Frank Gore scored a key touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5, but two lost fumbles and a penalty made this an uncharacteristically rough night for the San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl running back.
Re-watching the 49ers' 27-24 defeat Friday made me think Gore must be beyond eager to get back onto the field -- and not just because he'll be facing an Oakland Raiders defense that allowed 205 yards rushing to Tennessee in Week 1 and 249 yards to Houston in Week 4.
Gore obviously takes pride in his work. He's better than he showed in that nationally televised game against the Eagles. Everything we know about Gore suggests he'll bounce back with a better effort Sunday.
Preseason outcomes do not matter, but when Gore faced the Raiders' starting defense Aug. 28, he busted a 49- and 9-yard runs on his only carries.
A few other thoughts on the 49ers heading into Week 6:
San Francisco's defense continues to lag in the league rankings, but I think the 49ers are playing well enough on that side of the ball. They held the Falcons to 16 points in Week 4. The Eagles' offense scored 20 points. Philadelphia managed only three points off three turnovers (a fourth turnover came late in the game, securing the victory). The 49ers' defense forced a turnover right before halftime, only to watch kicker Joe Nedney miss a 40-yard try. This defense needs its offense to stop turning over the ball so frequently.
The talk about linebacker Patrick Willis struggling some this season -- by his standards, anyway -- reflects fewer impact plays. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy turned around Willis beautifully during a 29-yard touchdown run. I'd credit McCoy more than criticize Willis for that play. But it's fair to expect more big plays from Willis. He has set a high standard, the 49ers rewarded him with a monster contract extension and the team needs its best players to save the season.
This team's offensive line is suffering too many breakdowns. Rookie right tackle Anthony Davis tends to jump early. He gets out of position in pass protection sometimes. Right guard Chilo Rachal missed a block on a play that lost 2 yards. Gore ran into center David Baas on a play that lost 4 yards. Rookie left guard Mike Iupati is not yet consistent (staying lower must be a priority). Even left tackle Joe Staley has had some problems in protection.
The inconsistency goes away for stretches, as when Davis and rookie tight end Nate Byham sealed the edge for Gore's 16-yard run. This is a young line. I wonder whether it'll hit stride in time to salvage the season.
Davis -- Anthony, not Vernon -- has played well in alternating weeks this season. He's due for a good game Sunday if the pattern holds. Davis works hard, by all accounts, and he's faring at least as well as most offensive linemen selected early in the 2010 draft. But he's up and down.
The 49ers have had little success (3.1 yards per carry) on called running plays from their base offense with two backs and one tight end. They've had trouble running with two backs and two tight ends (1.2 ypc with two first downs on 14 rushes), another grouping the 49ers like to use.
The 49ers have been most successful running with one back and two tight ends, including with Byham on the field (Delanie Walker is recovering from a high-ankle sprain). The 49ers have averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 35 rushes from this grouping, not counting quarterback scrambles. All but one of the rushes was on first or second down.
The chart shows quarterback Alex Smith's passing numbers by personnel group against Philadelphia. The 49ers came out with more of the run-oriented, conventional personnel groupings they have favored since Mike Singletary became head coach. The team settled into three-receiver mode for most of the game, standard procedure once the 49ers fall behind.