49ers tame Lions in handshake rematch

SAN FRANCISCO — The sequel to handshake-gate was just like a typical action movie. The good guys fought through adversity but in the end, they beat the bad guys.

Or in this case, the 49ers were victorious over the Lions, 27-19 at Candlestick Park.

San Francisco did it with great defense, solid offense, and fundamentally sound special teams. Detroit should be a very good team, but the 49ers exploited their weaknesses.

A battered Alex Smith was happy to come away with the win:

“It’s another win, obviously on a big stage. Sunday night against a really good opponent. Playoff team last year. The game came down to the wire last season, at their place. So, now we have them at our place and we wanted to set the tone early.”

Smith, once considered a bust after being picked first overall in 2005 by then-49ers head coach Mike Nolan, has now come full circle. Through two games, Smith is as good as any quarterback in the league.

Coach Jim Harbaugh praised Smith’s toughness:

“He’s as tough as a two-dollar steak. I grew up eating a lot of them. I know what I’m talking about.”

Harbaugh’s comments elicited a good laugh from reporters.

The coach is referring to a play late in the fourth quarter when Smith scrambled with the ball and, while sliding, was clipped in the face. His face mask did not provide enough protection and stream of blood could be seen from the bridge of his nose.

Smith was relentless and played through the discomfort. He threw a short slant pass to Vernon Davis who did the rest after getting free from his defender to score on a 23-yard touchdown catch. It was Davis’ second TD of the game. He had five catches for 73 yards.

Last year the Pro Bowl tight end was seemingly the only receiving threat the 49ers had but with new additions, they’re a much more balanced team:

“I’m not getting double (teamed) as much as I did last year. I think much of the attention is on Michael (Crabtree) and Randy (Moss). But we’re pretty balanced right now, running the ball and passing but I can’t speak too soon.”

San Francisco outgained Detroit on the ground 148 to 82. Despite the wear and tear on his body, veteran 29-year old Frank Gore continues to be one of the best impact runners in the game. He is not afraid to hit the holes and barge his way through for positive yardage.

Gore finished with 89 yards rushing on 17 carries:

“Last year we had a great year but didn’t finish how we wanted to. We played two playoff teams, especially this game. The first game, going to Lambeau and winning, and then coming back and playing Detroit. And how the game finished last year, knowing that they’re going to give us their best, we came out, started fast and finished the game.”

Leading 14-6 at the half, the 49ers defense kept forcing the Lions to settle for field goals. Jason Hanson was 4-for-4 and it wasn’t until the final 90 seconds — after Smith’s second TD to Davis — that Detroit’s Brandon Pettigrew caught a 9-yd TD from Matthew Stafford.

The Lions tried to keep the game going by attempting an onside kick. But the 49ers easily recovered the ball, ensuring the victory.

49ers safety Donte Whitner told SFBay keeping under control was a key to the game:

“It’s about what we expected, especially after last year going into their house and the handshake at the end of the game,” “You expect a little chippiness, but that’s football. Nobody got too out of hand out there, especially on our side. Guys kept their cool and we came out with a big win.”

Notes

The 49ers have won nine consecutive games against Detroit, marking the longest active streak for the 49ers vs. any opponent. Detroit hasn’t won in San Francisco since Nov. 2, 1975. Back then, Dick Nolan, Mike’s father was the head coach and Gerald Ford was the President of the United States. … Smith has now thrown 216 passes without an interception, extending his franchise record. The 49ers improved to 12-0 when Smith starts and has a QB rating over 100.0. It also marks the second time in his career Smith had back-to-back games with a QB rating over 100.0. The last time it happened was Oct. 2, 2011 at Philadelphia (112.1) and Oct. 9, 2011 vs. Tampa Bay (127.2). … Gore is fourth in the NFL with 201 yards rushing. Gore is also tied for third place with Ken Willard in franchise wtih 45 touchdowns by a running back. He trails only Roger Craig and the late Joe “the Jet” Perry who each had 50 TD’s.