SANTA CLARA — No matter that opponents are stacking extra defenders next to the line of scrimmage. The San Francisco 49ers are determined to run the football successfully, a key element of their offense that has been missing through the first two weeks of the season.
But offensive coordinator Greg Roman doesn't believe in forcing the issue.
Roman is taking a patient approach with a rushing attack that ranked fourth in the NFL last season but has struggled so far this year to get Frank Gore and the team's other running backs untracked.
"Our guys take a lot of pride in running the football and it's an important part of what we do," Roman said Thursday. "There is a time, though, where if they overplay it, I don't know that we're just going to bang our head into a brick wall all day. We want to give our guys a chance to be successful."
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has rushed for 28 more yards than the rest of his teammates combined, but the Niners expect to start getting more conventional results on the ground this week when they host the Indianapolis Colts and the NFL's 29th-ranked run defense.
Nobody is more anxious to see this happen than Gore, the four-time Pro Bowler who became the franchise's all-time leading rusher last season with the sixth 1,000-yard rushing season of his career.
Gore is off to his worst start to a season since becoming the team's featured back in 2006. He has just 60 yards rushing on 30 carries during San Francisco's 1-1 start after being limited to 16 yards rushing in last week's 29-3 loss at Seattle.
"People are playing the run real hard, but we still have to find a way to get it done," Gore said.
With Gore leading the way, the 49ers have been among the NFL's top rushing units since Roman and coach Jim Harbaugh revamped the offense after taking control of the team in 2011.
But there was little room on the ground for Gore in the season opener against Green Bay, and even less last week at Seattle. The 49ers produced just 207 yards of offense against the Seahawks, their fewest since 2011. Their running backs gained 13 net yards rushing.
"It's been a focus now for three weeks," said fullback Bruce Miller, who has been instrumental in opening holes for Gore. "It's tough on Frank. Because that's our guy. That's our workhorse. He puts the team on his back and he carries us most of the time. To be struggling right now as a group ... it's not Frank. It's more us guys up front. We just have to execute better and start winning one-on-one battles and then we'll get it going."
San Francisco ranks 17th in the NFL in rushing offense mainly because of the 109 yards Kaepernick has gained on scrambles outside the pocket. Gore's longest gain so far is eight yards, and his top backup also is off to a slow start. Kendall Hunter, coming back from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his season last year, has just 17 yards rushing through two games.