SAN FRANCISCO (AP)
In a game of missed chances, the San Francisco 49ers knew exactly when
to cash in.
Derek Smith made two exceptional
defensive plays, and Terrell Owens caught a 32-yard TD pass with 6:52 left
as the 49ers beat Philadelphia 13-3 on Saturday, the Eagles' first road
loss of the season.
Playing for little more than playoff
position, the 49ers (11-3) got yet another sparkling performance from a
young defense led by Smith, their hard-hitting linebacker.
Later, Garcia and Owens broke San
Francisco's offense out of its doldrums with a scoring strike that clinched
the game. With a handful of big plays, the 49ers finished their home schedule
7-1 and countered Philadelphia's much more consistent effort.
The Eagles (9-5) could have wrapped
up a playoff berth and their first NFC East title since 1988. Instead,
Philadelphia got just three points from two trips inside San Francisco's
5, and the Eagles' pass defense failed at a critical time.
Though Philadelphia still is all
but certain to win its division and make the playoffs, the Eagles will
regret the opportunities that got away from them on a misty, windy day.
The heavy rains that pelted the Bay Area on Saturday had stopped by game
time, but the field was slippery and muddy in many spots.
The Niners posted the first consecutive
home shutouts in franchise history in their previous two games. They frustrated
Donovan McNabb, who was 23-of-34 for 232 yards but couldn't get his team
in the end zone.
Niners coach Steve Mariucci also
won his first meeting with Philadelphia's Andy Reid, his former colleague
and close friend.
Leading 6-3 early in the fourth,
the 49ers thought they had made a dramatic goal-line stand when Smith,
who had nine tackles, flung McNabb out of bounds on fourth down - but Lance
Schulters was called for holding behind the play.
Two plays later, Smith stepped in
front of McNabb's pass to Chad Lewis for an end-zone interception. It was
the first interception of the season for Smith, who came to the 49ers as
a free agent from Washington last season and has quickly emerged as a team
San Francisco also failed to score
touchdowns on two drives inside the Eagles' 5, but the Niners' banged-up
unit finally came alive after Smith's interception with one big play from
their two biggest talents.
Jeff Garcia, whose bruised ribs limited
his practice time all week, started for the 49ers with extra padding. Owens
is nursing a hip pointer and injuries to both feet, limiting his effectiveness
in recent weeks.
But after the Niners moved to midfield
when Owens drew an interference penalty, Garcia hit his favorite target
over the middle for Owens' 14th score of the season.
The Eagles came out with the energy
expected from a team playing for a postseason berth, but the Niners hung
in. McNabb completed all eight of his passes in the first quarter, but
the Eagles' best drive stalled on the 2.
David Akers' 20-yard field goal was
the first - and only - score allowed by San Francisco at 3Com Park since
The Niners tied it shortly before
halftime on a 21-yard chip by Jose Cortez, and they went ahead on another
short field goal late in the third quarter.