SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks down afer throwing his second interception in the first half against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
In a game that was delayed twice due to power outages at Candlestick Park, the Pittsburgh Steelers played like a team that forgot to plug in its offense. The San Francisco 49ers, meanwhile, played mistake-free football, settling for a pair of field goals in the first half before putting the game out of reach in the second with touchdowns by Vernon Davis and Frank Gore, ultimately winning 20-3.
Ben Roethlisberger started and played the entire game for the Steelers despite clearly being limited by an injured left ankle. He favored his foot the entire night and never look comfortable planting to make his throws, which likely contributed to his three interceptions -- including one in the end zone. The fact he finished the game with 330 passing yards is a testament to his arm strength as well as Mike Tomlin's head-scratching decision to throw the ball 45 times while giving Pittsburgh's running backs just 18 carries.
Pittsburgh's medical staff must have felt that Roethlisberger couldn't injure his ankle any more by playing on it, as he stayed in the game until the bitter end, even when his team trailed by three scores with just five minutes left to play.
At his best, Big Ben is a mobile quarterback capable of making big plays while rolling out of the pocket. We saw none of that on Monday, as Roethlisberger was sacked three times, fumbling the ball once. He was a statue in the pocket, and 49ers rookie linebacker Aldon Smith took advantage with 2.5 sacks. Smith has 13.0 sacks on the season, breaking Charles Haley's franchise rookie record.
Kicker David Akers also broke a 49ers' franchise record, topping Jerry Rice's single-season scoring record in the first half. He added a pair of extra-point kicks in the second half, giving him 143 points on the year, eclipsing Rice's mark of 138 set in 1987.
Alex Smith completed 18-of-31 passes for 187 yards for the 49ers, finding Davis in the end zone in the third quarter for the game's first touchdown. Davis finished the game with six catches for 72 yards. Gore carried the ball 18 times for 65 yards, scoring his touchdown in the final frame.
Despite looking stiff all night long, Roethlisberger was able to connect on a handful of long passes, which padded his passing total and kept the Steelers in the game up until the final quarter. He hooked up with Mike Wallace (five catches, 66 yards), Heath Miller (five catches, 82 yards) and Jericho Cotchery (five catches, 93 yards) for receptions that all went longer than 35 yards, though many of those yards came after the catch. Antonio Brown added five catches for 59 yards.
The biggest story of the game, though, was the two power outages. The first one happened before the game started, delaying kickoff by at least 20 minutes. The second occurred during a commercial break just a few minutes into the second quarter, delaying the game another 15 minutes. Minutes after the game ended as players were leaving the field, another bank of stadium lights turned off, though it's not known if that was on purpose or the result of another outage. Had another outage occurred during the game, it's at least possible the NFL would have suspended play until Tuesday.