Steelers 3

(10-4, 4-3 away)

49ers 20

(11-3, 7-1 home)

Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

8:30 PM ET, December 19, 2011

Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA 

1 2 3 4 T
PIT 0 0 3 03
SF 3 3 7 720

Top Performers

Passing: B. Roethlisberger (PIT) - 330 YDS, 3 INT

Rushing: F. Gore (SF) - 18 CAR, 65 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Cotchery (PIT) - 5 REC, 93 YDS

49ers pick off Ben Roethlisberger 3 times, shut down Steelers after pair of outages

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- From the swirling winds off the bay that can play fits with the football to the 1989 earthquake that rocked the World Series, Candlestick Park has long been an unpredictable venue known for its challenges.

Monday Night Football nearly became a Monday Night Fiasco when everything went dark -- twice.

San Francisco's lights-out return to prime time in a 20-3 victory over the Steelers helped salvage what could have been an embarrassing evening for everyone involved on the NFL's biggest stage after a pair of power outages delayed the game for close to 35 minutes in all.

"I just feel like San Francisco took a big step to show the NFL and to show the state of California that they need a new stadium," Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. "I think it was a very strategic move, and Candlestick may be no more."

Good thing there's a state-of-the-art $1 billion stadium in the works.

The 49ers rode their top-ranked run defense once again to keep ailing Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger off balance and maintain a hold on the NFC's No. 2 playoff seed and a first-round bye.

"Electric atmosphere tonight," tweeted team president Jed York -- unclear if his pun was intended.

Vernon Davis caught a 1-yard touchdown pass for the 49ers (11-3) one play after setting himself up with a 21-yard reception from Alex Smith, Frank Gore ran for a 5-yard score and David Akers kicked field goals of 22 and 38 yards to overtake Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for San Francisco's single-season scoring record.

"I think we showed the world we can play the game of football on a national stage," Davis said. "At the end of the day that's what it's all about: respect."

The Steelers (10-4) missed a key chance to take sole possession of first place in the AFC North and gain the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed.

Roethlisberger, playing on a sprained left ankle that had him in a walking boot during the week, threw two early interceptions and another in the waning minutes -- and a couple of light structures flickered as the final ticks elapsed.

Even all those Terrible Towel-waving Steelers supporters in the sellout crowd of 69,732 couldn't will their team when San Francisco's unique home-field advantage became two blackout delays.

"It's very frustrating to feel like you let down your team and your fans and your coaches. It's tough," Roethlisberger said. "I'm not going to make excuses. I played a bad football game, I turned the ball over and that one's on me."

San Francisco became the first team in NFL history to hold an opponent without a rushing touchdown through each of the first 14 games.

"I also want to recognize our defense," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "NFL record for not allowing a rushing touchdown in 14 games. I think that is huge."

Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown made interceptions, while Rookie of the Year candidate Aldon Smith had 2½ sacks for San Francisco's stingy defense.

The 49ers also have gone 36 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Rashard Mendenhall had 15 carries for 64 yards.

"This team has really become a team," Harbaugh said. "I'm really proud of them for that."

Roethlisberger still finished 25 for 44 for 330 yards, but was sacked three times. After his second pick, he fumed as he limped off the field and could be seen yelling into his chin strap.

The 49ers made a big statement in their most meaningful home game since their last trip to the playoffs in January 2003, when San Francisco came from behind to stun the New York Giants 39-38 in one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

"It was probably the biggest home game since I've been here," Alex Smith said.

They had to wait 20 minutes to get started after the power went out the first time. It didn't seem to faze San Francisco.

"It wasn't too bad. It was unusual," said Alex Smith, who went 18 for 31 for 187 yards. "You don't expect to have to deal with it, and it happened twice. But it was the same for both teams."

Smith wasn't sacked after being taken down 18 times in the previous three games, including nine in the Niners' prime time flop at Baltimore on Thanksgiving night against Jim Harbaugh's big brother, John.

Jim Harbaugh prepared for the Steelers by comparing notes with his brother after the Ravens won both meetings this season with Pittsburgh in one of the AFC's fiercest rivalries.

The Steelers are 0-for-Harbaugh this season.

"I think we need to acknowledge that was 49er football tonight," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We played the game on their terms."

The 37-year-old Akers, who long admired Rice from afar growing up in Kentucky, topped Rice's 138 points scored in 1987.

Yet Akers has said he doesn't feel deserving of the points mark over a great such as Rice -- who clowned around on the field before the game catching passes from fellow Hall of Famer and former QB Steve Young, including one in the end zone.

