PHILADELPHIA (AP) – When the San Francisco 49ers finally let Alex Smith air it out, he outdid Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Chucking its conservative approach in the second half, the 49ers surged back from a 20-point hole and beat the Eagles 24-23 on Sunday.
Vick wasn’t hampered by his bruised right hand, throwing for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 75 yards. But Philly’s defense fell apart in the final 30 minutes, and Frank Gore capped a 77-yard drive with a 12-yard TD run with 3 minutes remaining.
Former Eagles kicker David Akers, who left for San Francisco as a free agent this summer, kicked the decisive extra point. His replacement, rookie Alex Henery, missed from 39 and 33 yards in the final period.
Philadelphia (1-3) has been outscored 36-0 in the fourth quarter of its last three games, all losses. The team so lauded for its free agency haul after the lockout is in last place in the NFC East.
Meanwhile, the 49ers (3-1) are on top of the NFC West in Jim Harbaugh’s rookie season as coach. They won at Cincinnati last week, remained in Ohio rather than go back to the West Coast, and showed lots of staying power in Philly.
San Francisco’s comeback began after Akers’ field-goal attempt was blocked and Henery soon after made a 32-yarder for a 23-3 lead.
Harbaugh then allowed Smith to look downfield more, and the Niners needed just four plays to go 80 yards, including a 44-yard catch and run by rookie Kendall Hunter, who supplemented Gore perfectly. Joshua Morgan got wide open over the middle for a 30-yard TD.
Then Henery began missing kicks after Vick set him up with big plays. Philadelphia had 13 plays of at least 15 yards, including a 61-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson that was wasted when Henery missed from 39 yards.
Vernon Davis’ 9-yard touchdown catch brought the Niners within six points late in the third quarter. When Henery failed from 33 yards, it was the final opening the 49ers needed.
Gore has a 21-yard run on the 77-yard drive that ended with his powerful surge into the end zone.
Jeremy Maclin fumbled with 2:06 left and the Eagles driving for perhaps a winning score.
Jason Babin was the only Philadelphia defender with much of an impact, getting three sacks to reach seven in four games.
Vick turned a seeming sack into a sensational touchdown in the first quarter.
After connecting with a variety of targets, Vick was about to go down at the San Francisco 16 when rushed by Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald. Both had open shots at him, and both missed. Vick scrambled right and found Clay Harbor in the back right corner of the end zone to make it 7-0.
Vick never seemed bothered by the hand, on which he wore a padded pink glove.
Henery did make three field goals, from 32, 32 and 33 yards, and Akers had a 37-yarder. Philadelphia finally solved its red-zone problems with 38 seconds left in the opening half on a third-down shovel pass from Vick to LeSean McCoy for a 5-yard score and a 20-3 halftime lead.