This Sunday's matchup between the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers and the 2-0 Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis will feature two of the top three running backs, in terms of yardage, after the first two weeks of the NFL season. Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with 272 rushing yards, while San Francisco's Frank Gore is in third with 237. Given the relative lack of punch to this point from the passing offenses of both teams. . .Minnesota is dead last in the league in passing yardage with 119 yards/game, while San Francisco is 30th at 152.5. . .it's sufficient to say that the focus of both defenses will be on shutting down two of the league's premiere backs.
Adrian Peterson has been characterized by some as a bit of a "boom-or-bust" type of running back, implying that he'll either break a big run against you or he'll get stuffed for little to no gain. While that may be true, the first two weeks of Frank Gore's 2009 season appear to be the very definition of "boom-or-bust." To wit, here's a breakdown of how much yardage each of Gore's carries gained in San Francisco's first two games of the year:
Week 1: -2, -3, 3, 1, 0, 0, 3, 2, 6 (touchdown), 4, 0, 2, -1, 4, 3, 2 (fumble), 1, -4, 5, 3, -2
Final Result: 22 carries, 30 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble, Niners beat Cardinals 20-16
Week 2: 1, 4, 5, 2, 6, 6, 79 (touchdown), 1, 9, 13, 0, 80 (touchdown), 1, 1, -3, 3
Final Result: 16 carries, 207 yards, 2 TD, Niners beat Seahawks 23-10
Gore is averaging 6.2 yards/carry through the first two games. Outside of his two huge touchdown runs against the Seahawks, he's averaging a slightly less impressive 2.2 yards/carry. I don't know if Gore's early season inconsistency is an indicator of things to come, but it does show that he's capable of breaking off the big play just like Adrian Peterson is. Pat Williams and E.J. Henderson have had a couple of weeks to get into game shape and shake the rust off, respectively, and their performance against the run is going to play a huge role in the Vikings' success against the Niners this weekend. The entire front seven will have to maintain their gaps and keep Gore contained.
With all due respect to Shaun Hill and his 9-3 record as the 49ers starter thus far in his career, I'm not sure if he can take a team into a Metrodome that should be rocking and knock off the Beloved Purple without a solid performance from Gore. While Hill is 9-3 as a starting quarterback, his road victories have come against Arizona (twice), Buffalo, and St. Louis. . .and, with all due respect to those teams, none of them present the sort of environment that Hill and company should find themselves walking into on Sunday.
Of course, if Frank Gore busts another huge run or two, the Dome is going to be awfully quiet. Let's hope, for our sake, that that doesn't happen.