The frown on Michael Vick's face emphasized how bitter the Philadelphia Eagles' latest loss was.
Vick had one of the best days of his career with a personal high of 416 yards passing and 30 completions, added 75 yards rushing and two touchdown passes. It was all for naught as the Eagles lost their third straight, blowing a 20-point lead and falling to San Francisco 24-23 on Sunday.
"We've got to dig deep," Vick said. "It's right there for everybody to see what is taking place, how it's been done, what hasn't been done and what needs to be done."
Vick did about all he could, only to see the Eagles fall apart on defense in the second half. He was at his scrambling best and his one interception was tipped by DeSean Jackson directly to cornerback Carlos Rogers. His bruised right hand, protected by a padded pink glove, didn't slow him a bit.
Asked if some restrained playcalling by coach Andy Reid slowed his team and allowed the 49ers to rally, Vick shook his head.
"No, it's not the coaches being conservative," he said. "I think it's us as players having to figure out what needs be done in the moment. And everything has to be right, everybody has to be in the right place. Certain times in the game, you have to gut check.
"Some people have it and some people don't, but we're going to find out who's got it."
Instead, it was the 49ers who produced the gut check. Philly's defense fell apart in the final 30 minutes, and Frank Gore capped a 77-yard drive with a 12-yard TD run with 3 minutes remaining.
Then David Akers, the career scoring leader for the Eagles who joined the 49ers as a free agent in the offseason, kicked the decisive extra point.
"It's unacceptable to give up a lead that size in the second half," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "If we don't win, we're just a bunch of talented people who haven't done anything, and there's a lot of teams like that."
The 49ers (3-1) are talented enough to lead the NFC West after breaking a five-game losing streak against Philadelphia (1-3). The much-maligned Alex Smith went 13 for 17 for 201 yards in the second half, with TD passes of 30 yards to Joshua Morgan and 9 to Vernon Davis. Then Gore, who didn't start because of a sprained right ankle, powered into the end zone, and Akers finished it off.
The victory meant plenty to Akers, who made a 37-yard field goal, missed from 44 and had one blocked from 45. He left the Linc with a huge smile on his face.
"To hit the last extra point, it's like hitting a 50-yard field goal," Akers said. "It still counts as one, but it puts you up."
Akers' replacement, rookie Alex Henery, missed from 39 and 33 yards in the final period. Philadelphia has been outscored 36-0 in the fourth quarter of its last three games, all losses. The team so lauded for its free agency haul after the lockout is in last place in the NFC East.
San Francisco's comeback began after Akers' field-goal attempt was blocked and Henery soon after made a 32-yarder for a 23-3 lead.
Rookie coach Jim Harbaugh then allowed Smith to look downfield more, and the Niners needed just four plays to go 80 yards, including a 44-yard catch and run by rookie Kendall Hunter, who supplemented Gore perfectly. Morgan got wide open over the middle for his TD.
Then Henery began missing kicks after Vick set him up with big plays. Philadelphia had 13 plays of at least 15 yards, including a 61-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson that was wasted when Henery missed from 39 yards.
Davis' touchdown catch brought the Niners within six points late in the third quarter. When Henery failed from 33 yards, it was the final opening the 49ers needed.
Gore had a 21-yard run on the 77-yard drive that ended with his powerful surge into the end zone. He finished with 127 yards rushing.
Jeremy Maclin fumbled with 2:06 left and the Eagles driving for perhaps a winning score.
Vick turned a seeming sack into a sensational touchdown in the first quarter. He was about to go down at the San Francisco 16 when rushed by Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald. Both had open shots at him, and both missed. Vick scrambled right and found Clay Harbor in the back right corner of the end zone to make it 7-0.
Henery did make three field goals, from 32, 32 and 33 yards.