Well, it took two games, but the Santa Franciscoclara 49ers of silicon valley won their first game in their new digs. In what should have been a 35-0 beat-down turned into a near-tragic loss as the defense pitched a shutout, yet the special teams unit gave up two touchdowns on a blocked punt in the end zone, and a 60+ yard punt return by continual pest Darren Sproles. Throw in a pick 6 by Colin Kaepernick, and you have a Niner team down by 14 midway through the 2nd quarter, and down 21-13 at the intermission, despite having outgained Philly 197 to 77 yards. The lone TD in the 1st half came on a supremely strange play in which Kaepernick rolled left to buy time, and threw a 35 yard sideways pass to Frank Gore while running left. A throw that maybe 5 QBs in the league can make, btw, and Frank, who was all alone, took the rock and okey-doked ‘n’ stiff-armed his way into the end zone for a 55 yard score.
The second half was highlighted by Antoine Bethea smoothly taking over as the enforcer of this defense. His hit on Zach Ertz early in the 3rd quarter forced a fumble that Perrish Cox recovered, and that set up Kappy’s laser throw, and Stevie Wonder’s tippytoe 12 yard TD catch to cut the lead to one for Philly. 2 possessions later, Bethea, on a pass thrown under heavy pressure by the ageless Justin Smith, Bethea picked off the underthrown bomb. Bethea, making his 100th consecutive start, despite an ankle injury that threatened to sideline him, made a huge tackle late in the game, as Philly tried to score late in the game. He shot through the line on a Gerald McCoy run to tackle him one yard short of the end zone. On the next play, he came on a blitz and pressured Foles into a 4th down incompletion to end the threat.
For all the struggles to pass-protect, the run blocking was solid, as Gore hit many big runs on his way to a 119 yard effort, and the team totaled 218 yards on the ground while giving up only 22. So, despite outgaining Philly 407 to 213, and winning the TOP battle 42 minutes to 18, the 49ers were in real danger of losing this game. The defense stepped up in a huge way, and you have to tip your cap to Vic Fangio for shuffling his lineup to get real pressure on Nick Foles all game.