PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Far from home, the San Francisco 49ers made themselves very comfortable.
The 49ers return to the Bay Area with a two-game road winning streak, including a stunning rally for a 24-23 victory at Philadelphia on Sunday. San Francisco sits atop the NFC West in great part because of its performances in the East.
Rookie coach Jim Harbaugh opted to keep the 49ers in Ohio after their win at Cincinnati last weekend. That looks like a very smart move after San Francisco (3-1) survived Michael Vick's 491 yards in total offense and came back from a 23-3 third-quarter deficit.
"They came closer together, they grew stronger, they practiced really well in Youngstown," Harbaugh said. "(They) were fully acclimated to the time switch, but mainly, how do you gauge that? There's no way to do that.
"And how do you gauge the heart of our football players?"
Perhaps by the way they stormed back to break a five-game slide against Philadelphia (1-3), which has lost three straight to plummet to the bottom of the NFC East.
"It's a great character builder for a young team," Harbaugh added. "To really know and trust and believe that they can and will do well (and) believe that they are good enough to do well — that's big. That's the way we wanted them to play, and that's the way they played."
Leading the way were veterans Frank Gore, Alex Smith, David Akers and Patrick Willis. Gore's 12-yard run with 3 minutes remaining tied it, then Akers — Philadelphia's career scoring leader who signed with San Francisco as a free agent this summer — kicked the decisive extra point.
"To hit the last extra point, it's like hitting a 50-yard field goal," Akers said. "It still counts as one, but it puts you up."
Timely defense led by All-Pro linebacker Willis put Vick and the Eagles down. Way down.
The frown on Vick's face as he discussed the collapse emphasized how deep the Eagles' troubles run. The team acclaimed as the winner of the wild free agency derby after the lockout looks like a tailender right now.
So Vick, who threw for a career-high 416 yards and ran for 75 yards, called for a "gut check."
"We've got to dig deep," Vick said. "It's right there for everybody to see what is taking place, how it's been done, what hasn't been done and what needs to be done."
One thing that needs to be done is showing up for the fourth quarter. In the three defeats, Philly has been outscored 36-0 in that period.
Another need is for the defense to make a big play late in games. Instead, it was San Francisco achieving that in the final 30 minutes Sunday.
"It's unacceptable to give up a lead that size in the second half," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "If we don't win, we're just a bunch of talented people who haven't done anything, and there's a lot of teams like that."
Vick wasn't hampered by his bruised right hand, though he did injure a finger on his left hand in the first half. He turned a seeming sack into a sensational touchdown in the first quarter. He was about to go down at the San Francisco 16 when rushed by Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald. Both had open shots at him, and both missed. Vick scrambled right and found Clay Harbor in the back right corner of the end zone to make it 7-0.
He also connected with LeSean McCoy on a 5-yard shovel pass with 38 seconds to go before halftime, making it 20-3.
The kicking game, offense and defense belonged to the Niners the rest of the way.
The much-maligned Smith went 13 for 17 for 201 yards in the second half, with TD passes of 30 yards to Josh Morgan and 9 to Vernon Davis. Then Gore, who didn't start because of a sprained right ankle, powered into the end zone, and Akers converted the decisive extra point.
"For us, since I've been here," said Smith, who is in his seventh season, "playing on the road has been a big test for us. And to get two wins on the East Coast, coming from being down here, it's a big win."
Smith thought the stay in Youngstown, where the team's owners have roots, was a key to the win.
"I thought it was great," he said. "It helped us focus on football ... like a small training camp, spending a lot of time with teammates, and I think that means something."
While Akers also made a 37-yard field goal, missed from 44 and had one blocked from 45, his replacement struggled in the fourth quarter. Rookie Alex Henery missed from 39 and 33 yards, keeping the 49ers close.
After they took the lead, Jeremy Maclin fumbled with 2:06 left and the Eagles driving for perhaps a winning score.
Henery did make three field goals, from 32, 32 and 33 yards.
Notes: Eagles DE Trent Cole left in the fourth quarter with a right calf injury and will undergo an MRI on Monday. ... Smith finished 21 of 33 for 291 yards. ... Jason Babin was the only Philadelphia defender with much of an impact, getting three sacks to reach seven in four games. ... Jackson finished with 171 yards on six catches, but also had a key drop and deflected a pass that was intercepted, both on long throws. ... Philadelphia's McCoy, who led the NFC in rushing through three weeks, had only 18 yards on nine carries.