KIRKLAND, Wash. – The last time Frank Gore faced the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco running back broke a 49ers record for rushing yards (221) and gave his team its first glimmer of postseason hope since the days of George Seifert.
It was the kind of performance that leads to an evening full of possibilities. Gore probably could have attended any party in any part of San Francisco, and he wouldn’t have had to buy a single drink.
So what did Gore do to celebrate his big night?
“I went home,” he said, “to chill with my mom.”
If only the Seahawks could have enjoyed such a relaxed postgame atmosphere.
Since the 49ers upset Seattle 20-14 on Nov. 19, the Seahawks have been frantically searching for answers in their run defense.
Two other running backs over the next three weeks posted 100-yard performances, so it’s understandable if the team is a little gun-shy for Thursday’s rematch with Gore.
“He made (us) look bad out there, there’s no way around it,” middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said after re-living the performance on film this week. “Someone said, ‘Well, on five of his carries he had 180 yards.’ Well, that’s even worse.
“He’s a great competitor. We have the utmost respect for him and that offensive line.”
Tatupu was quick to point out that the Seahawks defense hadn’t lost any of its confidence. But that doesn’t mean they’re not concerned.
“We’ve got to tackle,” defensive end Grant Wistrom said. “That’s something that, last time we played them, we just didn’t do. It’s as simple as that.
“… He’s a great running back, and we don’t want to take anything away from him, but he had 130 yards after missed tackles (in the last meeting).”
While he gave Seattle’s defense fits, Gore is not an easy guy to dislike.
He’s a self-professed mama’s boy, which has become even more important since she started having health problems while he was in high school outside of Miami. Liz Gore still undergoes dialysis three times a week while awaiting a kidney transplant.
San Francisco’s running back has also come back from some health issues of his own, although far less serious. He underwent two serious knee surgeries during his days at the University of Miami, putting his playing career in jeopardy.
But the 49ers selected him in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft, and he’s become one of the best running backs in the league.
Gore, 23, leads the NFC with 1,347 rushing yards.
“The strength with Frank is that he’s really passionate about playing the game of football, and he knows the game real well,” said 49ers coach Mike Nolan. “He’s got very good vision as a player. He’s a north-south runner – very strong.
“… He’s unselfish. He doesn’t bitch or complain if there are no holes to run (through). He just keeps toting the mail, so to speak.”
If Seattle has an advantage this time, it’s that its already faced Gore and therefore has a better feel for him.
“Film doesn’t do him justice,” Seahawks defensive tackle Russell Davis said. “You see him on film and you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, I see why that happened. That guy was out of position, or that guy wasn’t low enough.’
“But until you get out there and actually go against him, then you have a better appreciation for what he’s capable of.”
On Thursday, the Seahawks will have to go out there and go against him again.
“We’ve just got to go out there and play better than we did,” Davis said. “We’ve got to take the game out of (Gore’s) hands and put it in (San Francisco quarterback) Alex Smith’s hands. Gore is a really good back. He runs hard, he runs with power, and we’re definitely going to have to gang tackle him to bring him down.”