TAMPA, Fla. Death, taxes and 1,000 rushing yards for Frank Gore.
The 49ers running back surpassed that plateau for the third consecutive season and the seventh time overall Sunday, taking big gouges out of Tampa Bay’s defense early and late and finishing with 86 yards in a 33-14 win.
The only seasons Gore, 30, failed to reach the 1,000-yard mark were his rookie year, 2005, when he backed up Kevan Barlow, and 2010, when he suffered a broken hip in Week 12.
“Once again, I feel like he is one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “He does everything for our offense. He runs the ball. If we ask him to block, he does it. If we ask him to catch a pass, he does it. What he means to this team and what he contributes really can’t be quantified.”
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Gore entered Sunday’s game nursing an ankle injury and needing 69 yards to reach 1,000. He seemed to tweak the injury late in the game but remained on the field. He had 33 yards on the clinching 17-play drive in the fourth quarter.
“It’s all timing for us, perfect timing,” Gore said. “Everybody is getting healthy, and like I said, the fourth quarter, that’s when you want to be good. … We’re showing people that we’re taking steps.”
Miller hurting – Fullback Bruce Miller, who has taken on a bigger role in the offense this season, left in the fourth quarter because of what he said was a “stinger” to his left arm and shoulder.
Afterward, Miller said he’d be fine and expected to get X-rays today. But he was in obvious discomfort and could not use his arm as he dressed at his locker.
Miller played particularly well in last week’s win over Seattle, paving the way for Gore’s 110-yard performance.
He also has assumed many roles played by former No. 2 tight end Delanie Walker, who now plays for Tennessee. Miller ranks third on the 49ers with 25 catches for 243 yards. Anthony Dixon filled in for Miller.
Smart play – Rookie safety Eric Reid made a veteran play late in the game when he intercepted a tipped pass by Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon. Instead of following a convoy of teammates to the end zone, he simply dropped to the ground.
As Reid noted later, scoring a touchdown would have caused the 49ers to cover a kickoff with a little less than two minutes remaining and would have sent the defense back onto the field. By giving himself up, Reid allowed the offense to take the field. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy merely had to kneel three times to end the game.
“If we go out there at the end of the game and Patrick Willis gets hurt, it’s no fun,” Reid said. “I’ve seen things happen in the last plays of the game. Guys get hurt, and it’s just unnecessary.”
Still, did any of his veteran teammates tell him he should have tried to score?
“Almost all of them,” he said with a laugh.
Et cetera – Former team owner Eddie DeBartolo, who lives in Tampa, said he and 49ers greats Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark will participate in a ceremony next Monday night in honor of the last regular-season game at Candlestick Park. “It truly is an end of an era,” DeBartolo said.
• Cornerback Tarell Brown played in his first game since suffering a rib injury Nov. 17. Tramaine Brock started at right cornerback, and Brown entered in nickel situations and played left cornerback.
• Rookie tight end Vance McDonald, who is dealing with a sprained ankle, was inactive for the first time this season. Another tight end, Garrett Celek, returned from a hamstring injury and caught one pass for 8 yards.