Gore helping push 49ers toward playoff berth

Associated Press Updated: December 20, 2013 at 7:17 pm • Published: December 20, 2013 0

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Frank Gore doesn't spend much time thinking about numbers with the San Francisco 49ers on the verge of clinching a playoff berth.

All he's concerned about this week is a victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night in the final game ever played at Candlestick Park.

After recording the seventh 1,000-yard rushing season of his career last week, Gore needs 144 yards on the ground to reach the 10,000-yard career threshold. But don't bother talking about those accomplishments with the ninth-year veteran this week.

"I try not to think about it," Gore said Friday. "I just want to get the win, no matter what, in front of the fans and all the guys that played there before me to go out with a good note since it's the last game at Candlestick. It's going to be crazy and it should be crazy."

Gore once again is a major force pushing San Francisco toward a third consecutive postseason berth. And this is the time of year when he seems to crank up his game another notch.

Gore had 196 yards rushing the past two weeks to lead the 49ers (10-4) in wins over Seattle and Tampa Bay and become the 20th player in NFL history to record seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons. The yardage he collects the rest of this season will come without the help of regular starting fullback Bruce Miller, who was placed on injured reserve this week after injuring his shoulder against the Buccaneers.

Gore said he has full confidence in backup Anthony Dixon to "be great" in place of Miller. And nobody is concerned about what to expect from Gore as the 49ers look to extend their four-game winning streak and gain momentum for the playoffs. San Francisco clinches a playoff berth with a win over Atlanta or an Arizona loss at Seattle on Sunday.

"Frank's just an amazing person and amazing player," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "He's committed to his team, and it's from the heart. This guy lives it, breathes it, and it means so much to him. He's been a fearless leader for us since we've gotten here and before then as well. Approaching 10,000 yards with one team in this day and age, very few do. And a lot of those yards have been tough yards. Really tough yards."

Gore and the 49ers never made it to the playoffs during his first six NFL seasons before Roman arrived with the rest of coach Jim Harbaugh's staff in 2011. But Gore has been a money player in crunch time ever since then, despite the pounding he's taken during more than 2,500 career touches.

Gore is responding down the stretch again for an offense that finally appears to be hitting stride after languishing near the bottom of the NFL rankings most of the season. Gore did the same thing for the 49ers last year, when he was the NFL's leading rusher during the postseason with 319 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

Despite dealing with nagging ankle and knee injuries that had him a limited participant in practice this week, Gore relishes this time of season now that he's playing for a perennial contender.

"You want to be going in the right direction at this time of year," Gore said. "We look at it like fourth-quarter football. It's the fourth quarter, and if you get in the (playoff) tournament, you have to be playing great ball. Everybody's got to make plays, and I feel like every time I touch the ball I try to do something positive for the team."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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