SAN FRANCISCO - Rookie cornerback Trevard Lindley instinctively wanted to run back his first career interception, but his teammates wouldn't let him do it. Lindley's interception with 28 seconds remaining in the game - the Eagles' fifth forced turnover of the game - would seal a hard-fought 27-24 win over the 49ers.
That is as soon as Lindley got down.
After the game, Lindley recalled that the 49ers had run into the same exact situation a week earlier. 49ers cornerback Nate Clements intercepted Atlanta's Matt Ryan, which should have given the team its first win of the year. However, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White stripped the ball as Clements returned it. The Falcons marched down the field and won on a last-second field goal.
What made Lindley's pick so special is that he wasn't even supposed to be in the game. Lindley had been inactive in each of the past two games, but got the chance to play with Asante Samuel sidelined due to symptoms from a concussion.
"If somebody goes down, the next person has to step up. That was me," Lindley said. "I just wanted to make sure I went out there and did my best."
Lindley wasn't the only rookie to make an impact on Sunday. Defensive end Brandon Graham sacked 49ers quarterback Alex Smith early in the fourth quarter and in the process knocked the ball loose. Strong safety Quintin Mikell picked it up and ran it back 52 yards for his first career touchdown. It was the third straight game in which an Eagles defensive player scored a touchdown at Candlestick Park.
"I'm thinking touchdown all the way. The only thing I was worried about was whether I could scoop and score," Mikell said. "I had to look it in my hands and make sure I grabbed it first, but after that it was just touchdown."
In all, Smith committed three turnovers - the fumble that led to the touchdown, the game-sealing pick by Lindley and an impressive interception by Dimitri Patterson, who chased down a deep pass as if he was the wide receiver.
The focal point of the defensive game plan was to stop running back Frank Gore. After surrendering 169 yards on the ground last week to the Redskins, the Eagles wanted to make sure the 49ers didn't take control of the line of scrimmage. It was evident early on that the 49ers wanted Gore to alleviate the pressure on Smith.
The first five plays of the game went to Gore - four handoffs and a reception. The 49ers did score on the game's first drive, marching 51 yards in 11 plays ending with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. But the next three drives garnered a total of 48 yards and two turnovers.
Gore finished with just 52 rushing yards on 18 carries - a 2.9 yards per carry average - and four catches for 21 yards. He also coughed up the ball twice.
"We preached that if you put your hat on the ball it's going to cause turnovers," said linebacker Moise Fokou, who forced one of the fumbles. "All I did was what I was practicing all week. That was very huge especially since we haven't been doing it a lot in the past. It shows you that our defense can make plays."
The 49ers rallied late with 14 fourth-quarter points. But the timely turnovers allowed the Eagles to head back to Philadelphia with a win.
"Maybe it wasn't the prettiest thing in the end, but a win is a win," linebacker Stewart Bradley said.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 9:20 a.m., October 11