49ers

Record within reach for Gore

572534.jpg

Record within reach for Gore

Sunday against Cleveland, Frank Gore has the opportunity to put together his fourth consecutive game with 100 yards rushing, something hes never done in his career.

I would love for that to happen, Gore said shaking his head and smiling. But I really havent been thinking about what I do. Just thinking as long as keep winning. First time in this situation, and Im very happy. I just want to keep it going.

Expect a big dose of No. 21 against the Browns. In six games, Cleveland has allowed two backs to run over the century mark -- the Bengals' Cedric Benson (121 yardsTD) and the Titans' Chris Johnson (101 yards). The Browns' rushing defense ranks 19th in the league. But their passing defense is stingy, ranked second best and allowing only 172 yards per game.

Their corners are doing a phenomenal job of coverage. Safeties are very active and always in the right spot, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. They are the kind of defense that if youre going to score, do it in 12 plays. They try to put the pressure back on you to execute.

While their passing offense continues to develop, executing the run game is something the 49ers have done quite well. San Francisco has averaged 193.3 rushing yards a game over the last three games. Gore has 394 yards and three touchdowns during that same time frame, and is set to do much, much more.

Only the third player to rush for more than 6,000 yards in team history, the 28-year-old is on pace to take over the top spot on the 49ers' all-time rushing list. With 110 yards more he will pass Roger Craig (7,064 yards) for second place. Another 390 yards more and he takes the top spot from Joe Perry (7,344 yards). Its more than reasonable to think Gore will become the teams most prolific running back before the end of the regular season, but for right now, hes not looking past Sunday.

When you watch film on the Browns they are very disciplined against the run, Gore said. It's going to be a good test for us. I feel as long as we go out there and do what we're supposed to do, I think we'll be fine in the running game.

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

ahkello-witherspoon-knee-49ers-chargers-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

* * *

EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

pierre-ap.jpg
AP

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.