49ers stun Eagles in unlikely win
To Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith, Sunday's stunning comeback victory was one for the road.
The San Francisco 49ers lauded last week's temporary home in eastern Ohio, and how comfortable they felt in the second half in Philadelphia, where they surged back from a 20-point deficit to win 24-23.
''Thanks Youngstown, you've been good to us,'' Harbaugh said of his decision to keep the team in Ohio after its victory at Cincinnati last weekend. ''That's as good a win as I can ever remember being a part of. I'm really proud of our players. They never flinched in a tough environment here, and there was no moment or circumstance that made them nervous in this ballgame. We kept fighting, made adjustments - a great team victory for us.''
And a bitter disappointment for the Eagles (1-3), who wasted a splendid performance by Michael Vick, injured hand and all.
Vick wasn't hampered by his bruised right hand — he did injure a finger on his left hand in the first half — throwing for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 75 yards. But Philly's defense fell apart in the final 30 minutes, and Frank Gore capped a 77-yard drive with a 12-yard TD run with 3 minutes remaining.
''It's unacceptable to give up a lead that size in the second half,'' defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. ''If we don't win, we're just a bunch of talented people who haven't done anything, and there's a lot of teams like that.''
The 49ers (3-1) are talented enough to lead the NFC West after breaking a five-game losing streak against Philadelphia. The much-maligned Smith went 13 for 17 for 201 yards in the second half, with TD passes of 30 yards to Joshua Morgan and 9 to Vernon Davis. Then Gore, who didn't start because of a sprained right ankle, powered into the end zone, and former Eagles kicker David Akers converted the decisive extra point.
Smith thought the stay in Youngstown, where the team's owners have roots, was a key to the win.
''I thought it was great,'' he said. ''It helped us focus on football ... like a small training camp, spending a lot of time with teammates, and I think that means something.''
The victory meant plenty to Akers, who basically was discarded after 12 seasons in Philadelphia, where he's the career points leader. He made a 37-yard field goal, missed from 44 and had one blocked from 45.
But he left the Linc with a huge smile on his face.
''To hit the last extra point, it's like hitting a 50-yard field goal,'' Akers said. ''It still counts as one, but it puts you up.''
Vick couldn't have been more down. He wore a padded pink glove on his right hand all game, and wore a heavy frown after it.
''It's shocking. It's frustrating,'' Vick said, adding the Eagles need to have a ''gut check.
''Some people have it and some people don't, but we're going to find out who's got it.''
Akers' replacement, rookie Alex Henery, missed from 39 and 33 yards in the final period. Philadelphia has been outscored 36-0 in the fourth quarter of its last three games, all losses. The team so lauded for its free agency haul after the lockout is in last place in the NFC East.
San Francisco's comeback began after Akers' field-goal attempt was blocked and Henery soon after made a 32-yarder for a 23-3 lead.
Harbaugh then allowed Smith to look downfield more, and the Niners needed just four plays to go 80 yards, including a 44-yard catch and run by rookie Kendall Hunter, who supplemented Gore perfectly. Morgan got wide open over the middle for his TD.
Then Henery began missing kicks after Vick set him up with big plays. Philadelphia had 13 plays of at least 15 yards, including a 61-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson that was wasted when Henery missed from 39 yards.
Davis' touchdown catch brought the Niners within six points late in the third quarter. When Henery failed from 33 yards, it was the final opening the 49ers needed.
Gore had a 21-yard run on the 77-yard drive that ended with his powerful surge into the end zone. He finished with 127 yards rushing.
Jeremy Maclin fumbled with 2:06 left and the Eagles driving for perhaps a winning score.
Vick turned a seeming sack into a sensational touchdown in the first quarter. He was about to go down at the San Francisco 16 when rushed by Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald. Both had open shots at him, and both missed. Vick scrambled right and found Clay Harbor in the back right corner of the end zone to make it 7-0.
Henery did make three field goals, from 32, 32 and 33 yards.
Notes: Eagles DE Trent Cole left in the fourth quarter with a right calf injury and will undergo an MRI on Monday. ... Smith finished 21 of 33 for 291 yards. ... Jason Babin was the only Philadelphia defender with much of an impact, getting three sacks to reach seven in four games. ... Jackson finished with 171 yards on six catches, but also had a key drop and deflected a pass that was intercepted, both on long throws. ... Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, who led the NFC in rushing through three weeks, had only 18 yards on nine carries.