Without Frank Gore, it's hard to imagine the Niners winning.
Gore, who's in his eighth season in the league, does not get the attention he deserves. Despite putting up numbers season after season, he does not find himself mentioned among the elite running backs in football.
And yet he is. This season, he had 1,214 yards on 258 carries and eight touchdowns.
Every year, Gore puts up big numbers.
Now, it's his chance to shine.
He's been incredible in the playoffs, rushing for 209 yards and three touchdowns. He was instrumental in the 49ers' win over the Atlanta Falcons, where he scored twice.
Colin Kaepernick has been the big playoff story, and rightfully so. Yet, without Gore, Kaepernick would not enjoy the same success.
The 49ers run a version of the pistol offense where Gore lines up directly behind Kaepernick in the shotgun formation. From this, the Niners run plays such as the read-option, where Kaepernick, depending on how the defense reacts, either keeps the ball or hands it off to Gore.
Without a viable threat in Gore, defenses would ensure that Kaepernick couldn't run. In fact, that's what the Falcons did.
But because Gore is so good, the plan backfired. The Falcons geared their game plan to stop the speedy quarterback—Kaepernick ran the ball only two times for 21 yards.
But it was Gore who ran for 90 yards and two scores and led his team to victory.
Gore allows Kaepernick to succeed because it keeps defenses honest. They have to choose whether to stop Gore or Kaepernick on the option. Either way, it's a losing proposition.
It's not a stretch to say that without Gore, the Niners wouldn't be here.
Nor is it a stretch to say that without a good performance by Gore, the Niners won't win.
Gore is absolutely vital to the success of the Niners—not only because of his talent, but because of his influence on Kaepernick and the offense as a whole.
If the Niners are to win, Gore needs to have a big game. Based on his season so far, it looks like he will.