Stats & Info: Frank Gore

Matchups to watch: Seahawks at 49ers

December, 5, 2013
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Harry How/Getty ImagesIn his return last week, Michael Crabtree, right, showed flashes of what Colin Kaepernick has been needing on the field.

With Michael Crabtree's return last week, and games remaining against the Buccaneers and Falcons, San Francisco's playoff chances look pretty good. At 8-4, the 49ers are a game up on the Cardinals, as well as the Cowboys and Eagles, who are competing for the NFC East crown.

The postseason scenario isn’t particularly complicated for Seattle -- a win or tie seals the Seahawks’ first NFC West title since 2010.

Since the start of 2011, the 49ers (plus-211.3) and Seahawks (plus-165.4) are the first- and second-best defenses in the league in expected points added.

Wilson vs. San Francisco’s deep-ball D
Of his throws at least 15 yards downfield this season, Russell Wilson has completed nearly 60 percent. That’s a higher completion percentage on deep throws than 11 qualified quarterbacks have overall.

Wilson is averaging two more yards per attempt on deep throws than any other quarterback.

On the other side of the ball is the best defense in the league at defending deep passes. Opposing quarterbacks have completed just 31 percent of deep throws against the 49ers, the third-best average by a defense in the past eight years (the start of Stats & Info’s video analysis data).

Crabtree vs. Seahawks' secondary
As most quarterbacks in his spot would be, Colin Kaepernick is a better passer with Crabtree on the field. After missing the first 12 weeks with an Achilles injury, the star wideout had mixed results in his return last week.

Crabtree was largely quiet (one catch for eight yards) in the first half, but showed the big-play ability that has been missing among San Francisco's wide receivers all season.

He had a 60-yard reception with 43 yards after the catch in the third quarter, both of which immediately set season highs for 49ers wideouts. And Seattle will be short-handed in the secondary on Sunday.

Gore vs. Seattle’s loaded box
The quality of Seattle’s cornerbacks allows defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to commit extra defenders to the box. The Seahawks have had 109 snaps this season with at least eight defenders in the box, fifth-most in the league.

Frank Gore
Gore


This is not a new strategy to Frank Gore, who has 92 rushes for 333 yards against eight or more defenders in the box this season (both second-most in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson).

His 3.6 yards per rush against at least eight in the box is eighth of 31 backs with at least 20 rushes, but both the Seahawks and recent opponents have stacked the box with success against Gore.

Seattle held Gore to 3 yards on six rushes against a crowded box in Week 2, while the Rams used the same technique to hold Gore to 14 yards on five rushes Sunday.

Lynch vs. 49ers' linebackers
Marshawn Lynch is 30 yards from being the only player in the league with 1,000 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.
Marshawn Lynch
Lynch

A quick glance at his numbers suggests a down season -- his 4.3 yards per rush average ranks 19th among qualified rushers. A closer look shows Lynch hasn’t been getting nearly as much room to run as he had last season.

He’s averaging 2.0 yards after contact per rush this season, seventh among qualified rushers and better than his average in 2012. Lynch is averaging a full yard less before contact this season (2.3 compared to 3.3 in 2012).

His dependency on yards after contact this year may not serve him well against San Francisco. Linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are elite run stoppers. Since Bowman joined Willis in 2010, San Francisco has averaged 1.3 yards after contact per rush allowed, fewest in the league.

Only Kiko Alonso (60) has more tackles within three yards of the line of scrimmage on running plays than Bowman (49) this season.

During Willis’ career (starting in 2007), only London Fletcher and Curtis Lofton have more of those tackles than Willis.

Gore runs wild between tackles in 49ers win

September, 27, 2013
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Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsFrank Gore ran for 153 yards against the Rams.
After two straight subpar weeks that resulted in consecutive losses for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick got back on track against the St. Louis Rams to snap his team’s losing streak.

Kaepernick threw multiple touchdown passes for the fifth time in his career, all five of which have resulted in 49ers victories.

Kaepernick averaged 9.8 yards per attempt when targeting Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis, including a pair of touchdowns. When targeting all other receivers, Kaepernick averaged 4.9 yards per attempt with no touchdowns.

