SANTA CLARA — Wearing a gray San Francisco 49ers hoodie, soft-spoken running back Frank Gore walked around team headquarters with a familiar smile and strut Thursday.
Gore is in good spirits again, and so are the 49ers (2-2) entering Sunday night's game against the Houston Texans (2-2) at Candlestick Park. Gore gashed St. Louis for 153 yards on 20 carries in San Francisco's 35-11 rout of the Rams last week to snap a two-game losing skid and a rare running funk.
"We got back to being us," Gore said.
While much of the attention had been on quarterback Colin Kaepernick this season, San Francisco struggled to get the ground game going behind Gore.
Gore ran for just 144 yards the first three weeks combined, his worst start to a season since becoming the team's featured back in 2006. Questions started to bubble up about whether the 30-year-old running back, who has had surgeries on both knees going back to his college days at Miami, was wearing down.
Instead, San Francisco gave Gore as many carries against St. Louis as he had the previous two weeks. All he did was run for more yards than he had since Dec. 14, 2009, when he racked up 167 against Arizona on Monday Night Football.
"We know he's capable of that, he knows he's capable of that and our offensive line knows he's capable of that," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "No question that everybody's inspired by what he does. Nobody does it like Frank Gore."
Perhaps no player has contributed to San Francisco's success more than Gore the past three seasons.
With Gore anchoring a power running game, the 49ers have been among the NFL's top rushing teams since Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman revamped the unit after taking control in 2011. During Harbaugh's tenure, San Francisco is 9-0 when Gore runs for at least 100 yards.
Gore was fifth in the NFC with 1,214 yards rushing and his 4.7-yard average ranked sixth in the NFL last season to help carry San Francisco to the Super Bowl, where the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens. Gore also was the league leader in rushing (319 yards) and rushing touchdowns (4) in the postseason.