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49ers Pound Out 27-19 Win

Posted Sep 16, 2012

It was almost like a heavyweight title fight. Two playoff teams from a season ago traded body blows throughout a 60-minute football game Sunday night at Candlestick Park.

In the end, Alex Smith looked like he’d just gone 10-or-more rounds. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback conducted his postgame interview with a slight cut on the top of his nose as a result of a second half hit from Lions safety John Wendling.

The injury was minor, the result of Sunday’s game was major.

San Francisco’s offense made enough plays in the end to outlast the Detroit Lions 27-19 in a nationally televised contest that saw the 49ers continue their tough-minded, tough-playing identity.

“They really sucked it up down the stretch,” Jim Harbaugh said of his 49ers club that improved to 2-0 on the season for the first time since 2009 and the 18th time in franchise history. “We knew it would be a tough, close, aggressive, bell-ringing game and it was.”

The 49ers played a physical brand of football throughout the game that ended with a civil postgame handshake between Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

“We expected a physical game, anticipated that,” Harbaugh said. “We got that. They’re a physical team, but that’s good. It keeps us playing hard and fast and tough. And our guys are accustomed to that and aren’t going to shy away from that type of game.”

Neither did Smith.

The eighth-year signal caller tossed a pair of touchdowns to Vernon Davis from 21 and 23 yards out. Frank Gore pounded out 89 yards on the ground, including a 1-yard rushing touchdown on one of his 17 carries. Not to be forgotten or outdone, San Francisco’s defense held the Lions to a late Brandon Pettigrew touchdown and four Jason Hanson field goals in a winning effort.

In the end, the 49ers outgained the Lions 349-296, while picking up 24 first downs.

“It was a hard-fought game,” said 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald, a key contributor against a talented Lions passing attack. “We’ve got a good offense, we had a great gameplan, stuck with it and got the ‘W.’”

Many on the team, however, pointed to the last offensive touchdown drive as the biggest sign of San Francisco’s offensive development.

Michael Crabtree caught three passes for first downs, setting up an impressive 23-yard pass hookup from Smith to Davis that put the 49ers up 27-12.

“Michael all night,” Smith began, “I think every time his number was called, (he) was there and delivered, consistently. He’s been like that, especially the last two weeks and going into last year – really just a consistent player.”

Veteran wideout Randy Moss showed excellent downfield body control on Davis’ second touchdown grab by laying off a pair of Detroit defenders which he could have blocked in the back. Instead of using Moss’ block, Davis darted back inwards and crossed the goal line to demonstrate his newfound end zone celebration for a second time: a fundamental jump shot into the uprights.

Smith finished the game 20-of-31 with 226 passing yards and two touchdowns. He recorded no turnovers on the game, finishing with a 107.7 quarterback rating.

Conversely, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was held in check, completing 19-of-32 passes for 230 yards with one interception and a 78.9 quarterback rating. The 49ers also sacked Stafford two times, while holding the Lions to 82 rushing yards on 26 carries.

“They’re a good offense, but we’re a good defense,” 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith said, following a two-sack performance that gives him 3.0 on the year. “We knew that if we took care of our business then we would have a good chance of winning.”

Most of that business focused on limiting the production of Detroit’s All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The player known as “Megatron” was held to eight catches for 94 yards, but did not score a touchdown. He also took a “mega-hit” from 49ers All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis on a first-half play.

Willis delivered many hits on Sunday. He finished with a game-high nine tackles on a night that the team’s defensive co-captain was thoroughly impressed with the home crowd’s support throughout a challenging game.

“Our crowd has been tremendous,” Willis said. “Our fans have been unbelievable and they have every right to be. I feel, as long as we continue to go out there and fight and win, we all benefit from it. We go out there, have their support and them being behind us, we’re glad to go out there and give them something to root for.”

The 49ers wasted no time giving the home crowd something to applaud.

San Francisco needed four plays to get on the scoreboard when Davis hauled in a 21-yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown grab on a perfectly thrown pass from Smith. Wendling had coverage on the play and could not keep up with the 49ers tight end who was wide open in the end zone.

Davis, however, didn’t dunk the ball to accentuate the 67-yard scoring drive. Unlike his 4-yard touchdown against Green Bay, the 49ers tight shot a jump shot through the uprights.

Chris Culliver was flagged for pass interference on second-and-14 on Detroit’s second possession. The 33-yard penalty helped the Lions get on the scoreboard with a 38-yard field goal from 21-year veteran kicker Jason Hanson.

Detroit stripped Kendall Hunter on the ensuing kickoff, forcing San Francisco’s first turnover in nine games. Lions special teams standout Kassim Osgood recovered at San Francisco’s 25-yard line. It was San Francisco’s first lost fumble in the regular season since Nov. 6, 2011 at Washington.

The 49ers, however, forced a three-and-out which resulted in a 41-yard made field goal from Hanson, making it a 7-6 game.

The response by Harbaugh’s defense was certainly appreciated.

“A guy like that and a quarterback of Stafford and the other playmakers they have, you’re not going to just shut them down to negative yards every single time,” Harbaugh said. “But, thought that overall (we) did a tremendous job.”

San Francisco appeared to settle for field goal on next drive, but the Lions ran into David Akers, giving the 49ers new life. Following a pass interference penalty on a red zone pass intended for Moss, Gore followed several massive blockers for a 1-yard touchdown.

With the 1-yard touchdown, Gore moves into a tie with Ken Willard for the third-most rushing touchdowns in 49ers history with 45 scores.  The 1-yard plunge also gave Gore a rushing touchdown in all five of his career games against the Lions.

San Francisco opened up the second half with a flea-flicker attempt, Smith to Hunter, back to Smith, but Kyle Vanden Bosch grasped Smith’s facemask for a 15-yard penalty on the opening play of the second half.

The 49ers went 62 yards on 10 plays to score on a 36-yard Akers field goal, pushing the lead to 17-6.

That’s when the game turned into a kicking competition of sorts.

Prior to Davis’ 23-yard score, Akers and Hanson both connected on a pair of field goals in the second half.

In the end, the kicks weren’t what did it for the 49ers.

It was another full team effort that led the team to another challenging victory.

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