SAN FRANCISCO -- The anticipation for the 49ers' much-hyped Monday night matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers had a greater chance to build when when kickoff was delayed 20 minutes by a power outage at aptly named Candlestick Park.
The stadium lights went off again with 12:13 remaining in the second quarter, causing another 16-minute delay in the nationally televised game.
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Although the lights came on and 60 minutes of football were eventually logged, it was the 49ers' defense that played lights out in the 20-3 victory over the Steelers.The 49ers (11-3) are still in line for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff race behind the Green Bay Packers and ahead of the New Orleans Saints.
If the 49ers and Saints (11-3) finish with the same record, the 49ers would win the tie-breaker based on their better record in NFC games. The top two seeds earn first-round playoff byes and a home game in the divisional round.--The 49ers put the finishing touches on the victory on running back Frank Gore's 5-yard touchdown run behind blocks of left tackle Joe Staley, pulling right guard Adam Snyder, fullback Bruce Miller and receiver Michael Crabtree with 9:06 remaining.The drive was prolonged when Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons was called for a leaping penalty while David Akers was making a 28-yard field goal. The 49ers took the points off the board and punched it into the end zone.--Rookie outside linebacker Aldon Smith, making a case for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, along with Ray McDonald. Justin Smith recovered the fumble to give the 49ers possession at the Pittsburgh 17-yard line. Smith recorded another two sacks, giving him 13 for the season and the 49ers' rookie sack record.NEWS: Smith earns 49ers' rookie sack record
--The 49ers finally solved their red-zone issues in the third quarter when quarterback Alex Smith executed a play-fake to running back Anthony Dixon (his only offensive snap of the game to that point) and found tight end Vernon Davis all alone for a 1-yard touchdown.The play was set up when Smith and Davis hooked up for a 21-yard pass to the 1-yard line. Coach Jim Harbaugh challenged the spot, but referee Walt Coleman upheld the ruling on the field.--Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose status was in doubt due to a left ankle sprain, was intercepted on the Steelers' first two possessions of the game to enable the 49ers to take a 6-0 lead at the half.--The 49ers converted two third downs on their opening drive, but they failed once again in the red zone -- even after having a first-and-goal from the 2.Quarterback Alex Smith missed a wide open Kyle Williams in the end zone on second down on the 49ers' best chance. The 49ers settled for another Akers field goal, from 22 yards out, to take a 3-0 lead.--Akers set the 49ers' all-time single-season record with his second field goal of the game, a 38-yarder, to give him 141 points for the season. Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice scored 138 points in 1987.
NEWS: Akers sets 49ers' single-season points mark
--Cornerback Carlos Rogers continues to make a bid for a nice free-agent payday at the end of the season with his first-quarter interception of Ben Roethlisberger. Rogers has a career-high six picks on the season. His 31-yard return out of the end zone set up the 49ers' first points of the game.--The same can be said for safety Dashon Goldson, who also intercepted his sixth pass of the season. Goldson's pick came on the Steelers' second drive of the game. Goldson and Rogers are both scheduled to be free agents at the end of the season.--The 49ers played without four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis, who missed his second game with a right hamstring strain. Willis took part in a rehab session before the game and appears to be making progress. It's still uncertain whether he'll be available Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks. Larry Grant filled in and played well in Willis' absence.--Receiverreturn man Ted Ginn left the game after sustaining an ankle injury on the kickoff to open the second half. And Staley sustained a leg injury on Gore's touchdown run. His status was not immediately known.--The Steelers got on the board when they exploited a couple favorable matchups against tight end Heath Miller. First, Miller beat outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks for a 39-yard pass. Then, he had an 11-yard reception against safety Donte Whitner. Kicker Shaun Suisham made a 51-yard field goal to cut the 49ers' lead to 6-3 with 6:08 remaining in the third quarter.