Despite the improved numbers on Thursday, Kaepernick continues to struggle on throws of at least 15 yards downfield this season. Kaepernick was 2-of-5 on such throws Thursday. This season, Kaepernick is completing 34 percent of throws at least 15 yards downfield after completing 54 percent of such throws last season, which ranked third in the NFL.

Gore looking young again
Frank Gore had 153 rushing yards, his most in a game since Week 14 of the 2009 season (167 vs Cardinals).

Gore now has 14 career rushing touchdowns against the Rams, the most by any player against the Rams in franchise history. The next-most is 12 by Lenny Moore, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

His touchdown came on a 4th-and-1 at the Rams' 34-yard line. It was the longest fourth-down rushing touchdown by any player since LeSean McCoy's 50-yarder in Week 11 of the 2010 season against the New York Giants.

Gore ran for 115 yards between the tackles. In Gore’s first three games this season, he totaled 88 rushing yards between the tackles. Gore averaged 9.6 yards per carry between the tackles Thursday, the most by a running back in a game this season (minimum 10 such rushes).

Rams' rushing problems
The Rams had trouble running the ball against the 49ers, who had allowed more than 170 rushing yards in each of their previous two games. The 49ers came into the game allowing the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL this season after allowing the fourth-fewest last season.

The Rams totaled just 18 rushing yards on 19 rushes, the first team with at least 19 rushes and 18 or fewer rushing yards since (coincidentally) the 2008 Rams, who had 19 rushes for 14 rushing yards against the Bears in Week 12.

The Rams' struggles on the ground are nothing new. They now have nine straight games with less than 100 rushing yards, tied with the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers for the longest active streak in the NFL.

Breaking down the Niners' option attack

January, 31, 2013
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Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsFullback Bruce Miller is the 49ers special ingredient to their option offense
The San Francisco 49ers option rushing attack has generated 244 yards on 8.4 yards per rush, and four touchdowns this postseason. Including the regular season, the Niners have boasted the most efficient option scheme in the NFL. No team which used the option regularly averaged more than San Francicso’s 7.1 yards per rush with the play this season.

But what is it that makes the 49ers option so good?
This postseason, 21 of the team’s options plays have employed a fullback in the backfield, with the 49ers averaging 7.8 yards per rush from those sets.

Utilizing a fullback on options hasn’t been the preference in the NFL this year. Only 44 percent of option plays across the entire league, including the playoffs, were run with a fullback in the backfield.
Bruce Miller
Miller

Since Colin Kaepernick took over as starter in Week 11, fullback Bruce Miller has played on 53 percent of the 49ers snaps. In Weeks 1 through 10, Miller played just 39 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.

And the Niners have greatly expanded their option use in the postseason. They ran out of the option 3.7 times per game in the regular season with Kaepernick starting, but have upped that to 14.5 rushes per game in the playoffs.

However, San Francisco has shown vastly different looks in each playoff game. Kaepernick didn’t keep the ball on a single option in the NFC Conference Championship against the Atlanta Falcons, after keeping it seven times against the Green Bay Packers.

Against Atlanta, Kaepernick handed off to Frank Gore on all 11 option runs. Both times that Gore found the end zone, Miller led the way with key blocks, allowing Gore to go in untouched. Check out those plays here and here.

Of course the Baltimore Ravens will be aware that Kaepernick can keep the ball and do things like this (note Miller on the field again). Against the Packers, Kaepernick kept the ball on seven of 16 plays and was not contacted by a defender on five of those seven, including his 56-yard touchdown run.

Biggest plays this season for 49ers

January, 25, 2013
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John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
NaVorro Bowman (53) celebrates after breaking up a pass to send the 49ers to the Super Bowl.


For the San Francisco 49ers, what plays were the most important in winning games on their way to the Super Bowl?

Here are the 10 plays that most improved their chances of winning through the regular season the playoffs.

Later today, we'll have the list for the Baltimore Ravens.

1. NFC Championship at Atlanta
4th and 4, 1:13 left in 4th Quarter
NaVorro Bowman breaks up pass intended for Roddy White


With the Atlanta Falcons driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown, the 49ers' defense makes the biggest play of their season to essentially lock up a trip to New Orleans. Bowman's pass breakup resulted in a turnover on downs.

