Did you hear the people calling for the benching of Frank Gore yesterday, in much the same way that they have been since the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks? If you did, then you should check yourself into some sort of mental hospital, because you're hearing voices. Gore's game against the Philadelphia Eagles speaks a lot as to his ability and how much he has left in the tank.
Now, the Eagles have had a pretty awful rush defense this year, so it doesn't mean that Gore is suddenly 100% and in his prime - but he did show a lot of things that some folks were beginning to doubt. If you heard some of the 49ers fans leading up to this game, they were calling for Kendall Hunter and for Gore to be benched, saying the latter had no acceleration and no power left. One fan even remarked that Anthony Dixon likely has more power in his running at this stage than Gore does.
Yeah. About that ... Gore ran for 127 yards on 15 carries and had a touchdown. A touchdown that tied the game and set the 49ers up for the David Akers extra point to give them the lead they didn't relinquish. His first run of the game went for forty yards and he had a few other big runs along the game. Gore hit the hole well and showed burst like we expect of him. He was caught from behind, but that's indicative of a normal Gore - he's never had the top-end speed to beat every defensive back. The offensive line did block a little bit better, but for the most part, it was a healthy looking Gore fighting for every yard. At the end of the game, on a third-and-one, Gore fought hard with a second effort to get the first and seal the deal.
In short, don't freak out and assume a guy is done with only three games to go on. True, Gore didn't look himself through those three, but anointing Hunter the starter after them is not just irresponsible, it's idiotic. If Hunter plays that whole game, the 49ers probably do not win. It's just as simple as that.
Though it is worth noting that Hunter looked good. He didn't have a lot of rushing yards, but when he got the ball, he looked close to breaking away just about every time. The 49ers utilized him like a change-of-pace back and it worked, tossing the ball and having him bounce out to the outside. He had a key 12-yard run in the third quarter to set up a Vernon Davis touchdown, and generally looked good.
The Eagles did start to catch on though, and in the first half, it seemed like the 49ers were trying to force the ball to Hunter out of desperation. Philadelphia keyed in on it and started to stop him, and that reflects what I said last week - Hunter needs to remain a change-of-pace back, because he's so good at catching people off balance. He's also too raw to shoulder so much responsibility, the 49ers need to make sure they get him his touches, just probably not all on one drive.
At any rate, the 49ers have two healthy and capable running backs to work with.