Two weeks removed from a concussion, a week after his right hand was so badly bruised it was thought to be broken, Michael Vick channeled his inner Randall Cunningham.
Vick shucked two Carl Banks-like tackles – he ducked under Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald – then emerged like Alice from the rabbit hole. He then trotted ... (ital) trotted (end ital) … toward the line of scrimmage and coolly found tight end Clay Harbor for a 16-yard touchdown with 4:08 to play in the first quarter.
It was the finest moment of many for Vick in the first half. He hit on 16 of 25 passes for 214 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He ran wisely and effectively, five times for 62 yards.
Former Eagles kicker David Akers, who had missed from 44 yards in the first quarter, made good 38 seconds into the second quarter, connecting from 37 yards to make it 7-3. Tight end Vernon Davis’ 26-yard reception on defender Nate Allen set up that score.
The Eagles answered on the next drive, when Vick hit Jackson for a 45-yard bomb then scrambled for 14. The drive stalled there, so Alex Henery kicked a 32-yard field goal with 12:08 before halftime for a 10-3 lead.
And … Double Gasp.
On third-and-goal from the 3-inch line, running back Ronnie Brown fumbled. Or maybe he threw an incomplete pass. Or something.
Brown was hit behind the line of scrimmage, and, incredibly, cocked his left hand to throw a pass. Parys Harelson tackeld Brown. The ball came loose before Brown hit the ground,. Navorro Bowman recovered, and the Eagles essentially were taxed 3 points for a garbage improvisational playground play.
The Niners remained toothless on offense, and Vick remained scintillating. He guided the team to the Niners’ 14, where Henery made it 13-3 with 1:52 left.
Jason Babin then logged his second sack of the half and his sixth of the season on the Niners’ first play, giving the Eagles the ball back at the Niners’ 23.
Vick soon hit LeSean McCoy for 10 yards, then, two plays later, he shuffled a shovel pass to McCoy up the middle for 5 yards and a touchdown to make it 20-3 with 38 seconds to play in the half.
It grew to 23-3 early in the third quarter when King Dunlap blocked Akers’ 45-yard try and Colt McCoy recovered it at the Niners’ 40. Vick found Jackson for 19 yards, which set up Henery’s third field goal, this from 33 yards.
The Niners replied with a couple of huge plays, which, predictably, went up the middle.
Kendall Hunter’s 44-yard catch-and-run, made possible when Nnamdi Asomugha vacated his zone responsibility, set up the Niner’s touchdown. Big wideout Joshua Morgan slanted inside, behind new starting linebacker Brian Rolle and in front of safety Nate Allen, making his first start of the season. Morgan was nearly untouched on the 30-yard score that cut it to 23-10 midway through the third.
A quick Eagles punt and Michael Crabtree abused Asomugha and safety Jarrad Page for a 38-yard catch-and-run, followed by a pair of short passes that put it at the 9. Then, Smith found Davis from 9 yards over Rolle, and it was 23-17 with just under 3 minutes to play in the third.
What initially was ruled a completed forward pass and fumble, with the Eagles recovering at the Niners’ 33, was reversed after Niners coach Jim Harbaugh challenged the ruling.
Interestingly, the Niners were flagged for tipping on the play. And Harbaugh hit head linesman Jim Mello in the back with the challenge flag.
The Niners marched downfield, the big play Frank Gore’s 40-yard run on which he juked Jarrad Page out of his pants at the 50. But Akers missed a 44-yard field goal, recalling the two misses in the playoff loss last season that helped convince the Eagles to not re-sign him.
Vick lobbed the third interception of the season, again at DeSean Jackson, less than 5 minutes into the game. Jackson and cornerback Carlos Rodgers both had a chance at the underthrown pass. Rodgers won that battle.
Jackson failed to immediately pursue Rodgers; rather, he begged the official for the call as Rodgers returned the pick.
LeSean McCoy left the game with just over 3 minutes to play in the second half after he nicely blocked Ray McDonald with his left shoulder. McCoy returned two plays later and showed little effect. … The 49ers stayed in Youngstown and worked out at Youngstown State after playing at Cincinnati last week. That eliminated consecutive trips to the East Coast, mitigated the team’s jet lag, maximized it preparation. … QB Alex Smith sat for one series in the first quarter in favor of Colin Kaepernick. … Large cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha occasionally covered potent tight end Vernon Davis. … DE Jason Babin logged his team-high fifth and sixth sacks of the season in the second quarter. … DT Antonio Dixon left the game late in the third quarter with a left triceps injury.