49ers-Titans matchup No. 2: Frank Gore vs. Bernard Pollard
Frank Gore rushed for 110 yards and a score on 19 carries against Bernard Pollard and the Ravens in last year's Super Bowl. (USATSI)
Bernard Pollard made two tackles in the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII win over the 49ers. (USATSI)
Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Titans matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
[MATCHUP NO. 3: Patrick Willis vs. Delanie Walker]
49ers RB Frank Gore vs. Titans SS Bernard Pollard
Tale of the tape
Gore (21): 5 foot 9, 217 pounds, ninth season, Miami (Fla.)
Pollard (31): 6 foot 1, 226 pounds, eighth season, Purdue
Facing defenses that stack the box is nothing new for the 49ers and running back Frank Gore. And they expect to see a lot more of that strategy on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
While the 49ers and Titans have not met since the 2009 season, one player who expects to see a lot of Gore is quite familiar with the 49ers.
Veteran safety Bernard Pollard was a starter on the winning Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII against the 49ers. In that game, Gore rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
“He’s all over the place,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said of Pollard. “They’ll have him covering the tight ends, at times. They’ll have him down in the box quite a bit. They’ll also ask him to play half the field. But he’s a really heady player. He’s always in the right spot. Always.”
Pollard will likely play closer to the line of scrimmage against the 49ers, and he might often find himself as the unblocked man in the box. That would put Pollard and Gore on a collision course for a good portion of Sunday’s game.
After a slow start, the 49ers’ run game has swung into gear during a three-game win streak. Gore ranks fifth in the NFL with 477 yards rushing through six games. The 49ers have gone back to featuring a power-running game.
That no-nonsense approach was on display during an 18-play, 89-yard scoring drive that clinched the 49ers’ victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers ran the same play, “Power 94,” five times on the drive.
“Jim (Harbaugh) and I were saying it reminded us a little bit of when we played USC back in whatever year it was, where just we were rolling the same play over and over and over again,” Roman said of Stanford’s 55-21 victory in 2009.
“And the guys were just getting better at it every time. So it’s a credit to the players on the field. When they’re doing that, calling the play is pretty easy.”
Nothing figures to come easy for Gore or the 49ers on Sunday. Pollard is the Titans’ leading tackler and the entire defense’s aggressive approach has caught Harbaugh’s eye. The Titans have forced seven fumbles in six games.
“(They’re) probably the best team we’ve seen at stripping, clubbing, punching the ball out, creating turnovers, very physical, competitive secondary,” Harbaugh said.
Gore has fumbled once this season, as he lost the ball after being stripped from the side after breaking into the clear against the St. Louis Rams. Harbaugh said he does not expect Gore to be caught by surprise again.
“Well, (I) don’t see anybody doing it better than Frank Gore,” Harbaugh said. “He had the one that got stripped out from a defender coming from a non-aggressive angle and he didn’t see him and he let his guard down.
“When that happens to Frank, you’re not going to sneak up on Frank again and hit him over the head with a bag of dung a second time.”