49ers' win probablility pre-play: 65.9%; post-play: 97.4% (+31.5%)

2. Week 12 at New Orleans
2nd and 10, 0:31 left in 2nd Quarter
Ahmad Brooks intercepts Drew Brees and returns it for a touchdown


Ahmad Brooks
Brooks
Already trailing by a touchdown with the New Orleans Saints nearing field-goal range to potentially take a two-score lead into the locker room for halftime, Brooks picks off Brees' pass intended for Jimmy Graham and goes 50 yards for a tying touchdown.

49ers' win probability pre-play: 18.4%; post-play: 47.0% (+28.6%)

3. Week 10 vs. St. Louis
Kickoff with 8:40 left in 4th Quarter
Darcel McBath recovers fumble on kickoff return


Just after the 49ers had cut a 17-7 deficit to 17-14, they forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Tramaine Brock knocked the ball loose from the St. Louis Rams' return man, Isaiah Pead, and McBath picked it up and returned it to the Rams' 20. One play later, Frank Gore took it the rest of the way to give San Francisco a 21-17 lead in a game that would ultimately end in a tie.

49ers' win probability pre-play: 31.3%; post-play: 57.1% (+25.5%)

The rest of the 49ers' top 10:

Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick
4. Colin Kaepernick's 50-yard scramble with 2:28 left sets up a game-tying FG vs. the Rams in Week 13 (+23.8%).

5. Kaepernick's 56-yard TD run vs. the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoffs (+19.8%).

6. A 38-yard TD pass from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree breaks a 31-31 tie at New England in Week 15 (+18.8).

7. Kaepernick's 49-yard pass to Crabtree swings the division-clincher vs the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 (+17.1%).

8. C.J. Spillman recovers Marcus Thigpen's muffed punt in a Week 14 win over the Miami Dolphins (+17.0%).

9. Aldon Smith recovers Falcons' fumbled snap in the NFC Championship Game (+15.6%).

10. Donte Whitner returns an interception for a touchdown to give the 49ers the winning points against the Saints in Week 12 (+14.2%).

Backfield production key for Bears, 49ers

November, 17, 2012
11/17/12
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NFL.com/Trevor Ebaugh, ESPN Stats & Information
Roll over each running back to go deeper into their individual trends.
The Chicago Bears enter their Monday Night matchup with the San Francisco 49ers having given up back-to-back 100-yard rushers for the first time since Weeks 13 and 14 of the 2009 season.

The 49ers’ rush defense has also struggled, allowing a season-high 159 rush yards to a St. Louis Rams offense that was ranked 20th in the league in rushing entering Week 10.

Jay Cutler is out Monday as is Alex Smith, so the running backs for both teams are likely to be prominently featured. Each offense has a very talented starter, but each team also has a quality backup who could play a huge role in Monday’s matchup.

Let’s take a closer look at what the running backs bring to the table and how each offense utilizes their unique skills.

The starters

Matt Forte is a dynamic, all-around back who presents matchup problems in every facet of the game, but is a particularly dangerous receiver. Since the start of the 2008 season, Forte ranks in the top three among running backs in targets (317), receptions (245) and receiving yards (2,161).

Forte should be targeted often because Jason Campbell has an average throw distance of only 6.6 yards downfield over the last five seasons, the shortest among all quarterbacks with at least 1,000 attempts.

Frank Gore is a hard-nosed runner who gets the majority of carries for the 49ers. Gore is averaging 5.4 yards a carry, fourth-best among qualified running backs and his highest since 2006. He is also averaging 1.9 yards after contact per rush, his best in the past four seasons.

But Gore gets the yards after contact when it counts. He has converted a first down when he has been contacted before the marker on 17.8 percent of such rushes, the third-highest rate in the league.

The backups

Michael Bush is a big, bruising back who primarily runs between the tackles for the Bears.

Bush is posting career lows in yards per carry (3.7) and yards after contact per carry (1.5), which could have something to do with the predictability of his rush direction. When Bush is in the game, the Bears rush between the tackles on 91.3 percent of rush attempts, the third-highest rate among qualified running backs in the league.

