 yards (6.6 average) and has scored five rushing touchdowns.

In Kaepernick's seven starts since Nov. 19, Gore's numbers are a more pedestrian 118-461-3.9.

Gore doesn't know on some plays whether he's going to get the ball or Kaepernick is going to keep it.

"It's on him," Gore said. "I've just got to be patient through the line and when I've got it, that's when I've got to explode."

As for whether the adjustment has been difficult, Gore said, "I play football. I'm a football player. I can adjust."

The Packers held Peterson to 99 yards in their 24-10 wild-card victory last week, breathing a sigh of relief that he hadn't gone off for twice that amount, as he had in each of their regular-season meetings.

Gore watched the tape of the playoff game and said the only difference was that the Packers didn't let Peterson get outside. He fought for most of his yardage between the tackles.

"I think A.P. did a great job," Gore said. "He had 100 yards and if you call 100 yards not a great day, that's crazy. But they didn't let him get to the edges like he did in past games. They got the win and that's what it's all about."

Gore respects Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was the 49ers' offensive coordinator in 2005, the running back's rookie year.

"Very smart coach," Gore said. "He knew how to get players the ball who he thought could help the team be successful. I liked Coach McCarthy a lot. When he was here that was my rookie year; we didn't really have great players like we have now.

"He had to work with what he had and I think he did a great job."

Gore will be trying to beat his former coach Saturday, and Roman wouldn't mind seeing the back carry the load.

"Ultimately, I want him to have 40 carries because that means we probably won by a huge margin and then we can just keep handing it off to him at the end of the game," Roman said. "Frank is one of the best running backs in the National Football League and we're lucky to have him.

"And we need him at his best for this game, for sure."

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