SANTA CLARA (CBS 5 / AP) ― Frank Gore’s absence is pushing Brian Westbrook back into the spotlight. And Anthony Dixon is expected to be right there with him.
“There will be a good mixture between Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon,” 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. “It’s kind of ‘thunder and lighting.’ That’s been used a lot through the years with running backs, but with both those guys it literally is applicable.”
San Francisco’s offense the past five years has revolved around Gore, who fractured his right hip during Monday’s 27-6 victory over Arizona and will miss the rest of the season.
But the 49ers hardly skipped a beat after Gore was injured in the second quarter. Westbrook, a two-time Pro Bowler, and Dixon, a rookie who led the NFL with 300 yards rushing during the preseason, picked up the slack.
Westbrook finished with 136 yards rushing, the 19th 100-yard game of his career. He was complemented by Dixon’s career-high 54 yards rushing. The 49ers finished with 261 yards on the ground, the most by the team in a game since 2006.
At 5-foot-10 and 203 pounds, Westbrook brings an explosive, slashing style. The 6-1, 233-pound Dixon brings a much more straightforward approach.
“I’ve got to be the thunder, ’cause I like to drop the boom a little bit,” Dixon said. “Me and Westbrook, we’ve been working together all year and with Frank down, we’ve got to pick up the slack. We’ve got his back and we’re going to get the job done.”
Westbrook will now be the team’s lead back after biding his time throughout this season.
After Gore went down, the 49ers fed Westbrook the ball 23 times, the fourth-highest total of carries in a game in his career.
The 49ers brought in Westbrook as insurance for Gore, and Westbrook paid off big when he finally was needed. Westbrook consistently churned out yardage the final three quarters, reminding some of the form he displayed in 2007 when he rushed for 1,333 yards, led the NFL with 2,104 yards from scrimmage and set a Philadelphia Eagles franchise record with 90 receptions.
With the 49ers (4-7) now just a game out of first place in the weak NFC West, Westbrook has been thrust into a key role as San Francisco travels this week to Green Bay (7-4). He realizes the importance of the situation because he has been there before.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to go out there and feel comfortable on the football field,” Westbrook said. “But when you’ve got live guys coming at you and trying to hit you, it comes back pretty quick. I’ve been around this game a long time and I have a responsibility to do. I’ll go out there prepared to do my thing.”
Gore entered Monday’s game third in the NFL with 1,253 yards from scrimmage, and he was headed for a big game with 52 yards rushing on five carries before getting injured. Gore finished the season with 853 yards rushing and a team-leading 46 receptions.
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