Head coach Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the San Francisco 49ers celebrate after the Giants turned the ball over on downs in the final minute. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The 49ers have had a script for success this year, but Sunday’s 27-20 victory over the New York Giants had a few new plot twists.
The outcome was the same for San Francisco – a seventh straight victory for the NFC West leaders – but this game was anything but formulaic. This one ended up a second-half shootout, with the 49ers still standing when the game was over.
It included an early onside kick, two Carlos Rogers interceptions, a hobbled Frank Gore, a Vernon Davis hurdle, four David Akers field goals and, finally, Justin Smith’s bat-down of an Eli Manning pass to save the win.
Four times this season the 49ers had proven they could go east and win on the road, using a strong running game led by Gore, an excellent defense and timely special teams contributions. This time, they proved they could hold off the NFC East leader – and a quarterback who led the league with four fourth-quarter comebacks coming into the game – on their Candlestick Park turf.
The Niners led 9-6 at halftime in a battle of field goals between Akers and the Giants’ Lawrence Tynes, the go-ahead score set up by Akers’ onside kick just after he had connected on a 52-yarder to tie the score 6-6.
After Akers hit his fourth field goal to give San Francisco a 12-6 lead, Manning connected with Mario Manningham on a 13-yard pass to put the Giants up 13-12 just before the fourth quarter.
The Niners, however, quickly responded with 15 points in 61 seconds.
First, Alex Smith hit his tight end Davis, who hurdled over a Giants defender at the goal line to score on a 31-yard pass play. Coach Jim Harbaugh decided to go for two points, and Michael Crabtree caught the conversion pass from Smith.
On the Giants’ next possession, Rogers intercepted his second pass of the game at the Giants’ 34 and returned it to the 17, which set up Kendall Hunter’s 17-yard burst for a touchdown to give the 49ers a 27-13 lead.
On their next possession the Giants scored to cut the lead to seven, then held the Niners to a three-and-out, setting up a long New York drive from their own 20 – which included two fourth-down conversions – that appeared as if it would end in a tying TD.
But with 37 seconds remaining and the ball on the 49ers’ 10, Manning’s fourth-down pass was batted down by Smith’s right arm to preserve the win.
The victory gives the 49ers an 8-1 record heading into next Sunday’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Whether the 49ers will have Gore available is uncertain. Gore, who injured his ankle last week in a win over the Redskins, had to leave Sunday’s game with a knee injury. He re-entered the game late in the second half, but had just six carries for zero yards – ending his stretch of five straight games with 100 or more yards rushing. It was the first time in 70 games that Gore was held to no yards rushing.
For the 49ers, Smith completed 19 of 30 throws for 242 yards with just one interception – a ball that bounced off the hands of Ted Ginn Jr.