Continuing with our recap of the 49ers' 2011 season, we reach the Week 4 match-up between San Francisco and Philadelphia. Of the roster-related notes, Reggie Smith and Adam Snyder starting were starting at strong safety and guard, and Braylon Edwards was a scratch.
The Eagles began the game with the ball but went three-and-out on their first possession. Philadelphia called 3 consecutive passing plays, with NaVorro Bowman making a third down tackle on LeSean McCoy in the flat. Kendall Hunter got the start at running back with Frank Gore hampered by a bad ankle, but still playing.
Kendall Hunter looked good early, catching a middle screen and taking it up for a first down. Gore's first carry gashed the Eagles' defense up the middle for 40-yards into enemy territory. The call was an inside trap, that was well blocked, opening a gaping hole with no one there.
San Francisco quickly got in a third and long situation and had to settle for David Akers field goal attempt which pushed left.
49ers rookie linebacker Aldon Smith was seeing significant time - the Eagles came out passing, which called for pass rushers. Another first year 49er got noticed when Carlos Rogers intercepted an underthrown pass intended for DeSean Jackson. On play action, Vick threw deep down the middle of the field for Jackson but was under pressure from Justin Smith - Vick was throwing off his back foot a lot, which forced inaccuracy.
On offense the 49ers clearly wanted to run against that wide-nine defense. After getting into a 3rd and 17, rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick came in but just handed it off to Gore.
On the next Eagles drive, Philadelphia started to get rolling. Vick completed first downs to full back Owen Schmitt, Jeremy Maclin and Clay Harbor. They were moving the ball through the air even though the 49ers were breaking through the Eagles offensive line.
After a first down run from Ronnie Brown, Vick escapes two 49ers (Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald), steps up and throws to the right corner of the end zone, connecting for a touchdown to tight end Clay Harbor.
With a 7-0 Eagles lead, the 49ers were looking to get going on offense. Smith made a 1st and 10 throw to Michael Crabtree for a first down. Followed by that was a check down to Delanie Walker for 5 yards; Smith was clearly reading through his progressions.
In the first quarter, 49ers fans also got a glimpse of Isaac Sopoaga on offense, checking in as a run blocking full back. Smith connected with Crabtree again on a third and three to convert. Crabtree snatched a high and away ball out of the air with his long arms and long fingers to keep San Francisco on the field.
Before the second quarter, Smith rolled out of play action, completing a strike to Vernon Davis into Eagle territory for a 26-yard gain.
Smith was sacked by Jason Babin on third down, forcing San Francisco to settle for a field goal. Back on offense, the Eagles' DeSean Jackson busted the 49ers for a 45-yard gain on first down. Vick ran for a first down on following play but the Niners held strong in the red zone, forcing a field goal.
With a 10-3 Eagles lead, Smith threw a bad pass behind Vernon Davis on 3rd and 6, which could have been a conversion. But the strength of the team is the defense, and the 49ers remained stingy against LeSean McCoy. However, Vick ran for a 21-yard scramble as the 49ers pass rush was opening lanes for him.
Vick connected with Harbor for 27-yards, inside the 49ers 5-yard line. In scoring position, Ronnie Brown was stuffed, and threw the ball away; ruled a fumble and recovered by 49ers. Unfortunately, the 49ers went three-and-out inside their own 5-yard line.
Vick continued to produce chunk plays through the air, linking up with Jackson for another 29-yard gain. Later on the drive, Aldon Smith wrapped up Vick for a sack and the Niners D remained strong in the red zone, forcing another field goal. The Eagles took a 13-3 lead and had the ball back sooner rather than later.
Babin came off the edge unblocked, forcing a fumble that was recovered by his teammate Cullen Jenkins. The Eagles still were not running on the 49ers outside of Vick's scrambles though. Although, LeSean McCoy did get in the end zone off a
shuffle shovel pass from Vick to take a 20-3 lead before halftime.
On passing situations, Babin continued to get pressure on Smith; Anthony Davis was just having a hard time because Babin was coming fast and low.
Rookie running back Kendall Hunter was getting significant time in this match-up, hitting the holes hard. Alex Smith hit Walker on a comeback for 11 yards to highlight the drive, but San Francisco had to settle for another field goal which was blocked by King Dunlap.
Back on defense, Aldon Smith was a force with another near-sack, athletically and unstoppably pursuing Vick. The bend-but-don't-break defense by the 49ers forced yet another Eagles field goal, giving them a 23-3 lead.
Smith found Walker again to start the Niners next drive. Off of some improvisation, Smith felt pressure, scrambled and threw to Kendall Hunter, who almost took it all the way for a 45-yard gain. On the following play, Josh Morgan lined up right, ran a slant, Smith hit him in stride and Morgan cut it up field for a 30-yard touchdown, taking advantage of a safety blitz. With the score 23-10, the Niners were starting to find a groove.
Vick scrambled on a third down and with Bowman spying, the All-Pro tracked him to the sideline and took him down, preventing the first down conversion.
On offense, Smith launched a beauty down the left sideline to Crabtree between Nnamdi Asomugha and Jarrad Page. Hunter then ran for a first down on a power right. And another rookie got in on the action when Bruce Miller caught one out of the backfield for a first down, breaking a tackle. In striking distance, Vernon Davis caught a touchdown from Alex Smith off a stick route to end the 5-play, 77 yard drive.
At 23-17, the 49ers were closing a once sizable lead.
With a Vick sack, it was clear that the whole 49ers team picked it up in the 3rd quarter. San Francisco's D was also looking real sharp when the defense busted through; Ray McDonald hit Vick handing off to run, immediately followed by Ahmad Brooks dropping McCoy for a loss.
However, after that, DeSean Jackson caught a 61-yard bomb from Vick, beating Tarell Brown deep. Jackson had 4 catches for 154 yards by this point.
The Eagles' kicker Alex Henry missed a very makeable field goal which hurt Philadelphia; they were definitely needed points. Though San Francisco didn't capitalize then since Jason Babin had sacked Smith yet again (3 sacks, FF), which forced the 49ers to punt. Vick was able to get the Eagles deep into 49ers territory with after a strike to Jason Avant.
But as luck would have it, Alex Henry would miss another FG - a 33-yarder that pushed right.
As stated before, the 49ers really wanted to run against that wide-nine defense, and the 4th quarter was as good a time as any. Gore ripped a run of 25-yards into Eagles' territory. Hunter broke a 14-yarder off the left side, which inched San Francisco that much closer. With the veteran having checked back in, Gore took one up the middle, finding a lane for the go-ahead touchdown. He extended his body, rolling over Asante Samuel to secure a 24-23 lead late in the 4th.
Very limited until that point, Gore had 10 rushes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
With 2 minutes left, the Eagles were hoping to engineer one final drive against the 49ers to get their first win. They had moved the ball slightly down field before Justin Smith had chased down Maclin, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Dashon Goldson.
Alex Smith finished 21 for 33 with 291 yards, 2 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 112.1 QB rating.
Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80