When any other running back is the game, the Bears are more diverse, rushing between the tackles only 75 percent of the time.

Bush still has the talent to be a factor in this game, especially since Steven Jackson rushed for 106 yards between the tackles last week against this 49ers defense.

Kendall Hunter is a speedy, change-of-pace back who is the perfect complement to Gore’s style of running.

The 49ers get Hunter the ball in space. The quarterback has pitched the ball to him on 17 of his 63 carries this year. As a result, 34.9 percent of Hunter’s runs have come outside the tackles, the third-highest rate among qualified running backs this season.

Hunter will be facing a Bears defense that has been struggling with outside rushes, allowing Arian Foster to gash them for a season-high 45 yards in last week’s loss to the Houston Texans.

49ers kept Seahawks out of position in win

October, 19, 2012
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It figured that the San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks matchup would be a defensive struggle, because the game pitted two of the three teams allowing the fewest points per game in the NFL.

The 49ers won on the strength of a stat that you probably don’t hear cited too often in NFL circles -- average field position.

The Seahawks had the worst average starting field position of any team in a game this season (their 15), as 49ers punter Andy Lee pinned them inside the 20 on four of five kicks.

Lee netted 44.6 yards per punt, with none bigger than the 61-yard net on his final punt, which pinned the Seahawks on their 11.

Eight teams have had an average drive start inside their 20 this season, and all eight have lost.

What other factors were key to the 49ers win?

Gore goes up the middle
All 16 of running back Frank Gore’s rushes came between the tackles Thursday. Gore’s 131 yards on such rushes is the fifth-most anyone has had in a game this season.

Gore gained 107 of his 131 rushing yards before he was contacted by the Seahawks. The last time he had more yards before contact in a game was against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14 of the 2009 (115).

The 49ers ended the Seahawks' string of not allowing an opponent to run for more than 100 yards in a game this season. They were the last NFL team this season to allow an opponent to rush for at least 100 yards.

Smith comes up big with short throws

Quarterback Alex Smith utilized short passes against the Seahawks, with 12 of his 14 completions coming on throws five yards or fewer downfield.

He was 6-for-6 on those throws in the second half.

Thursday was the fourth time in the past three seasons that Smith has completed at least 80 percent of his throws within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

Wilson can’t go deep
The 49ers were able to prevent the big play from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, defending two of his passes traveling more than 15 yards downfield and intercepting another.

Wilson entered Thursday having completed 57 percent of his throws that went at least 15 yards downfield, the second-highest success rate in the NFL.

But the 49ers held him to just 2-for-8 on throws of that distance.

Wilson was 9-for-23 for the game, only the second time this season that he’s finished a game with a completion rate below 50 percent.

The other was in the controversial last-second win over the Green Bay Packers.

Can Russell Wilson throw downfield on SF?

October, 18, 2012
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On Wednesday, ESPN Stats & Info debated which defense has been more impressive in 2012, the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers?

But what about the leaders -- specifically the quarterbacks -- on the other side of the ball?

At 4-2, Seattle's Russell Wilson is the only one of the five starting rookie QBs who has a winning record.

His first start of the season was on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, and he went 1-of-3 with an interception on throws more than 20 yards downfield. In the five games since, Wilson is 9-for-16 with five touchdowns on such throws. However, the 49ers defense that has yet to allow a score this season on the deep ball.

Wilson has not been the same QB on the road as he has at home. All six of his interceptions have come on the road and his Total QBR ranks 25th at 30.0. Overall, the Seahawks are averaging 15.0 points per game on the road. In fact, Seattle’s offense has not scored more than 16 points in any of its three road games.

So not only have the Seahawks been a different team on the road, but they're playing a 49ers club that has been on roll at home against NFC West opponents.

The 49ers have won 10 straight home games against divisional opponents, the longest active streak in the NFL and the 49ers longest streak since 11 straight home divisional wins from 1991-95.
San Francisco's starting QB, Alex Smith, is coming off a three-interception game in Week 6, snapping a streak of 26 straight games without throwing multiple interceptions.

One indicator of Smith’s success this season has been his effectiveness throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield (see chart). In 2012, Smith already has thrown more interceptions on throws more than 10 yards downfield (four) than he did all of last season (three).

