SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger threw a few extra passes in near darkness after the lights went out at Candlestick Park.
The additional throws were all for naught. Big Ben never found his groove playing on a bum ankle — and the San Francisco 49ers’ top-ranked defense wasn’t about to let the most unique of home-field advantages get away in a 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
“Just wondering how this happens at a professional stadium,” Roethlisberger said of not one but two blackouts.
Monday Night Football nearly became a Monday Night Fiasco.
San Francisco’s lights-out return to prime time helped salvage what could have been an embarrassing evening for everyone involved on the NFL’s biggest stage after a pair of power outages delayed the game for close to 35 minutes in all.
“I just feel like San Francisco took a big step to show the NFL and to show the state of California that they need a new stadium,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. “I think it was a very strategic move, and Candlestick may be no more.”
Good thing there’s a state-of-the-art $1 billion stadium in the works.
The 49ers rode stellar run defense once again to keep the ailing Roethlisberger off balance and maintain a hold on the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed and a first-round bye.
“Electric atmosphere tonight,” tweeted team president Jed York — unclear if his pun was intended.
Vernon Davis caught a 1-yard touchdown pass for the 49ers (11-3) one play after setting himself up with a 21-yard reception from Alex Smith, Frank Gore had a 5-yard scoring run and David Akers kicked field goals of 22 and 38 yards to overtake Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for San Francisco’s single-season scoring record.
“I think we showed the world we can play the game of football on a national stage,” Davis said. “At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about: respect.”
The Steelers (10-4) missed a key chance to take sole possession of first place in the AFC North and hold of the AFC’s top playoff spot.
Roethlisberger, playing on a sprained left ankle that had him in a walking boot during the week, threw two early interceptions and another in the waning minutes — and a couple of light structures flickered as the final ticks elapsed.
Even all those Terrible Towel-waving Steelers supporters in the sellout crowd of 69,732 couldn’t will their team when San Francisco had two blackout delays on its side.
“It’s very frustrating to feel like you let down your team and your fans and your coaches. It’s tough,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m not going to make excuses. I played a bad football game, I turned the ball over and that one’s on me.”
San Francisco became the first team in NFL history to hold an opponent without a rushing touchdown through each of the first 14 games.
“I also want to recognize our defense,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “NFL record for not allowing a rushing touchdown in 14 games. I think that is huge.”
Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown made interceptions, while Rookie of the Year candidate Aldon Smith had 2 1/2 sacks for San Francisco’s defense.