It was after Akers' second field goal when everything went dark for a second time. Thousands of flashbulbs went off in the midst of the black, with thousands of fans sitting in darkness -- including all those Steelers fans who travel the country with their team.

NFL security chief Jeff Miller said he witnessed a transformer blow up while he was monitoring a gate outside the stadium, where a shooting during the preseason already put a negative light on this venue.

The second delay came early in the second quarter and halted the game again between the playoff-bound teams for about 15 minutes. Miller and other NFL officials gathered in the press box to assess the situation, remaining in constant contact with the commissioner's office.

This was the 49ers' only Monday Night game this season and their final regular-season home game at Candlestick Park. The NFL certainly will want to make sure there are no problems when San Francisco hosts a home playoff game next month as NFC West champions -- and Miller said he remains confident Candlestick can capably host a playoff game.

"Never in my life have I been a part of a blackout in a stadium," Davis said.

The Steelers missed linebacker James Harrison, who served his one-game suspension for a helmet to facemask hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy on Dec. 8.

"We better lick our wounds pretty quickly because we have a quick turnaround here," Tomlin said.

This marked the fourth time in Monday Night Football history that two teams faced off with 10 victories and a winning percentage of at least .750 -- and San Francisco has played in all of them, the last on Dec. 15, 1997, with the 12-2 49ers vs. 11-3 Broncos.

Game notes

The 49ers lost left tackle Joe Staley to a second-half leg injury. WR Ted Ginn Jr. injured his right ankle on the second-half kickoff. ... Pittsburgh managed just 84 yards rushing.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs2017
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays6661
Total Yards389287
Yards per play5.94.7
Total Drives1111
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-12-3
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

sfFG3:29David Akers 22 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 17 plays, 69 yds, 7:11
sfFG12:18David Akers 38 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 25 yds, 3:02
pitFG6:13Shaun Suisham 51 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 57 yds, 4:00
sfTD3:48Vernon Davis 1 Yard Pass From Alex Smith (David Akers Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 79 yds, 2:24
sfTD9:10Frank Gore 5 Yard Run (David Akers Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 17 yds, 2:25

Research Notes

On his injured ankle, Ben Roethlisberger threw 3 picks last night in a loss to the 49ers, dropping him to 1-8 career as a starting QB when throwing at least 3 picks. Not surprisingly, as Roethlisberger's picks go up, the Steelers win percentage goes down in a hurry.
Coming into Monday, 49ers opponents on average were starting drives on their own 24-yard line, the best average in the NFL for the kicking team. The Steelers' average starting position on Monday was their own 15-yard line. 4 of Andy Lee's 6 punts on Monday went inside the 20, tying a season-high for Lee.
The Steelers' average drive started at their own 15-yard line, the deepest average starting position any team has faced this season. Punter Andy Lee also pinned Pittsburgh inside its 20 on four of his six punts without recording a touchback

49ersThe 49ers have not allowed a rushing touchdown all season. They are the only team in NFL history not to allow a single rushing touchdown through their first 14 games.

NEXT LEVEL: The Steelers took 51 of their 66 snaps (77.3 percent) out of shotgun Monday, compared to just 35.2 percent entering the game.
NEXT LEVEL: Alex Smith was not sacked on Monday after being sacked 18 times over his last 3 games. The Steelers specifically struggled pressuring Smith with five or more pass rushers, as they sent such pressure on 21 of his 32 (65.6 percent) dropbacks and recorded no sacks.
NEXT LEVEL: Vernon Davis' 1-yard receiving touchdown was his first target this season in a goal-to-go situation. Davis has caught all 6 of his pass targets in the red zone this season, with 4 going for touchdowns.
NEXT LEVEL: Alex Smith completed 70.6 percent of his passes and his only touchdown to Vernon Davis with at least two tight ends on the field Monday. Alex Smith has a +10 touchdown to interception differential with at least two tight ends on the field, third in the league.
NEXT LEVEL: Ben Roethlisberger was under duress or sacked on 11 of 38 (29 percent) dropbacks when the 49ers sent four or fewer rushers Monday. Aldon Smith responded with 2.5 sacks on such pressure, and now ranks third in the league with 12.5 sacks when the defense sends four or fewer pass rushers.
NEXT LEVEL: Ben Roethlisberger completed only 28.6 percent of his passes on throws more than 14 yards downfield Monday, including all 3 of his interceptions. The 49ers pass defense leads the league with 16 interceptions on throws of that distance this season.

RoethlisbergerBen Roethlisberger has had great success against the NFC West in the past. But playing with a balky ankle, he struggled mightly Monday.


ESPN Stats & Information