Both the 49ers and the Seahawks have solid running backs who are coming off their worst games of the season.

Frank Gore had just 36 yards Sunday against the New York Giants, and Marshawn Lynch rushed for 41 yards against the New England Patriots. Last season, however, Lynch rushed for 107 yards in Week 16 against the 49ers. He’s one of only two running backs since the start of 2010 who has rushed for 100 yards against San Francisco. (The other was Ahmad Bradshaw last week.)

Can Gore get back on track against Seattle’s defense, which ranks second against the run this season? Gore has 18 rushes this season of at least 10 yards, which is tied for most in the NFL with the Washington Redskins Alfred Morris. However, the Seahawks have allowed just 10 runs of at least 10 yards this season, that’s tied for second-fewest in the league.

Loaded box vaults Smith to QBR lead

October, 9, 2012
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AP Photo/Tony AvelarAlex Smith is leading the league in Total QBR after Week 5.
At the end of Week 5, Alex Smith is the leader in Total QBR. Let me say that again for San Francisco 49ers fans who have endured some tough quarterback play in recent seasons; Alex Smith is the most efficient quarterback in the league through five games.

Before this season, no 49ers quarterback had led the league in QBR at the end of any week in the QBR era (since 2008).

How is he doing it?

Usually a good QBR can be attributed to a few key factors, two of which are performing well on third downs and when the game is late and close. Smith, however, is actually not performing that well in either situation.

On third downs he has a 37.4 QBR, 20th-best among the 33 qualified quarterbacks. In clutch situations –- defined as the fourth quarter or overtime with the game within eight points –- he isn’t much better, ranking 15th in QBR among the 29 quarterbacks with at least 10 action plays.

So it’s clearly not third downs and it’s not performing well in the clutch. For Smith it’s actually what he’s doing on the early downs while the defense is crowding the line to stop the 49ers running backs.

He is torching defenses on first and second downs with at least seven defenders in the box, posting a 96.3 QBR -– three points better than any other quarterback. This is a marked improvement for Smith, who was not able to take advantage of run-preventing defenses in the past.

A lot of his success on these plays has come by throwing the ball over the top of aggressive defenses. On throws at least 15 yards downfield in these situations, Smith is 10-for-16 with two touchdowns and no interceptions and is one of three QBs with a 100.0 QBR.

This has led to increased effectiveness for Frank Gore and the San Francisco running game as well. From 2009 to 2011, the 49ers averaged 4.3 yards per rush while attaining a first down on 18 percent of rushes on first or second down with at least seven defenders in the box.

Those were roughly league average numbers.

This season, the 49ers are averaging 6.1 yards per rush and getting a first down on 30 percent of rushes in these situations. Against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the numbers increased to 8.2 yards per rush with 37 percent gaining enough for a first down.

It’s not often that a quarterback can be so average in higher leverage situations and have such a good QBR.

But if Alex Smith can continue to take advantage of defenses not respecting him on early downs, he and the 49ers should continue to be one of the best offenses in the league.

Hurricanes NFL TD streak in jeopardy

November, 18, 2011
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Thanks to touchdowns from New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and Chicago Bears multi-threat Devin Hester last Sunday, the streak of players from the University of Miami scoring a touchdown in the NFL extended to 149 consecutive weeks.

The last time a week went by in the NFL without a Hurricane scoring a touchdown was Week 14 of the 2002 season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That’s right – it’s been nearly nine years since it happened, when the weekend of December 8-9, 2002 passed without a touchdown.

As impressive as that streak is, Week 11 of 2011 could be the week it falls. While a defensive player could always get in on the mix, the key offensive players with a shot in Week 11 are either on bye weeks or injured, as noted in the list on the right.

Should a Hurricanes football alum not score this weekend, the new streakholder could be Pittsburgh, which has had a player score a touchdown in each of the last 12 NFL weeks, thanks largely to Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (who has already had a bye week this season).

Next after the Panthers are the University of Tennessee and the University of Minnesota, at five weeks each.

The Hurricanes chances did get a boost when San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore said that he would play this weekend. Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee had the first shot at extending the streak, but did not score on Thursday.

