The run that broke the record wasn’t all that noteworthy, just one of the 3,343 in Frank Gore’s career. With the carry, which came in the first quarter and went for nine yards, Gore surpassed 500 yards on the ground for the 14th consecutive season—every season of his wildly improbable career—breaking the record for most consecutive seasons with 500 yards rushing, previously shared by Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.
But Gore had two other runs during the Dolphins’ 31–12 loss to the Packers on Sunday afternoon that deserve more attention. The first came on Miami’s first possession, the second play of the game, when Gore took the handoff right, immediately juked left into a slim hole, shimmied off one tackle, cut back to avoid a would-be tackler diving helplessly at his legs, dropped his helmet and plowed through two other Packers, before finally being dragged down, 39 yards from where the play began. The run would have been a highlight for any running back. For a 35-year-old back, it was downright magnificent. For a 35-year-old back with both shoulders and both knees operated on, it is nothing short of a miracle.
The other run came in the second quarter, when Green Bay cornerback Jaire Alexander dove low on Gore, and the Dolphins back leapt over the defender and then continued on trucking for more yards. For perspective, when Gore was drafted in 2005, the 21-year-old Alexander was just entering elementary school.
Some more perspective: In Gore’s first NFL season, 2005, the offensive rookie of the year was Cadillac Williams and the defensive ROY was Shawn Merriman. Williams last played in the NFL in 2011, Merriman ’12. Actually, not a single back drafted before Gore in the ’05 draft is left in the league.
There is still a debate about Gore’s Hall of Fame candidacy, but it shouldn’t be a debate. In the era of the replaceable running back—an era where teams consistently believed that they could find a back off the waiver wire and plug him in the lineup, and their offense wouldn’t miss a step—Gore has endured. He endured through two ACL surgeries in college, through operations on both shoulders after his rookie season in the league. He’s endured in a changing NFL; in the 14 years that Gore has been in the league running backs have adapted, becoming more versatile, more like receivers and less like 300-carry-a-season workhorses—meaning, less like Gore.
Yet, there he was on Sunday, rushing for 90 yards against men who weren’t yet born when Gore was breaking records at Coral Gables High. He has never been the most electric back in the league, but has always been the most reliable.
When he signed with the Dolphins this offseason—in what he told Peter King last December would be his final season, but has since claimed that is not definitive—the thought was that Gore was returning home to Miami for a nice retirement tour and likely wouldn’t play much. But obviously that has not turned out to be the case, as he’s become arguably the Dolphins most consistent players and has surpassed Kenyan Drake on the depth chart. So far this season, Gore has become just the fifth back since 1970 to rush for 100 yards in a game. (On Sunday, he finished with 90 yards.) He’s moved into fourth on the all-time rushing list, passing Curtis Martin, and sixth on the career yards-from-scrimmage list, passing Barry Sanders.
Frank Gore may have just six games left in his beautiful, wildly improbable, enduring career. Savor them.