As he emerged from the 49ers locker room at halftime,
The second-half Smith captained three touchdown drives to finish his afternoon, helping erase a 20-point deficit to lead the 49ers to a scintillating 24-23 win over the Eagles.
Moments after Smith took a knee for the game’s final play, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh made a beeline to congratulate his quarterback.
“I’m really proud of him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s such a tough guy. He doesn’t really say ‘Boo’ about anything and just takes hits, gets hit, runs. … I thought there was some great, heroic play by our guys up and down the roster.”
Though the 49ers’ initial second-half drive resulted in a blocked field goal, Smith had already set the wheels in motion, going a perfect 3-for-3 on the series. Smith would remain perfect the rest of the third quarter and finish with some gaudy statistics, going 9-for-9 with 179 yards and two touchdowns during the period.
Each touchdown came on the tail end of some masterful drives conducted by Smith and the 49ers offense.
The first score, a 30-yard reception by
Just like that, Smith and the 49ers (3-1) had cut their 23-3 deficit to a 23-17 margin, while only four minutes had elapsed from the game clock.
“We played better football in the second half,” Smith said. “We were determined to play a little better.
When you’re down 20 points, you can’t get it all back at once. I think all we talked about was executing better and we followed that up.”
If Smith was a hero on Sunday, he had some capable sidekicks sharing the backfield with him. Running back
Following the second of two field-goal misses by Eagles kicker Alex Henery, the 49ers took over at the 6:28 mark of the fourth quarter in need of seven points. With a heavy dose of Gore and Hunter, a rookie who started in Gore’s place, the 49ers put together an 8-play, 77-yard touchdown drive to take a 24-23 lead.
Perhaps no two plays were more impressive than the final pair the 49ers used to close out the drive. Facing a third-and-7 from the Eagles 26-yard line, Hunter took a pitch around the left end and picked up 14 yards to extend the series. On the next play, Gore gashed his way through the Philadelphia defense before reaching the end zone, putting the 49ers an extra point away from victory.
“It’s big. It gives us a lot of confidence how we got the win today,” Gore said. “Down three touchdowns we fought back as a team, as one, and kept believing.”
For his final act, Gore put the Eagles (1-3) to sleep once and for all. Following
In need of some crucial first downs, the 49ers called on Gore, who carried the ball five straight times and moved the chains twice, allowing Smith to take a knee to end the game.
In all, it was a banner day for the 49ers offense during the Harbaugh era. Smith had just 90 passing yards in the first half, but finished 21-of-33 for season-high 291 yards, two touchdowns and one lost fumble. Gore carried the ball 15 times for 127 yards and a touchdown, while Hunter amassed 100 yards from scrimmage, as the 49ers racked up a season-high 442 yards of offense.
With the victory, the 49ers now hold a two-game lead in the NFC West.
“Bay Area, the San Francisco 49ers are a different team,” Gore said. “We’re ready to go.”
Notes and Quotes
The 49ers defense extended its streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 26 games on Sunday, as Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick had 75 yards and running back LeSean McCoy was limited to 18 yards on nine carries.
The defense forced three total turnovers, as
“We inside know what we’re capable of doing,” Rogers said. “We just got to keep doing it for four quarters, game after game. It’s a real confidence booster.”
Rookie quarterback Colin Kapernick made his NFL debut in the first quarter, handing the ball off on a third-and-long play before returning to the bench.