LONDON -- For a crowd that needed some guidance, the public-address announcer was descriptive after every play. For example, he might say: "Frank Gore to the middle of the line."

He said that a lot.

Gore had a season-high 29 carries, many of them straight up the gut. New offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, like his predecessor Jimmy Raye, wants to hammer away at a defense until it breaks.

This time, it worked. Gore ran for 118 yards, and the 49ers' patient approach created some chances for quarterback Troy Smith. The 49ers scored three points through the first three quarters -- then 21 over the final 12 minutes.

Smith was making his first start since 2007, and the 49ers wanted to give him help.

"We tried to establish a running game and allow Troy, in his third start of his career, to develop some kind of rhythm, some kind of consistency, some type of confidence," coach Mike Singletary said. "If you have to throw, let's be smart about what we're doing and not too much on him too soon."

Gore now has three consecutive 100-yard games. At the season's halfway point, he has 691 of the 49ers' 789 rushing yards.

"I feel great. It's a blessing. I'm healthy," Gore said. "I'm just ready to keep going."

Gore rarely comes off the field, but, in an oddity, he sat out the 49ers' final series. When a sustained drive would have clinched the victory, the 49ers gave rookie Anthony Dixon three consecutive carries. Dixon gained 4 yards, then 2, then 3, before Andy Lee punted to the Broncos, who trailed only 24-16.


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"We wanted fresh legs on the field," Singletary said. "So we put Dixon in and said, 'Let's go.' "

Gore said: "Coach Singletary is the coach. I was good, but he wanted to put the big back in and get fresh legs. He did a good job, and that's all there is to it."

Gore averaged 4.1 yards per carry. His longest rush was 21 yards. But it wasn't the torrent that beat the Broncos. It was the drip, drip, drip.

"He hid well behind his linemen," Denver linebacker Mario Haggan said. He was patient. As time went on, those 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-yard gains started to add up."