SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco 49ers were lights-out in their return to prime time, riding their top-ranked run defense again and prevailing through a pair of power outages to beat ailing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-3 on Monday night.
Vernon Davis caught a 1-yard touchdown pass for the 49ers (11-3) one play after setting himself up with a 21-yard reception from Alex Smith, Frank Gore ran for a 5-yard score and David Akers kicked field goals of 22 and 38 yards to overtake Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for San Francisco’s single-season scoring record.
The Steelers (10-4) missed a key chance to take sole possession of first place in the AFC North and gain the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.
Roethlisberger, playing on a sprained left ankle that had him in a walking boot during the week, threw two early interceptions and another in the waning minutes. Even all those Terrible Towel-waving Steelers supporters couldn’t will their team when San Francisco’s unique home-field advantage became two blackout delays.
Davis caught the short touchdown pass a play after taking a 21-yard reception inches short of the goal line.
Roethlisberger threw three interceptions playing on a sprained left ankle, and San Francisco turned both into points.
A power outage just before kickoff and another in the second quarter blacked out Candlestick Park in San Francisco’s biggest home game since their 2003 playoff stunner over the New York Giants. Power returned and the game resumed after delays of 20 minutes and approximately 15 minutes.
The NFC West champion 49ers looked to make a splash in the national spotlight after a Thanksgiving night loss at Baltimore.
Davis took a short pass from Alex Smith late in the third quarter for a 21-yard completion, getting tripped up by a defender and stepping out of bounds inches short of the goal line. After an unsuccessful challenge by coach Jim Harbaugh, Davis got his TD on the next snap when Smith found him wide open on a play-action pass to give San Francisco a 13-3 lead.
The vaunted 49ers defense slowed down all those twirling Terrible Towels.
San Francisco has yet to allow a rushing TD and is trying to become the first team in NFL history to hold that mark through the first 14 games. The Niners shut down Pittsburgh’s offense in a low-scoring half that played perfectly into their style.
Roethlisberger limped along with a sprained ankle that limited him this week in practice. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 46 yards in the first drive, including a 36-yarder to Mike Wallace before Carlos Rogers intercepted Roethlisberger’s pass running into the end zone.
The 49ers’ 17-play, 69-yard drive that followed stalled when Smith threw two incompletions in the end zone. San Francisco settled for a 22-yard field goal by Akers, failing to get into the end zone again.