SAN FRANCISCO — From the swirling winds off the bay that can play fits with the football to the 1989 earthquake that rocked the World Series, Candlestick Park has long been an unpredictable venue known for its challenges.
“Monday Night Football” nearly became a Monday Night Fiasco when everything went dark — twice.
San Francisco’s lights-out return to prime time in a 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers helped salvage what could have been an embarrassing evening after a pair of power outages delayed the game for close to 35 minutes in all — once before kickoff, and again in the second quarter.
“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 their top-ranked run defense once again to keep ailing quarterback Ben 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 — although it’s unclear if his pun was intended.
Vernon Davis caught a 1-yard touchdown pass for the 49ers (11-3) one play after a 21-yard reception from Alex Smith, Frank Gore ran for a 5-yard score, 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.
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. He finished 25 of 44 for 330 yards, but was sacked three times.
“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. The 49ers also have gone 36 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Rashard Mendenhall had 15 carries for 64 yards.
“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, and Rookie of the Year candidate Aldon Smith had 2½ sacks for San Francisco’s stingy defense.
The 49ers made a big statement in their most meaningful home game since 2003. They had to wait 20 minutes to get started after the power went out the first time. It didn’t seem to faze San Francisco.
“I think we need to acknowledge that was 49er football tonight,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We played the game on their terms.”SAN FRANCISCO 20, PITTSBURGH 3
■ KEY: Vernon Davis caught a touchdown, and Frank Gore ran for a score in a game twice delayed by power outages.
■ NEXT: 49ers at Seahawks, no line; Rams at Steelers, no line