Matt Maiocco

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DE Ray McDonald, who missed last week's game with a hamstring strain, was back on the practice field. He's just a little behind Frank Gore in his recovery, who also got a positive update Thursday.

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Running back Frank Gore was upbeat Thursday at his locker prior to 49ers practice, saying he feels much better than he did the week earlier this season that he was listed as questionable with an ankle sprain.

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It's only the mid-point of the season for Alex Smith and the 49ers, but there will be a lot at stake when San Francisco faces the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park.

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Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards were among the offensive weapons that had a limited participation in practice Wednesday. Matt Maiocco has the full report for both the 49ers and Giants.

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This week, the Skywalker name found its way into the 49ers playbook. And with that name, don't expect a little 5-yard button hook.

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Running back Frank Gore was in full pads and participated in all the warmup drills Wednesday, but it was clear he was stepping carefully on his left ankle.

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When discussing the two quarterbacks who will be on the field Sunday at Candlestick Park, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh described Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Alex Smith in much the same way.

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Coach Jim Harbaugh said he believes Frank Gore, who showed some signs of a left ankle sprain, will be able to practice in Wednesday afternoon.

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Giants coach Tom Coughlin says the Alex Smith of this season is different than the guy he has seen in previous seasons. "He's got a 97 quarterback rating, which is darn good."

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The 49ers defense allowed a 59-yard field goal and a last minute touchdown to the Redskins. Patrick Willis had his best game of 2011 with 13 tackles and two forced fumbles. How did the rest of the defense look?

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The 49ers scored 19 points against the Redskins on Sunday and gained 326 total yards. As always, Matt Maiocco dissected every play and has your player-by-player analysis.

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The 49ers are 7-1 thanks in large part to a stifling defensive effort led by Patrick Willis. Insider Matt Maiocco breaks down Vic Fangio's unit, including the best and worst plays of the season so far.

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Skepticism reigned when the 49ers failed to land a big name free agent quarterback prior to the season, but at the midseason mark, Alex Smith and Frank Gore have provided San Francisco with a winning formula.

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Before the season, it was viewed as a coup within the NFL when the 49ers added special teams coach Brad Seely. At the midway point, the move looks even better.

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Redskins DL Barry Cofield: "I don't think they the 49ers played that great. I don't think they have that dynamic of an offense."

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