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49ers pass big test out East

By Michael Rushton, NFL Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but the 49ers brought that and more on a successful trip to the East Coast.

Coast-to-coast swings are not a scenario that the Niners normally look forward to, but with Sunday's 24-23 comeback victory in Philadelphia, San Francisco picked up back-to-back road wins for the first time since 2006. The confidence- building victory also assured that the 49ers would return home still atop the NFC West.

"That was as good a win as I can remember being part of," San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Really proud of our players."

Many would have forgiven the 49ers if they came away with only a split of their two-game road trip after winning an ugly game in Cincinnati last weekend. After all, San Francisco hadn't won in Philadelphia since 2003 and was facing an offense that has more toys than Richie Rich's closet.

Frank Gore rumbled in from 12 yards out with 3:05 left to play and Philadelphia corner Asante Samuel draped on his back to account for the final score.
A 20-point third-quarter deficit didn't help things either.

The old 49ers may have rolled over and quit facing such a challenge, but as the rest of the league is learning, this isn't the disappointing Niners of seasons past.

"That was our intent when we left 10 days ago, to get two wins and our guys did," stated Harbaugh.

Added running back Frank Gore, "Coming back from three touchdowns, coming back on the 'Dream Team,' you don't think that's big? A bunch of Pro Bowlers? To come back, down three [touchdowns]? They guessed the old 49ers, who everybody thinks ain't about nothing. But we're coming. That's a real big win for us."

Gore fought through an ankle injury to rush for 127 yards on 15 carries, rumbling in from 12 yards out with 3:05 left to play and Philadelphia corner Asante Samuel draped on his back to account for the final score.

A former Pro Bowler himself, Gore wasn't sure he was going to be able to play the whole game, but didn't slow down once he got the wheels moving.

"I just got in the zone," he said. "I told myself, 'I'm out here, so let's go out and there and play.' Our [offensive line] did a great job."

Gore's performance was just one of many gutted out by San Francisco. Quarterback Alex Smith shook off three sacks and a fumble to throw for 291 yards with a pair of scores, receivers Vernon Davis and Josh Morgan came up with big touchdown catches and safety Dashon Goldson notched 10 tackles while recovering a fumble with just over two minutes left to ice the game.

Not only did the 49ers maintain the top spot the division, but the young squad may have also found the key to success on the East Coast.

Rather than return to the Bay Area following last weekend's win at Cincinnati, San Francisco stayed out East in Youngstown, Ohio to prepare for its matchup with the Eagles. Smith said the stay was "like being in another training camp," while Harbaugh felt his team came together well in Ohio.

"For me, I loved that I did not have to deal with such a long flight back and forth for us to California," said former Eagle and current 49ers kicker David Akers, who went just 1-for-3 on field goal tries against his old club -- including a one that was blocked -- but did log the game-winning extra point. "I just liked that I was able to hang out more with the guys and have not done [staying on the road] in my 13-year career."

Akers enjoyed a lot of success during his time with Philadelphia, and sees some similarities in his new club.

"This team reminds me of the 2000 Eagles team a bit when [head coach] Andy Reid came in and took over things in Philadelphia," he noted. "When Andy came in they were young, they were able to get some last-minute wins. This team is really a lot like that. It shows a lot of character in the way that we won this game.

"Winning can be contagious and I think this team will have many more."

TEXANS GET FOSTER GOING, LOSE JOHNSON

The Houston Texans figured to get a big lift with the return of running back Arian Foster for Sunday's game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The loss of wide receiver Andre Johnson could have easily knocked the wind out of their sails.

Instead, the Texans rode the legs of Foster to a 17-10 victory and showed the resolve that was lacking in last week's disappointing loss to the New Orleans Saints, in which they struggled defensively in the fourth quarter.

Houston could have folded again when Johnson went down untouched in the second quarter with an injured hamstring. Though able to leave the field under his own power, he was holding his leg in obvious pain and did not return to the contest.

Head coach Gary Kubiak said he thought Johnson pulled his hamstring and that his Pro Bowl receiver would have tests done on Monday. He was also proud of the way his team responded despite the unsightly injury.

"There is going down, and then there is going down" he said. "The way [Johnson] went down was deflating because it was like he just got shot, so that's scares the heck out of you."

Without Johnson, Houston gave the ball to Foster 30 times, and he responded with 155 yards and a score one week after sitting out for the second time this season with his own hamstring injury in the team's last game. Foster said his injury problems are behind him, though, and he is ready to shoulder the load.

"You can't really go into a game expecting anything. You just got to be ready for whatever happens," Foster said. "My coaches and my team believe in me and vice versa, I believe in this organization. It's a good feeling around here, but we've got to get ready for next week."

Tied with Tennessee for first in the AFC South, Houston next returns home to face Oakland.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Michael Rushton at mrushton@sportsnetwork.com.

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