Hank Gargiulo also contributed research for this post

AP Photo
LaDainian Tomlinson and the Jets had a lot to celebrate in their 27-11 win over the Bills.

The New York Jets “ground-and-pound” is officially back. The Jets rushed a season-high 39 times for 126 yards in their 27-11 win over the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

In the first five games of the season, the Jets averaged just 23 rushing plays and 76 rushing yards per game. They’ve gone back to the basics in the past few weeks, though, averaging 33 rushes and 131 rushing yards during their current three-game win streak.

The Jets used a new look on offense by lining up a running back and fullback behind Mark Sanchez on 40 of 68 plays (58.8 percent). They entered Week 9 using that set on only 32 percent of plays. The Jets found success with this backfield formation, gaining 88 of their 126 rushing yards on those plays.

Mark Sanchez complemented the Jets strong running game with one of the most efficient games of his career, completing 20-of-28 passes for 230 yards. His completion percentage of 71.4 was the second-highest of his career, though he did throw his first red-zone interception of the year in the first half.

The Jets ability to pound the ball early and often on the ground opened up the play-action passing game for Mark Sanchez, who completed 11 of 12 passes for 129 yards and his only touchdown of the day when using a play fake.

New York’s opportunistic defense sealed the win, forcing three turnovers, including a forced fumble in the third quarter when the game was still within a touchdown. Less than two minutes later, LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a one-yard run to give the Jets a 13-0 lead.

Re-writing the record books
• The Miami Dolphins beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-3, for their first win this season. The 28-point victory was the third-largest win margin by a team to start 0-7 or worse in their first win of the season, according to Elias.

• Drew Brees threw two touchdowns in the New Orleans Saints 27-16 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brees extended his streak of games with a passing touchdown to 36 games, tying Brett Favre for the second-longest streak in NFL history.

• Brees also finished the game with 258 passing yards, bringing his season total to 3,004 yards, which is the most in the first nine games of a season in NFL history.

• Frank Gore rushed for 107 yards in the 49ers 19-11 win over the Redskins, becoming the first 49ers player to rush for 100-plus yards in five straight games.

• Redskins kicker Graham Gano booted a franchise-record 59-yard field goal in the Redskins loss to the 49ers.


In the last couple of games, the big pass plays have not been as prevalent for the Patriots.

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally figured out a way to beat the New England Patriots with Tom Brady as the opposing quarterback. Keep him off the field and keep the big gains to a minimum.

The Steelers held the ball for more than 39 minutes in their 25-17 win, their first win over Brady since 2004.

One of the keys to the victory was the Steelers performance with an empty backfield. Roethlisberger went 12-for-15 in empty-set formations, with six of the completions netting at least 10 yards, and nine of them resulting in first downs. All of those were personal bests since ESPN Stats & Information began tracking such things in 2008.

Roethlisberger, who started the season with three touchdown passes and five interceptions in his first four games, has thrown for 11 scores and only two interceptions in his last four games. He became the fourth-fastest quarterback to reach 75 victories among QBs who began their careers in the Super Bowl era (106 starts), trailing Brady (99), Roger Staubach (99) and Ken Stabler (105).

His 36 completions (to nine different receivers) and 50 attempts were the second-most he’s had of each in an NFL game.

Brady, who was averaging 332 yards passing in his previous four games against the Steelers (all wins), finished with 198 in the defeat. Brady’s lack of success on deep throws Sunday was a contrast to last season’s trip to Heinz Field. He was just 1-for-5 on pass attempts of at least 15 yards on Sunday, compared to being 5-for-7 for 132 yards on such throws in visit to Heinz Field last season.

As the graph at the top of this story shows, the Patriots are not having the same level of success completing passes for big yardage that they were having earlier this season. They had one such throw Sunday.

This was an unusual sort of loss for the Patriots, who lost despite Brady completing 68.6 percent of his passes and not throwing an interception. A check of Pro-Football-Reference.com showed this to be the first game they lost in which Patriots passers threw for that high a completion rate and had no interceptions since December 8, 1980, a 16-13 overtime loss to the Dolphins.

