The San Francisco 49ers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-3 in a game twice delayed by power outages to stay in position for a bye in the first round of the National Football League playoffs.
Vernon Davis and Frank Gore scored second-half touchdowns last night at Candlestick Park for the 49ers, who improved to 11-3 and ended the Steelers’ four-game winning streak.
“It was a game about respect and we knew it was going to be a tough battle,” 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who passed for 187 yards and a touchdown, said in a televised interview.
San Francisco, which clinched the National Football Conference’s West division title two weeks ago, stays ahead of the New Orleans Saints (11-3) in the race for the No. 2 seed in the conference and a first-round playoff bye.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore are now both 10-4 atop the AFC North, though the Ravens hold the tiebreaker advantage because of their two wins over the Steelers this season. A Pittsburgh victory last night would have moved the Steelers ahead of Baltimore and into position for the AFC’s No. 1 seed with regular-season games against St. Louis (2-12) and Cleveland (4-10) remaining.
“We didn’t do enough,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said at a news conference. “We better lick our wounds pretty quickly. We had an opportunity and didn’t seize it.”
The start of the game was delayed 20 minutes after the lights went out at Candlestick Park. Play was halted for about 16 minutes during the second quarter after another power outage, which the 49ers said was caused by offsite transformer problems.
“It was unusual,” Smith said. “You don’t expect to deal with something like that, let alone twice.”
49ers Take Lead
San Francisco led 6-0 at halftime after David Akers kicked two field goals and the 49ers’ defense intercepted Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice. Roethlisberger played even though he was hobbled by a high ankle sprain.
After Pittsburgh pulled within 6-3 on a 51-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham in the third quarter, Davis extended the 49ers’ lead on the next drive with a one-yard touchdown reception. The score came one play after Davis hauled in a 21-yard pass from Smith to get the 49ers to the 1-yard line.
Gore added a 5-yard touchdown run with 9:06 remaining to push the 49ers’ lead to 20-3.
Roethlisberger finished with four turnovers -- three interceptions and a fumble -- against the 49ers’ defense, which has allowed the fewest points in the NFL. The Steelers were without linebacker James Harrison, the league’s 2008 defensive player of the year, who was serving a one-game suspension for five illegal hits on quarterbacks in the past three years.
The 49ers hold the tiebreaker advantage against the Saints with a better record against conference opponents, and can clinch the NFC No. 2 seed if they win their final two games against Seattle (7-7) and St. Louis (2-12). New Orleans finishes the regular season against Atlanta (9-5) and Carolina (5-9).