49ers defense halts Eagles in first Levi’s win
LEVI’S STADIUM — The San Francisco 49ers fought through injuries and early blunders to come away with a 26-21 victory over the Eagles Sunday.
In their first win at Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers contained Nick Foles and the Eagles offense throughout the game, surrendering no touchdowns to the unit. But the Niners still went into the locker room trailing 21-13 at the half thanks to the Eagles’ special teams and defense playing in high gear.
Philadelphia’s special teams wasted no time getting involved in the game, as tight end Trey Burton rushed Dan Skuta back into 49ers punter Andy Lee in the end zone for the block and fumble, with the ball smothered by Eagles wide receiver Brad Smith for a touchdown.
Veteran-back Frank Gore was left out of much of the 49ers game plan last week, but lead the teams offensive attack Sunday.
Gore looked strong running the ball a season-high 119 yards, but his biggest impact came in the form of a 55-yard touchdown catch after a scrambling Colin Kaepernick connected with the running back on an off balance throw across his body, giving the 49ers their first lead of the game.
After reportedly being disgruntled last week, Gore spoke about his role on offense following Sunday’s win:
“I’m a football player, and I just wanna play football. Like I told Colin (Kaepernick), like I told my coach, whatever it takes. If I’m in the game I’m gonna do whatever it takes to help my team get a win.”
Despite another shaky performance from the 49ers offensive line, Kaepernick managed to turn in a solid performance, completing 17-of-30 passes for 218-yards and two touchdowns. But Kaepernick, who struggled with interceptions two weeks ago against the Bears, would again be burned by a bad read through the air.
Kaepernick tried to fit a pass into receiver Brandon Lloyd but safety Malcolm Jenkins read Kaepernick the entire way, standing in the lane to tally the quarterbacks fourth interception of the year, and returning it 53-yards to put Philadelphia back on top with a 14-10 lead.
After the Eagles forced another punt from Lee, return-man Darren Sproles showed off his speed by breaking to the sideline and beating San Francisco’s coverage for an 82-yard touchdown return.
Although surrendering 21-points in an unlikely manner has the potential to disrupt a teams effort, Coach Jim Harbaugh spoke about the 49ers resilience in overcoming the big plays:
“Our guys overcame a lot, as you saw today.There was things that happened in the game…those are tough things to come back from for any football team, and I thought our team really stepped it up.”
While the second half has been the 49ers nemesis so far this season, San Francisco came out with a sense of urgency on both sides of the ball pulling themselves back into the game.
San Francisco’s defense proved ferocious yet again as safety Antoine Bethea stripped Zach Ertz as he fought for yardage. The jarred ball flew right into the hands of corner back Perrish Cox, who recovered the ball at San Francisco’s 23-yard line.
Bethea, who was questionable heading into the game with an injury, headlined the 49ers defensive showing, finishing with a forced fumble and an interception. Bethea spoke about what it meant to be on the field with his team:
“That’s something that I hold dear to my heart, just being able to be reliable, my coaches and my teammates being able to rely on me week-in and week-out. That’s something that I’ve held on to throughout my career so far.”
The 49ers would cash in on their short-field opportunity, as Kaepernick found receiver Stevie Johnson near the pylons for a 12-yard touchdown pass to pull the team to within one.
Although San Francisco would regain the lead on the following drive, the Eagles offense finally showed up late in the fourth quarter trailing by just five points.
Foles led his team down field, setting up a first and goal situation for Philadelphia. But the 49ers defense was able to muster one final goal-line stand, forcing Foles to throw long of the end zone on fourth down for a turnover.
Although the defense had played exceptionally all game, the final stand was a defining moment for a unit that has been criticized as of late. Safety Eric Reid talked about the stand after the game.
“We stepped up. That was a huge play and probably our best defensive series of the year. We’ve just got to keep building off of it.”
Philadelphia would get one final chance to drive down the field with a little over a minute on the game clock, but Cox would intercept Foles on a fourth-and-long pass to close out the game for San Francisco, handing the Eagles their first loss of the season.
The 49ers will look to ride the momentum of their victory into next weeks’ Sunday matchup against Kansas City, where they face former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in a 1:25 p.m start at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers defeat of the Eagles handed them their first loss of the season. They currently sit at 3-1 in the NFC East. 49ers Joe Staley, Eric Reid, Anthony Davis and Vernon Davis all suffered injuries during the game, however, Staley and Reid returned to action. V. Davis on injury “I’ll be good. I’ll be fine. I’m not worried about it.” The 49ers 407-total net yards was the most of the season for the team. Stevie Johnson’s catch marked just the first time the 49ers have scored a second-half touchdown all season.