LaMarr Woodley had two sacks for the Steelers, his third straight game with at least a pair of sacks.

The Patriots streak of eight straight wins in the game immediately following a bye week came to an end. It’s tied for the second-longest streak since off-weeks began in 1990.

More Gore Scores
Another big story from the late-afternoon games was the performance of San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown in a 20-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. The 49ers are now 6-1 for the first time since 1998.
Frank Gore
Gore
It was the fourth straight game in which Gore rushed for at least 125 yards AND had a rushing touchdown. Only three other running backs have had that sort of streak since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970—O.J. Simpson (1975 Bills), Terrell Davis (1998 Broncos), and Larry Johnson (2005 Chiefs), with Johnson and Simpson each doing it in five straight games.

It's also the longest streak of consecutive 100-yard games by a 49ers running back since Garrison Heart had 4 straight in 1998.
In one of the more unlikely marquee NFL games in recent seasons, the San Francisco 49ers handed the Detroit Lions their first loss of the season and ended Detroit’s winning streak at nine games, which was one shy of the longest in team history.

San Francisco improved to 5-1 for the first time since 1998, and are now 3-0 on the road this season. It is their first three-game road win streak in a single season since 1997.

This was just the third time in franchise history that the 49ers beat an undefeated team on the road this late in the season.

Frank Gore rushed for a season-high 141 yards and tore through the Lions defense for rushes of 47 and 55 yards between the tackles.

Overall, 138 of Gore’s 141 rushing yards came between the tackles, which was a significant increase from his first five games. The Lions aggressive pass rush opened up lanes for Gore, as he averaged 8.3 yards before first contact on his rushes up the middle.

Alex Smith struggled for much of the game, barely completing half his passes with a pick. But he did come through in the clutch, completing a six-yard, fourth-down go-ahead touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker with 1:51 left.

The 49ers quarterback has now completed three passes in the red zone when targeting his tight ends this year with all three going for touchdowns. Smith is the only quarterback in the NFL with five touchdowns and no interceptions when targeting his tight ends anywhere on the field this season.

This was the third game-winning, fourth-quarter comeback drive in a ROAD game that Smith has led this season. Only one other quarterback in 49ers history has done that in a single season - Joe Montana had four in 1989 and three in 1990.

Eagles 20, Redskins 13
The Eagles jumped out to a 20-0 lead and held on for a 20-13 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon, snapping their four-game losing streak.

Philadelphia entered the week ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 140 yards per game, but held the Redskins to 42 yards. The Eagles, on the other side of the ball, continued their success on the ground, adding to their NFL-best rushing total with 192 more yards.

The Eagles, who were tied for the worst turnover margin in the NFL at -10 entering this game, forced four turnovers while only giving it up twice. Kurt Coleman picked off three passes to become the first Eagles player with three interceptions in a game since Joe Scarpati in 1966.

Rex Grossman threw a career-high four interceptions and became the first Redskins quarterback to throw at least four picks and no touchdowns since Tim Hasselbeck in 2003. The Redskins have now lost three straight games against Philadelphia and are just 2-10 vs the Eagles in Washington since 2000.
In a surprise marquee game of the week, the San Francisco 49ers take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday. The teams are a combined 9-1 after opening a combined 1-9 in 2010. It’s worth noting that over the past eight seasons (2003-10), the Lions had the worst record in the NFL (34-94) and the 49ers had the fourth-worst record in the NFL (46-82).

For the first time since 2002, the 49ers are 4-1 and a blown 10-point, fourth-quarter lead against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 is the only reason San Francisco isn’t unbeaten. A win would give the 49ers their best six-game start since 1998 (5-1).

The Lions, on the other hand, are 5-0 for the first time since 1956, when Bobby Layne led the team to a 6-0 start. The only other times Detroit started 5-0 or better were in 1934 (10-0) and 1931 (8-0), when the team was known as the Portsmouth Spartans.

The 49ers offense has been great in their last two games. In Week 5, they posted their most points since 2003 in a 48-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco’s largest margin of victory since Super Bowl XXIV (defeated the Denver Broncos 55-10).

