Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Gore set up the game-winning field goal with this run for the 49ers.
Leading up to the Seattle game, Frank Gore had three consecutive games where he rushed for less than 50 yards. He also struggled with an average of only 2.95 yards per carry in those three contests.
Is this lack of production a problem caused by Gore's advancing age?
The answer to that question is an emphatic no.
The real issues are twofold. First, opposing defenses have routinely placed eight and sometimes even nine men in the box. With so many defenders up near the line of scrimmage, defenses have made a commitment to stopping the run and forcing the 49ers to beat them through the air.
That strategy has largely been working, as the 49ers' passing attack has been very lackluster. However, with the return of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, defenses now have to worry about four competent pass-catching threats.
Prior to Crabtree and Manningham returning to the field, opposing defenses could focus their pass defense on Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. The other receivers made little to no impact.
Opposing defensive coordinators must now pay more respect to the 49ers' passing game. This will open up more running lanes for Gore and Kendall Hunter.
Against the Seahawks, Gore broke off a brilliant 51-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up the deciding field goal. He carried the ball 17 times for 110 yards. Even if Gore had not made the long run, he still was ahead of the pace he was at in the past three games.
The second issue plaguing the 49ers' running game is the loss of left guard Mike Iupati, who is out with an ankle injury. It is not a mere coincidence that the 49ers' ground game is far more effective with Iupati in the game and playing well.
Iupati is a devastating run-blocker and is simply stronger and more effective on running plays than his replacement Adam Snyder.
Snyder has done an adequate job filling in, but he is not the punishing run-blocker that Iupati is. The 49ers are hoping to get Iupati back soon, and when he returns, the running game will also pick up.