By Annie Ross
When Eagles coach Chip Kelly looks at the tape of Sunday’s nightmare in the Noise Machine that is otherwise known as Santa Clara’s Levi Stadium, he will cringe at his offense’s performance.
And he will focus on how poorly quarterback Nick Foles and running back Shady McCoy performed.
But one other player will stand out:
Frank Gore (photo above) produced his biggest day so far this season to get the Niners back on track, catching a career-best 55-yard touchdown pass and running for his first 100-yard game in a 26-21 comeback win against the previously unbeaten Birds on Sunday.
Gore came in with just 35 carries and 139 yards through the first three games, including only six rushes for 10 yards in last Sunday’s loss at Arizona. He finished with 119 on Sunday.
But the highlight was the catch, on which Kaepernick threw off-balance, across his body and across the field.
Even coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t see that coming as his 49ers (2-2) avoided their first three-game skid in his four seasons and handed the Eagles (3-1) their first defeat.
”Kap did a great job keeping his eyes up field. I had no idea. When he stopped, pulled it up and started to throw, I didn’t know where he was going with the ball,” Harbaugh said. ”The speed, the angle, the way he got into the end zone was something. I didn’t think he was going to get it in.”
Not that Kaepernick was planning it that way.
”I don’t think I’ve ever had one quite like that,” Kaepernick said. ”It was a great job by Frank.”
”Great job by Kap,” Gore offered, standing next to his quarterback on the postgame podium.
Here are some more things to know from the 49ers’ first victory at new Levi’s Stadium.
It sure seems to have worked perfectly. The Eagles didn’t get past midfield until late and went without an offensive touchdown.
”It was very loud. He was calling in calls real late so the players would have to kind of scramble to get the plays and communicate,” safety Antoine Bethea said. ”Made it real easy for us today on Sunday.”
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw two incomplete passes from the 1 in the waning moments after gaining six first downs on a lengthy drive, more than the five the Eagles managed before that.
Darren Sproles had a career-best 82-yard punt return for a touchdown – fifth-longest in Eagles history – and Malcolm Jenkins ran an interception 53 yards for a score for the Eagles. Brad Smith recovered Trey Burton’s blocked punt against Andy Lee for a TD.
The Eagles have forced a takeaway in 17 straight games including the playoffs.
The Eagles never got going in the run game, and it didn’t help to have a patchwork offensive line.
They managed 22 total yards rushing.
”We had the ball enough,” running back LeSean McCoy said. ”We didn’t do anything with it.”
Left guard Matt Tobin and center David Molk made their first career starts for the Eagles on a beat-up offensive line. Molk replaced Jason Kelce, who had sports hernia surgery last week. With All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis and backup right tackle Allen Barbre already hurt and starting right tackle Lane Johnson serving the final game of his four-game suspension, left tackle Jason Peters was the only player in his usual spot.