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September 30, 2012
Bad taste from Minnesota fuels 49ers win in New York

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- That's more like it.

That was the refrain in the 49ers locker room Sunday after the team bounced back from a languid loss in Minnesota last week with a reaffirming and stifling 34-0 win over the Jets. As it turns out, the team from the Bay Area needed to spend a week in Youngstown, Ohio to feel more like themselves. 

The 49ers rediscovered their strengths by forcing four turnovers, sacking Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez three times and holding New York to 45 rushing yards. It was San Francisco's first shutout on the road since a 38-0 win in the regular season finale in New Orleans in 2001.

"Maybe we need to go back to Youngstown and then go back and play Buffalo," joked cornerback Carlos Rogers, who had a 51-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Rogers and others cited a weak energy level in their surprise loss to the Vikings, a team that had won only three games the year before. There was no power outage in the Meadowlands. The locker room was alive and abuzz before and after the game, and the defense, a half-step behind Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder last week, smothered Jets Sanchez on Sunday.

Sanchez struggles when he doesn't have clean pockets and clear throwing lanes. The 49ers defenders seemed to be grabbing at his ankles and swiping at his shoulder pads throughout the afternoon. 

He completed only 13 of 29 attempts, threw for only 103 yards and finished with a 39.9 passer rating. What's more, he had to suffer through chants of "Tebow, Tebow" from the home crowd, not that backup Tim Tebow was any more effective. He connected on his only pass -- for nine yards -- and he rushed twice for zero yards.

The 49ers suffocating run defense also returned in force, holding Jets starting running back Shonn Greene to 34 yards on 11 carries. By comparison, 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran for 30 yards on a single play at the end of the game -- he slid down on the Jets 3-yard line instead of scoring -- while receiver Mario Manningham had a 28-yard run on an end around in the first quarter. The 49ers rushed for 245 yards total on the afternoon.

"There was a lot of fight," Jim Harbaugh said of his players. "They brought a lot of energy to this game. It was really important to them."

After losing the turnover battle 3-2 against the Vikings, the 49ers forced four -- and blocked a punt -- against the Jets without giving the ball up once. Leading the way were safety Dashon Goldson, who had a big hit on a Jets tight end that jarred the ball loose, and Aldon Smith, who had two sacks, including one that forced a Sanchez fumble that was recovered by Justin Smith.

"After the last game, some people questioned us," said Aldon Smith, who now has 4 1/2 sacks on the season. "We know what we are capable of. We're a good defense that plays well together."

Last year, the 49ers returned from a stay in Youngstown with a 3-1 record and went on a six-game winning streak. After the win in New York, their record again is 3-1, and they play five of their next six games at Candlestick Park.

Rogers and quarterback Alex Smith said the loss in Minnesota left a bad taste in their mouths and that sour taste, in turn, got the team back on track. Said Rogers: "After that performance that we had last week, each and every player took it upon themselves to make sure that didn't happen again."

-- 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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