Lions-49ers Preview


While some of the focus remains on last year's postgame handshake gone wrong, the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions insist that's all but forgotten.

During the rematch, the emerging franchises will instead look forward to another chance to build on their breakthrough campaigns from a year ago.

The Lions will try to end a lengthy skid in San Francisco on Sunday night, while the 49ers will seek to continue their dominance in the series.

After his team ended Detroit's unbeaten start in Week 6, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh gave an overenthusiastic handshake and pat on the back to Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

Schwartz took issue and the two had to be separated following the 49ers' 25-19 victory at Ford Field on Oct. 16. Harbaugh labeled the incident as a "mini controversy'' and "completely irrelevant," and Schwartz's comments this week backed that up.

"That's long in the past," he said. "That just seems so long ago that that occurred. When two teams take the field, that's not going to be on one player's mind.''

With both unbeaten teams coming off long-awaited trips to the playoffs, the winner of Sunday's game could stake a claim to being one of the best in the NFC.

The 49ers finished 13-3 - their first winning campaign since 2002 - and reached the conference title game in Harbaugh's first season. They started this year successfully with a 30-22 win at Green Bay, which finished 15-1 in 2011.

Alex Smith was an efficient 20 of 26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, including one to veteran Randy Moss, and broke Steve Young's franchise mark with his 185th consecutive pass without an interception. David Akers also had an NFL record-tying 63-yard field goal in the victory.

"It's a big win," running back Frank Gore said Monday after rushing for 112 yards and a key fourth-quarter touchdown. "We've got to keep going, keep working ... try to get better and try to get a victory this week."

San Francisco (1-0) will seek to prevail for the 14th time in 15 matchups with Detroit (1-0), which earned a last-minute win over St. Louis during its opener.

The Lions will seek to snap an 11-game losing streak in San Francisco that started in 1977 and includes a playoff loss in 1983.

"If there are games you circle, this should definitely be one of the games," Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson told the team's website.

Detroit hasn't won in that city since Nov. 2, 1975, and could use a better start from Matthew Stafford as it tries to end that drought.

Stafford was intercepted three times in the first half of last week's game but completed seven of nine passes on his team's final possession, including a 5-yard touchdown to running back Kevin Smith with 10 seconds to go.

The fourth-year quarterback, who had 5,038 yards and 41 TDs in 2011, finished 32 of 48 for 355 yards.

Stafford gave his team a 19-15 lead early in the fourth quarter of last year's matchup with the second of his two touchdowns passes, a 5-yarder to Nate Burleson, but the 49ers went ahead for good on Smith's only scoring toss - a 6-yarder to Delanie Walker. Akers added a late field goal, one of his NFL-record 44 that season.

"We want to go in there and try to pay them back," cornerback Chris Houston said. ''Definitely, Week Two is a statement game. They're going to come pumped up. ... We're not going to do too much talking. We're just going to go to work, and may the best man win."

Houston might return to the Lions' secondary after missing the opener with a sprained left ankle. He was back at practice in a limited fashion Wednesday. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) and rookie cornerback Bill Bentley (concussion) were still out and their statuses are unknown.

Johnson missed practice because of a foot injury, but he's expected to play Sunday. The All-Pro wide receiver was reportedly given a day off.

The 49ers will try to take advantage of that potentially short-handed secondary while earning their ninth straight win over the Lions. Gore and tight end Vernon Davis both scored touchdowns during the third quarter of a 20-6 home victory on Dec. 27, 2009.

Detroit's most recent win in the series was a 27-24 victory on Sept. 25, 1995. Veteran kicker Jason Hanson converted a go-ahead 32-yarder with 1:12 to play.