OWINGS MILLS – Intimidating San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore has plowed through linebackers, bulldozed defensive backs and even trounced a few big defensive linemen.
Gore doesn’t discriminate when choosing his victims, running over whomever crosses his path.
Built low to the ground at a stocky 5-foot-9, 217 pounds, Gore is a powerful, prolific force. He continually hits the hole hard, arriving in a bad mood.
Just ask the Baltimore Ravens, Gore’s next opponent. They’re appropriately respectful of the 49ers’ top offensive player heading into Thursday night’s game at M&T Bank Stadium.
“This one, he is very special,” said Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who’s usually stingy with his praise of opposing running backs. “He runs angry. He runs very aggressive. We like that. We like the rough stuff.”
Hard-nosed, hard-running and ranked seventh in the NFL with 870 rushing yards and five touchdown runs, Gore isn’t fancy.
He just runs into people, past people and through people. He wears a mean expression on his face, serious of intent and seems to relish punishing defenders.
Defenders routinely bounce off Pollard, the kind of back who requires a few aspirin after colliding with him.
He’s also capable of sprinting away from the defense.
“He’s a hammerhead,” Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard said. “He’s a rock head. He’s a speed back. He’s a shifty back. We have to be sound in everything we’re doing. The guy has a lot of wiggle to him. The guy has power.”
Gore has already surpassed 49ers legend Roger Craig with 7,284 career rushing yards to rank second on the franchise’s all-time list behind Joe Perry.
And the former University of Miami star generated a franchise record five consecutive 100-yard games earlier this season, producing 107 yards against the Washington Redskins, 127 yards at the Philadelphia Eagles, 125 yards versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 141 yards against a Detroit Lions defense headlined by star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and 134 yards against the Cleveland Browns.
He rushed for a career-high 1,695 yards in his second NFL season, and had his string of four consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons interrupted last year when he was limited to 11 games due to injuries.
“Frank Gore is a premier back,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “As far as their run game goes, he’s the straw that stirs the drink without question. He makes those plays go.
“They run a bunch of plays. They run just about every scheme that you could possibly run, and for a back to be able to understand those schemes and see them as well as he does says a lot about the kind of player he is.”
The 49ers boast the sixth-ranked running game in the NFL, averaging 134.2 yards per contest.
And the Ravens are fifth against the run, surrendering only 93.2 yards per game.
However, the Ravens could be without All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis for the second consecutive game due to a toe injury. Lewis has been limited in practice, but is expected to attempt to play Thursday.
Regardless of whether Lewis is able to go, he wouldn’t be 100 percent for this encounter with Gore.
“They’ve got a stud back,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “Frank Gore is really running the ball real hard, and they’ve got guys up front that open holes for him. He runs hard and he understands where the holes will be open on the front line. He understands the scheme of defenses.
“You can tell he plays into having a ‘backer overrun the gap and he cuts it back and finds the open hole. The guy is just one heck of a back. When you have a guy in the backfield like that, everybody’s got to be on their P’s and Q’s and not one, not two, but all 11 hats have to come to the ball to stop him.”
Gore is on pace to rush for 1,392 yards.
In the past six years, no one has as many 100-yard games as Gore with 29 to rank ahead of Larry Johnson, Thomas Jones, Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson and Michael Turner.
And the Ravens have only allowed two running backs to hit the century mark against them this season: Maurice Jones-Drew and Marshawn Lynch.
They wound up losing both of those games.
Now, here comes Gore.
“I never worry about Frank Gore, because I know when Sunday comes he’s going to help out,” 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. “He’s going to contribute. He’s going to show up when he needs to. I know he’s got what it takes to be a winner.
“He’s really helped us. I’m very thankful, the team is thankful, for having Frank Gore on our side. He brings some unique skills and ability to our team. He’s definitely a great presence to have.”