49ers have reason to celebrate

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SAN FRANCISCO — Justin Smith emphatically pumped his fist following his game-saving defensive gem.

San Francisco running back Kendall Hunter scores on a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of Sunday afternoon's win over the New York Giants.  ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASSOCIATED PRESS
San Francisco running back Kendall Hunter scores on a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of Sunday afternoon's win over the New York Giants.

Former Butler High star Carlos Rogers danced after his second interception.

And their coach, Jim Harbaugh, was perfectly polite in his postgame handshake before pointing and waving to a cheering crowd as he left the field at Candlestick Park.

It’s been nearly a decade since the San Francisco 49ers could celebrate like this.

Smith batted down Eli Manning’s pass in the closing seconds of the New York quarterback’s latest comeback try, and San Francisco stopped the Giants on fourth down for a 27-20 victory in Sunday’s NFC showdown.

“I just walked off the field with joy inside. Right now, we’re 8-1,” said Rogers, who made two interceptions for the first time in his seven-year career.

“We stuck to it to the end, and last minute of the game made a play.”

With his team trailing, Manning completed a pair of long fourth-down passes and got the Giants to the red zone with 1:53 to go. Unlike last week’s rally by New York (6-3) at New England, Smith thwarted the final chance with a leaping right-handed smack of the ball on fourth-and-2 from the 10.

The 49ers (8-1) – with a commanding five-game cushion in the division – won this one without relying on star running back Frank Gore, whose franchise-record streak of five consecutive games with 100 yards rushing ended with a knee injury and his first career game with zero yards.

Harbaugh’s NFC West-leading Niners rolled off their seventh consecutive victory to extend their best start since 1997.


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