49ers leave Steelers in the dark, 20-3
49ers Vernon Davis goes face to face with Steelers LaMarr Woodley during Monday night's game at Candlestick Park.
The ball is just out of reach for wide receiver Antonio Brown in tonight's game against the 49ers at Candlestick Park.
Steelers Ryan Clark signs autographs before game against the 49ers Monday night at Candlestick Park.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- A power outage occured at Candlestick Park Monday night -- and the lights in the old ballpark went out on two occassions as well.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, playing with a brace on his high left ankle sprain, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble that led to three scores. The punchless Steelers themselves never came close to the end zone, losing both the game to San Francisco, 20-3, and a chance to take a firm grip on the AFC North Division lead.
The lights flickered three times in Candlestick, twice delaying the game a total of 36 minutes and the other time dimming the Steelers chances for one of the top two seeds in the AFC.
The Steelers find themselves right back where the weekend started -- tied with Baltimore at 10-4 -- after it began on a promising note for them when the Ravens lost in San Diego Sunday night. Instead, Baltimore again holds the tiebreaker against the Steelers heading into the final two games of the regular season.
A victory Monday night would have put the Steelers in position to earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs in the AFC. They have clinched a wildcard berth and would need the Ravens to lose again to give them a chance to win the division with victories against St. Louis and Cleveland in their final two games.
However, their chances of earning a seed even with a division title were diminished by their loss here. The 49ers, who have clinched the NFC West crown, remained in the hunt for a top seed by improving to 11-3.
Roethlisberger, showing little noticeable effects of his injury from 11 days previous, completed 25 of 44 passes for 330 yards, 82 on five catches by Heath Miller. Rashard Mendenhall led the Steelers with 64 yards on 15 carries.
The Steelers did not score until the third quarter of a close game but things fell apart quickly after they did so.
Shaun Suisham's 51-yard field goal barely made the crossbar as the Steelers cut the 49ers lead to 6-3 in the third quarter.
It was all 49ers from there. San Francisco responded on its next drive by scoring the game's first touchdown and then added another in the fourth quarter after Roethlisberger lost a fumble when he was sacked.
The 49ers responded to Suisham's field goal by scoring the game's first touchdwon and did so all through the air, most of it by tight end Vernon Davis. Until that drive, the longest pass completion by Alex Smith was 14 yards. He hit Davis for 31, found rookie Kendall Hunter on a screen for 27 and then completed a 21-yard pass to Davis, who slipped past linebacker Lawrence Timmons to catch it at the one.
From there, Smith faked a handoff and found Davis wide open for a 1-yard touchdown pass and a 13-3 lead with 3:44 left in the third quarter.
The Steelers next drive reached a first down at San Francisco's 30 after a 36-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery. However, it bogged down there and Suisham then sailed a 48-yard field goal try wide to the left.
Not long after that, Roethlisberger dropped back on first down from his 28 and was met rudely by the Smiths -- linebacker Aldon Smith sacked him and forced a fumble that tckle Justin Smith recovered at the Steelers' 17.
San Francisco settled for a 28-yard field goal, but linebacker Lawrence Timmons would not allow it. He was penalized on the kick for illegally leaping in the air using an opponent for leverage and the 49ers had a first down at the five.
Frank Gore ran it in from there, virtually ending the suspense by giving San Francisco a 20-3 lead.
Two blackouts delayed the game a total of 36 minutes, once before the kickoff and the other during the second quarter.
The Steelers managed little on offense through the first two quarters and trailed the 49ers 6-0 at halftime.
Roethlisberger's two interceptions in the first quarter turned into two David Akers field goals for San Francisco.
The Steelers moved downfield smartly on the game's first drive, the big play a 36-yard reception off a short pass to Mike Wallace that carried to the 49ers 22.
That's when things began going poorly for the offense.
On second down at the 19, Roethlisberger threw a pass for Wallace into the end zone and into double coverage. Carolos Rogers picked it off for his sixth interception and returned it to the 27.
The 49ers, in typical West Coast form, moved 69 yards on their first drive on 17 plays. They had a first down at the two, but Frank Gore lost 2 yards on a run and two passes were incomplete and David Akers kicked a 22-yard field goal to give San Francisco a 3-0 lead. The 49ers had scored touchdowns on just three of their past 20 trips inside the 20.
The Steelers second drive reached their 42 when Roethlisberger threw high to Heath Miller, who could not pull it down and safety Dashon Goldson came up with it for his sixth interception.
That interception led to another Akers field goal, from 38 yards.
Roethlisberger's third interception came late in the game when cornerback Tarell Brown pulled down his pass at the San Francisco two.
First Published December 19, 2011 12:00 am