In the beginning of the year, the ground game for the 49ers was off to a strong start but the team has been more pass-oriented under Colin Kaepernick as the starting quarterback. Joe Staley said he hopes to get the rushing attack returning in time for the playoff game against the Packers.
"The run game has been a good start, but we need to crank it up more," said Staley. "We have to do more and be diverse in our schemes. We have a lot of athletic offensive lineman. Our coaches do a good job at taking advantage of our skill set."
Frank Gore has not carried that ball as much with Kaepernick as quarterback. He has three games of 100 or more yards rushing this season with all of them coming in the first half of the year. This Saturday's game against the Packers will be key since Gore is one of two RBs to rush for 100 or more yards on their defense. In Week 1, he averaged seven yards per carry with 112 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Gore will be important for the playoff game and he's happy that there was a bye week of rest. He says Gore will be ready to go for what lies ahead.
"I think this week, the bye week that the team earned was very much needed for a great benefit for us at this point for guys like Frank to get an extra week of getting is body ready for the playoffs," said Roman. "He’s moving around really well and look forward to a great playoff game from him this week. Frank [Gore] is one of the best running backs in the National Football League and we’re lucky to have him and we need him at his best for this game, for sure.”
With Kendall Hunter out for the season, the 49ers have used LaMichael James behind Gore as the backup running back. Despite waiting 14 weeks to make his debut in the NFL, James said it has been worth it. He gave credit to the offensive line for his contributions to the team.
"[There are] lots of gaps [to run through] on the offensive line," said James. "It's good playing with those guys, they keep me going and motivated. They're super fast and athletic."
James has averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 27 carries. He has excelled in the kick returning game by averaging nearly 30 yards per return. Roman has utilized him on the outside letting his speed take off in the open field.
In regards to the Packers game ahead, James said he doesn't feel pressure as a rookie playing in his fifth career game. Whether good or bad happens, his mindset going into the playoffs will be the same.
Gore said the team will need to be efficient on offense and not be caught with long third downs. He expects the offensive line and the rest of the team to work hard through practice.
"We just need to get positive yards and run well," said Gore. "We can't afford to be in third and longs. I'm thinking it can go our way."
Roman prefers that Gore carry the ball more than normal only if the game has a convincing lead for the 49ers. In the end, he will decide what gives the best chance to win between passing or pounding it on the ground.