Allen Park — Frank Gore is a modern marvel.
In an era where featured backs have largely been phased out in favor of backfield rotations, Gore has made a seamless transition from workhorse to complementary piece. But it's the longevity, and productivity this deep into his professional career, which make the Miami Dolphins running back a rarity in the modern NFL.
“Frank has done an unbelievable job of taking care of his body and just executing at a high level for a long time,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said ahead of Sunday's game. “I know him really well. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a tough guy. He really loves the game of football. And he has an edge about him that has just been able to kind of carry him all the way through his career.
“He’s always proving everybody wrong and just doing a great job year-in and year-out of being work horse. He’s definitely a guy down there that they can kind of rally behind in the run game. They know he’s going to get the tough yardage. … He’s extremely, tough, smart, physical, aggressive football player and he’s definitely an issue in the run game.”
The Lions expressed interest in Gore in free agency this offseason, before signing LeGarrette Blount. Gore ultimately opted for home. He was born and raised in Miami, and played collegiately for the Hurricanes.
The homecoming has birthed a late-career surge. He’s averaging 4.9 yards per carry through six games. If he can maintain the pace, it would be his best since 2009.
That’s not to say Gore has ever been a non-factor. He hasn’t missed a game since 2010, despite averaging 265 carries the past seven seasons. He’s topped 1,000 yards nine times during his career, most recently in 2016. If he stays healthy and continues to play in 2019, he’s poised to pass Lions Hall of Famer Barry Sanders on the all-time rushing list.
“He’s tough, he’s gritty, he loves all the dirty work,” Lions linebacker Eli Harold said. “It’s incredible, man. Fourteen years, 35 years old and he doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat at all.”
Gore is coming off his best game of the season, churning out 101 yards on 15 carries in Miami’s 31-28 win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday. If the numbers say anything, he could be primed for another big day against the Lions. Through five games, the team is allowing opponents to run for 5.3 yards per carry. Only the Denver Broncos are worse.