49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

June 8, 2012
49ers game plan: Keep Gore fresh for playoff run

gore'sstiffy.jpg

During the second half of the 2011 season, there was a better than 50 percent chance that a 49ers running play went to someone other than Frank Gore. After handling more than 65 percent of the team's carries through the first eight games, Gore - nicked by injuries -- slowed down significantly in the final eight games.

From a Nov. 13 showdown against the Giants onward, Gore took 123 of the 252 regular-season carries, which is 49 percent. Through all 16 games, he handled 57 percent of the his team's total carries, which ranked 11th among NFL running backs.

Still, the 49ers ran the ball so often in 2011 - 498 times, the most in the NFC - that Gore ended up with 282 total carries, the fifth most in the NFL and the second-most of Gore's career. All of this suggests that while San Francisco's rushing attempts may be divided more than ever in 2012 among Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and others, there is still an opportunity for individual rushers to get a significant number of carries.

The goal this year, running backs coach Tom Rathman said, is to be wise in how the carries are divided. The 49ers obviously leaned heavily on Gore early last year while Hunter and the passing game were developing following the lockout.

The Faustian bargain they struck was that they didn't have Gore, their Pro Bowl tailback, at full strength at the end of the season and in the playoffs. "We need to keep him healthy," Rathman said this week. "We need to keep him fresh so he's an impact player for us."

The list below ranks the tailbacks who handled the biggest share of their team's rushing load in 2011. As mentioned above, Gore ranked fifth overall in total rushes.

1. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
343/489, 70 percent

2. Chris Johnson, Titans
262/376, 69 percent

3. Michael Turner, Falcons
301/453, 66 percent

4. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
285/444, 64 percent

5. Steven Jackson, Rams
260/409, 64 percent

6. Ray Rice, Ravens
291, 459, 63 percent

7. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
245/389, 63 percent

8. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
273/450, 61 percent

9. Cedric Benson, Bengals
273/455, 60 percent

10. Shonn Greene, Jets
253/443, 57 percent

11. Frank Gore, 49ers
282/498, 57 percent

12. Michael Bush, Raiders
256/466, 54 percent

13. LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
184/346, 53 percent

14. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
228/434, 52 percent

15. Ryan Matthews, Chargers
222/436, 50 percent

16. Arian Foster, Texans
278/546, 50 percent

17. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
208/448, 46 percent

18. Reggie Bush, Dolphins
217/469, 46 percent

19. Willis McGahee, Broncos
249/546, 45 percent

20. Matt Forte, Bears
203/456, 45 percent

21. Fred Jackson, Bills
170/391, 43 percent

22. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
171/411, 42 percent

23. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots
181/438, 41 percent

24. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
164/408, 40 percent

25. Peyton Hillis, Browns
161/415, 38 percent

26. Roy Helu, Redskins
151/400, 38 percent

27. Donald Brown, Colts
134/382, 35 percent

28. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
155/445, 35 percent

29. Ryan Grant, Packers
134/395, 34 percent

30. Mark Ingram, Saints
122/431, 28 percent

31. Thomas Jones
153/487, 31 percent

32. Jahvid Best, Lions
84/356, 24 percent

********************************
Programming note: I'll be hosting a "What Did We Learn from OTAs?" chat at 11 a.m. this morning. If you have questions, including why I ended up buying lunch for Maiocco at Maria Elena's in Alviso, log onto www.sacbee.com/live.

-- 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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