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October 2, 2011
'Cold-blooded' performance by Smith, Smith and Smith

PHILADELPHIA - It was a good day to be a 49er named Smith.


While quarterback Alex Smith led a fast-and-furious offensive comeback in the second half, it was defensive end Justin Smith's forced fumble at the end of the game that sealed San Francisco's 24-23 win.

The Eagles were driving with under three minutes remaining and Michael Vick had just completed a screen to wideout Jeremy Maclin, who had room to run down field. What Maclin, one of the fastest players on an Eagles team built for speed, didn't count on was 290-pound Justin Smith tackling him from behind 17 yards from scrimmage.

Smith said he figured out which of Maclin's arms had the ball, and then did what he's been trained to do. "You stick your arm through there and hope the ball's there," Smith said. "It's a drill you work every day. It kind of becomes repetition. Like I said, you're really not trying to get the tackle. You're trying to get the ball out. And luckily enough, it was there." Dashon Goldson recovered the loose ball, and Frank Gore (127 yards) and a resurgent offensive line were able to salt away the remaining 2:06.

Alex Smith, meanwhile, had by far his most prolific passing day of the season, finishing with 291 yards and two touchdowns. Trailing 23-3 in the third quarter, Smith led what had been a methodical and clumsy offense on touchdown drives in 2:10 and 2:32 respectively. He hit receiver Joshua Morgan on a slant pattern with a decisive throw for the first touchdown, then found Vernon Davis in a mismatch with the Eagles inside linebacker on the second. Coach Jim Harbaugh called it a "cold-blooded game" from the quarterback.

Meanwhile, the 49ers only sacked slippery Eagles quarterback Michael Vick twice, but 1 ½ of them were courtesy of rookie outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who was a problem for the Eagles offensive line all game.

Aldon Smith had been limited to playing defensive end on third-down packages over the first three games. On Sunday, he rotated in at outside linebacker and played both on the right and left sides. In addition, he had four tackles, one for a loss, as well as three quarterback hits.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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