Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport
Frank Gore has been a rock for San Francisco this season, but Sunday's game will be one to forget.
His blocking certainly wasn't up to par, and no matter how talented you are, if you're repeatedly hit in the backfield, you're going to have a rough day.
All that being said, his 13 rush attempts did go for 48 yards, which isn't horrible in and of itself. Yes, half of those yards came on one play, and you can question why he had only 13 carries if you're concerned with his yardage numbers and how the team is using him, but if that had been all that he had contributed to the game, it wouldn't stand out as exceptionally notable.
The problem Gore had against the Saints was in the passing game, and, specifically, one play.
Gore has been a solid, if unspectacular, safety valve for Colin Kaepernick this season. He's catching 60 percent of the passes thrown his way, and Football Outsiders rates him as the tenth-best running back in terms of average value per reception.
No one is going to mistake him for Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead any time soon, but he's been solid and consistent all season long.
That makes his one drop in this game particularly heartrending.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the 49ers holding to a three-point lead, San Francisco needed a drive of some point. Preferably, they'd like to have put some points on the board but even draining some of the seven minutes left on the clock would have sufficed.
On 2nd-and-9 from San Francisco's own 21-yard line, Gore dashed out to the left flank on a little swing route, which he took up the sideline as Kaepernick scrambled. Gore got past the last defender on that side of the field, and Kaepernick hit him in stride well beyond the first-down marker. It was set up for a huge gain, possibly even a long touchdown; but Gore saw the pass bounce of his hands and fall harmlessly to the turf. Two plays later, the 49ers had to punt from deep in their own territory, leading to the Saints driving for the game-tying field goal.
The drop was very unlike Gore and could have dramatically altered the ending of the game. It's not indicative of a trend, nor is it a sign that Gore needs to work on his receiving. It was simply a lack of execution at the worst possible time.
In a game that came down to one score, every mistake adds up, and Gore's drop quite possibly hurt the 49ers more than any other single offensive play in the game. He'll be seeing that pass in his dreams for a week.