For the first time since Week 1, the 49ers looked like the 49ers.
The San Francisco defense not only was rock solid but saved the game with a late goal-line stand, Frank Gore was a battering ram and this time Jim Harbaugh’s crew played a full game after two consecutive second-half collapses.
The result was a 26-21 49ers victory over the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, their first regular-season win at Levi’s Stadium, and a return to .500 at 2-2.
The 49ers trailed at halftime, 21-13, but this time came on strong over the final two quarters.
Safety Antoine Bethea gets a huge assist. A couple of plays by the veteran safety may have turned the 49ers season around.
Early in the third quarter, Bethea rocked Eagles tight end Zach Ertz after a reception, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Perrish Cox at the Eagles’ 23-yard line. The 49ers converted that to a touchdown, with Colin Kaepernick connecting with Stevie Johnson on a terrific tiptoe catch in the corner of the end zone.
Later in the quarter, Bethea intercepted a Nick Foles pass and, after the teams traded possessions, the 49ers went on a long, time-consuming march for Phil Dawson’s fourth field goal, a 31-yarder, to take a 26-21 lead.
The Eagles – who had been throttled by the 49ers defense all day – then came to life. The Eagles had scored TDs on a blocked punt recovery, a punt return and an interception return, but the offense had done nothing. In fact, entering the fourth quarter, the 49ers ruled in time of possession, 33:58-11:02.
That’s when the Eagles came to life, driving from their own 9-yard line to the 49ers’ 1-yard line. But Philly couldn’t punch in a score on third- and fourth-down plays just after the 2-minute warning.
After the 49ers couldn’t get a first down, the Eagles had one last desperation chance, but one final long pass attempt by Foles was intercepted by Cox, and the 49ers had the victory.
The victory had some typical 49ers hallmarks, with Gore running for 119 yards and also scoring a TD on a 55-yard catch-and-run. And Kaepernick was 17-of-30 for 218 yards and two TDs.
But it was the defense that had the starring role.
The Eagles came into the game with the most second-half points in the NFL, and scored zero Sunday. The Niners held the high-powered Eagles offense to just 213 total yards, including only 22 on the ground, while plucking four turnovers.
After back-to-back losses to the Bears and Cardinals, the victory may have righted the Niners’ ship. Can they extend the winning streak to two? Next Sunday, they’ll host the Kansas City Chiefs.