Sunday, October 2, 2011
Wrap-up: 49ers 24, Eagles 23
By Mike Sando
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 24-23 road victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4:
What it means: The 49ers are the best team in the NFC West after scoring a signature victory under new coach Jim Harbaugh. The offense the 49ers generated after falling behind 20-3 on the road against a good pass-rushing team showed they could open up the offense without imploding in a toxic cloud of Alex Smith turnovers. No team in the NFC West plays defense the way the 49ers play defense. Smith continues to minimize mistakes and has now shown an ability to make plays downfield.
What I liked: Defensive end Justin Smith's hustle and athletic ability in tracking down receiver Jeremy Maclin to force a fumble when the Eagles were moving into range for the winning field-goal try could be the play of the season for San Francisco. The 49ers' defense gave up too many yards, but forcing key turnovers allowed San Francisco to stay in the game. Frank Gore, after struggling through the first three games, came through with his first 100-yard game of the season. He repeatedly made clutch runs in the late going to help his team win, making an extra effort on the go-ahead touchdown run. He played with heart. Alex Smith, who passed for 291 yards without an interception, found Michael Crabtree for a 38-yard reception against Nnamdi Asomugha. He found tight end Vernon Davis and receiver Josh Morgan for touchdowns. Harbaugh was on his game, twice winning replay challenges. And the 49ers' ability to win back-to-back road games for the first time since 2006 -- after Harbaugh insisted the team remain in the Eastern time zone all the while -- buys tremendous credibility for Harbaugh.
What I didn't like: Jason Babin collected three sacks and made it tough for the 49ers to finish their comeback. The Eagles' Michael Vick approached 400 yards passing. The Eagles made too many big plays in the passing game, including a 61-yarder to DeSean Jackson. That has been a problem area for the 49ers this season, particularly against Dallas and Philadelphia. The Cowboys and Eagles have big-play offenses, however, so some of the big plays are tolerable. An offsides penalty against Ahmad Brooks with 2:15 remaining stopped the clock and kept the Eagles' drive going, at least until Justin Smith's big play on Maclin.
What's next: The 49ers are home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5.