For the San Francisco 49ers, opening up the offense and letting Alex Smith throw the football might be the best thing to do. When Smith has the time to throw, he's looked more and more like he should get more opportunities to have the game in his hands. That being said, San Francisco came into this year with one overarching expectation: the offense would operate through running back Frank Gore.
While Smith might be looking at an increased chance to make things happen on Sunday, the 49ers really need Gore to pick things up and be the centerpiece of the offense. A run on first down shouldn't bring up 2nd and 8 every single time ... Gore was signed to a three-year extension, and by most accounts, has not slowed down in practice. Even if Smith moves the ball, Gore needs to be better than he has been. He's supposed to be one of the league's premier backs, and if he's not there anymore, we'll know very soon.
The Cincinnati Bengals don't exactly have a porous run defense, but in both games they've played, they've given up at least as much as Gore has had in week one and week two. Gore rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts in week two against the Dallas Cowboys, and 59 yards off of 22 attempts, with a long of 18 against the Seattle Seahawks in week one. As a contrast, the Bengals allowed Willis McGahee to go for 101 yards and a touchdown off of 28 carries, and Peyton Hillis added 57 yards off of 18 carries in week one.
Factoring in the backups, the Bengals have allowed 208 rushing yards through two weeks, and that's a number Gore will like one way or another. This isn't do-or-die for the 49ers running back, but it's certainly a point where he needs to be able to move the chains, otherwise the team just might see a little more of Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon.