ST. LOUIS -- Frank Gore romped through the St. Louis Rams' defense for 261 yards in two games last season.
Judging by the Rams' shaky debut against the run, reflecting no improvement, the San Francisco 49ers' running back might just be anticipating another big day.
The Rams' run defense ranked at the bottom of the NFL last year, and couldn't stop the less-heralded Carolina Panthers duo of DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams in the season opener, yielding 186 yards rushing. Now St. Louis faces a back who ranked second in the NFL in rushing and receiving yards in 2006 behind the Rams' Steven Jackson.
"I think we're going to be better," St. Louis defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "We'll find out."
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Haslett's optimism is eerily similar to his comments from last year, when he kept anticipating improvement but never saw it, and remarkably reminiscent of former Rams coach Mike Martz when things went wrong.
Gore set a franchise record with 1,695 yards rushing and 485 receiving last year for San Francisco, and two of his nine 100-yard games came against the Rams. They might not get him at full strength after Gore missed the preseason with a broken hand and then showed signs of rust in the opener, totaling 55 yards and a touchdown in a victory over the Cardinals.
Then again, Arizona has had success against Gore, twice holding him below 100 yards last season. The Rams, on the other hand, surrendered 100-yard games to four other backs in 2006.
"When I get out there, I'm just going to try my best to do everything like it's my last and just go out there and have fun," said Gore, who intends to play despite the death of his mother Wednesday. "I can't think about last year. Last year is gone. They have new players."