A key to their success the last two games has been the rushing of Frank Gore, who has rushed for at least 125 yards in two straight games for the first time since Weeks 14-15 of 2006. The 49ers are 18-7 when Gore reaches triple digits since 2006.

The Lions have been led by the play of Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford. Johnson has nine receiving TDs this season, four more than any other player. His nine receiving scores are the most by any player through five games in NFL history.

Stafford has thrown five of his seven touchdowns on passes of 11 yards or more this season to Johnson. However, Stafford needs to be careful against the 49ers, who are tied for the league-lead in interceptions on that throw length.

Stats of the Game
• The 49ers are 2-0 on the road this year. A win Sunday would give them their first three-game road win streak in a single season since 1997 (won five straight road games).

• The Lions have won nine straight regular-season games, the longest active win streak in the NFL. A win would tie the longest win streak in franchise history (10, set in 1934).

• Detroit has lost seven straight games against San Francisco and is just 1-12 in its last 13 games vs. the 49ers, with its only win in that span coming in Week 4 of 1995 (27-24).

Smith leads 49ers to win and top QBR

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
5:16
AM ET
Alex Smith
Smith
While six starting quarterbacks were enjoying their bye week, Sunday was no day of rest for Alex Smith. The 49ers quarterback not only led his team to their most lopsided win since Super Bowl XXIV, but also topped the Week 5 QBR list.

Alex Smith’s Career Day (98.2 Total QBR)
Alex Smith had a solid day by the traditional stats but an extremely efficient day by Total QBR. On the first three drives he was on the field, Smith led the 49ers to two touchdowns, with the other drive coming up empty after Frank Gore lost on a fumble on the Tampa Bay 11 (obviously not Smith’s fault).

On his nine action plays on those three drives, Smith was excellent, going 6-7 for 92 yards (71 air yards) with five first downs (including a 26-yard TD strike to Delanie Walker). Not only that, but Smith helped draw a 24-yard pass interference penalty that set up San Francisco with a 1st-and-goal at the 1 before their third touchdown to put them up 21-3.

Smith played fine from that point on (2 TD, 0 sacks, 0 turnovers), but the 49ers had an over 95 percent win probability on the rest of his plays. Since the game was way out of hand at that point, those later plays were weighted much less toward his overall game rating than his incredible start was.

Smith finished with a spectacular Total QBR of 98.2, the highest of his 27 career games since 2008. Not only that, but Smith’s 98.2 rating was the highest by a QB in a single game this year (minimum 15 action plays).

Tim Tebow (83.2 Total QBR) Makes Case To Be Broncos’ Starter
Tim Tebow came in for Kyle Orton at halftime and almost led the Broncos back from a double-digit deficit against the Chargers. Both quarterbacks were on the field for six drives. Orton led the Broncos to just three points while he was on the field (the Broncos' only first-half TD came on a defensive return) and threw an interception, while Tebow led the Broncos to two touchdowns and had no turnovers.

While Tebow's rally fell just short, he finished the game with an excellent Total QBR of 83.2, while Orton's ineptitude resulted in a paltry score of 5.1.

TOTAL QBR EXPLANATION
As a reminder, Total QBR is a quarterback rating that takes into account all of a QB’s contributions (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties) to his team’s scoring and winning and summarizes them into one number on a 0-100 scale, where 50 is average.

- For a game, the number can be interpreted as a percentile, so a score of 80 means a QB’s performance was better than 80% of all QB games.

- For a season, a Total QBR of 65 or better is roughly Pro Bowl level and a rating of 75+ is MVP level.
When the San Francisco 49ers hit the road to take on the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football (ESPN, 8:30 ET), look for them to try to establish their run game on the edges.

Frank Gore has been a productive rusher outside the tackles this season, picking up more than five yards per rush attempt.

The Cardinals have struggled containing running backs outside the tackles, ranking in the bottom third of the league in yards per rush, rushes per first down and touchdowns.

And if the Niners pound the ball on the ground early on, look for QB Troy Smith to work in the play-action pass. He’s been much more effective taking advantage of the running game than Alex Smith, completing 70 percent of his play action passes at 14.3 yards per attempt.

Alex Smith struggled with play action, completing less than half of his passes and averaging only 6.4 yards per pass attempt.

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