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Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Which running backs see eight-man fronts

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

An ongoing discussion produced a question worth following up: Just how frequently is San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore facing stacked defenses?

Gore ranks second only to the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson in carries against defenses featuring eight or more defenders in the box. He has carried 56 times for 193 yards and five touchdowns on these rushes for 3.4 yards an attempt.

Peterson has 59 such rushes for 217 yards and four touchdowns, with 134 of those 217 yards -- nearly 62 percent -- coming after contact. Gore has gained 73 of his 193 yards (about 38 percent) after contact on these rushes. Sometimes it takes just one breakaway run against a stacked defense to inflate a runner's numbers.

With an assist from John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information, I've put together a chart showing how the primary NFC West running backs have fared against two types of defenses: those with seven or fewer defenders in the box, and those with eight or more.

Separately, the Cardinals' Beanie Wells has gained 51.6 percent of his 506 total yards after contact, the highest percentage among the four primary backs in the division. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch is next at 48.3 percent, followed by the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson (36.9) and Gore (35.0). Those numbers reflect a back's power and also how much running room he enjoys initially.

The chart shows carries, yards and yards per carry. For example, Gore has 84 carries for 482 yards and a 5.7-yard average against defenses featuring seven or fewer defeders in the box. Seattle's opponents haven't felt the need to load up against Lynch.
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