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September 26, 2011
Gore "good to go," Harbaugh says; Rachal's starting role "to be determined."

There may be a couple of changes to a struggling 49ers running game that ranks 29th in the league after three weeks, but coach Jim Harbaugh on Monday indicated that the starting tailback would not be one of them. "In my mind right now, Frank is good to go," Harbaugh said of starter Frank Gore.

gorefumbles.jpg

Gore injured his ankle in the second quarter of Sunday's 13-8 win over the Bengals, and he mostly watched as backup, Kendall Hunter, took part in a fourth-quarter touchdown drive, the only one of the game for either team. Gore, however, was not in an orthopedic boot on Monday, Harbaugh said. Harbaugh also referred to Hunter as "the backup tailback."

"... In spot play, he graded out very well," Harbaugh said of Hunter. "Made some very good, tough runs, including the touchdown run."

The situation is more volatile at right guard where Chilo Rachal started the game but Adam Snyder finished it. Rachal committed three penalties - one was declined - and gave up two sacks in the first half. By the second, Snyder was lining up at right guard with Rachal only coming in when the 49ers went to their heavy-personnel packages in short-yardage situations.

Although Rachal has been the de facto starter throughout training camp and the preseason, Snyder has been worked in at times at right guard including a series here and there in the 49ers' first two games. Who's the starting right guard for Sunday against the Eagles? "To be determined," Harbaugh said. "There's a competition there."

While the 49ers are 2-1 and are alone atop the NFC West, they have gotten there despite an offense that ranks last in average yards per game. That the passing game hasn't put up big numbers is understandable. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman simply haven't dialed up many passing plays. The 49ers have attempted only 74 throws in three games, the second fewest in the league.

The running woes, however, are more troublesome. Heading into the Monday night game, the 49ers ranked 7th in rushing attempts - 85 - yet are only averaging 69.7 yards a game on the ground. Asked repeatedly about Rachal, Harbaugh bristled and indicated that the offensive problems are a unit-wide issue. But he declined to go into detail on what needs to be done.

He said the offensive line would get plenty of feedback this week from coaches. "I don't feel inclined to have them read about it as well," he said. "We're working at it."

Odds & Ends

• Harbaugh said he hadn't received a definitive look at the apparent touchdown that was taken away from Michael Crabtree in the third quarter but he said the coaches' film seemed to indicate that Crabtree never went out of bounds before his leaping back-of-end zone catch as the officials ruled. He said the call, which the 49ers did not challenge because they didn't have access to a replay at the time, would be part of their report to the league offices this week.

"It was a heck of a play ... fantastic play by Michael and by Alex," Harbaugh said. "Would like to have seen (the touchdown) stick. They both deserve it."

• Harbaugh had high praise for outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who had the 49ers' only sack. He noted that Brooks made three plays in the final series of the Bengals' first possession that prevented a touchdown, including a quarterback hurry on third down. "He defuses that play," Harbaugh said of Brooks.

• Harbaugh said that players urged coaches to use 330-pound nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, who played rugby in American Somoa, more at fullback. When Moran Norris (fibula) was injured, the coaches acquiesced. "He was excited to be out there," Harbaugh said. "He fulfilled his assignment and then some."

• While rookie fullback Bruce Miller made a splash as a receiver Sunday (four catches for 25 yards), Harbaugh said there was a "learning curve" for Miller as a blocker. Harbaugh said Miller needed to work on "technique, running his feet and angles" but noted that the eager rookie "was motivated to do it."

• The team will practice at Youngstown State this week before flying to Philadelphia on Friday. Youngstown State also has an indoor facility in case rains, which are expected in Oho this week, wash out practices.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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