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Stopping Gore is priority No. 1 for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Few people know Frank Gore like Antrel Rolle does.

The two friends played together at the University of Miami, were drafted in the same year (2005), train together in the offseason and have known each other since they were skinny, 90-pound kids wearing the same jersey number as Pop Warner football opponents in Florida.

"He was a running back and I was a running back," Gore recalls. "We went at it. They beat us 20-26. I had about 200, 300 yards and he had a good game. I remember it like it was yesterday."

Rolle started laughing when told about how many yards Gore said he had.

"Frank said that?" Rolle asked with a smile. "I seriously doubt that. I think he is overexaggerating that."

One thing Rolle and the New York Giants don't stretch the truth about is how good Gore is now. On Sunday, the Giants' biggest task will be to slow down the punishing Gore, who is seeking his sixth straight 100-yard rushing game.

Gore is averaging 126.8 yards per game and has four touchdowns during that stretch. Not only is Gore one of the hottest running backs in the NFL, but the 49ers (7-1) are riding a six-game winning streak.

One week after going into New England and beating Tom Brady, the Giants have to find a way to contain Gore and win in San Francisco.

The Giants (6-2) would love to slow Gore down enough to put the ball in Alex Smith's hands and make the 49ers' quarterback beat them.

"How hard is it to stop Frank Gore?" defensive end Justin Tuck said when asked if the Giants would rather take their chances with Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick in 2005. "There's your answer. No one has really stopped him.

"[Smith] is a guy that they are trying to keep out of position of having to win a football game. With a back like Frank Gore and that O-line keeping them in third-and-short situations, even when it is third-and-six or seven, they still feel very confident that they can pick it up running. I think what they are asking Alex is to not lose the game."

The Giants' defense has had all sorts of problems stopping the run this season. Starting with Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy in Week 3, running backs have been gashing the Giants. Perry Fewell's defense has surrendered an average of 147 rushing yards per game in its last six outings.

Last season at this time, the Giants' defense was allowing 80.9 yards per game.

This season, running backs like McCoy, Arizona's Beanie Wells, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo's Fred Jackson and Miami's Reggie Bush have had their way with the Giants' defense.

Last week, the Giants did better, allowing the Patriots to rush for 106 yards, the lowest total Tom Coughlin's team has allowed since St. Louis managed only 59 yards against it in Week 2.

"I learn something about our run defense every week because we have not faced a bad runner this year in my opinion," Fewell said. "This has just been a long line of good runners that we're facing.

"We definitely have confidence that we can stop. Sometimes we don't do a good job of tackling. Sometimes we don't do a good job of playing together as a unit. I thought we played much better as a unit last week. When we do that, then we're able to stop the run and stop the pass."

The Dallas Cowboys are the only team to beat the 49ers, 27-24 in overtime back in Week 2. During that game, Gore rushed for just 47 yards. Tuck said the 49ers' tape that the defense has studied the most this week was the Cowboys' win, even though Dallas runs a 3-4 defense.

Of course, the 5-foot-9, 217-pound Gore seems to be a different runner now. In his first three games, Gore hadn't rushed for more than 59 yards in a game.

Even though the Giants are actually 4-0 when allowing a rusher to go for 100 yards or more against them this season, the Giants would much rather take their chances with Smith.

Smith has been solid, completing 64.1 percent of his passes and throwing 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions. But the Giants would love to unleash the pass rush that leads the NFL in sacks (28).

But they'll have to stop Gore first. Fewell said there's a chance the Giants could use three linebackers more with rookie middle linebacker Greg Jones. The Giants have played mostly two linebackers and three safeties in an effort to stop both the run and pass.

Rolle, who plays against the run well, might also be able to concentrate more on Gore if cornerback Prince Amukamara is ready to make his debut against the 49ers.

"We got to figure out something," Tuck said. "Maybe we will play five D-linemen out there. Who knows? You will see it again soon."

Tuck says Gore and McCoy have the best vision of any of the backs the Giants have faced this season. And guess who is up next after Gore? The Giants have McCoy, Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles next week.

"We will definitely see where we are after this one," Tuck said of the run defense. "It is going to be one of those four yards and a cloud of dust type of games. Seems to be shaping up like one of those old, tougher teams will win this football game."

While he is no longer a running back who wears the same number as Gore, Rolle hopes the result will be the same as when the two old friends played as 90-pounders.

"I am very familiar with his game, but it is going to take more than me, it is going to take all of us to focus in on our keys and make sure that we are technically sound," the Giants safety said. "Frank is an outstanding guy, a complete back. I don't see any weakness in his game."