The Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers both opened their 2012 seasons with close victories. In Detroit, Matthew Stafford hit running back Kevin Smith with 10 seconds left lift the Lions to a 27-23 against the improved St. Louis Rams. Perhaps more impressively, the 49ers squared off against Green Bay at Lambeau Field and held on for a 30-22 win. The win for the 49ers gave Green Bay their first loss of the regular season, a fate the team did not suffer until week 15 in 2011.
Last season, the Lions hosted the 49ers in week 6, where the 49ers were able to edge out a late victory over the 49ers. In the final two minutes, a 6-yard touchdown pass along with a field goal from David Akers allowed San Francisco to get past Detroit 25-19 to give the Lions their first loss of the 2011 season.
However, what happened between Lions’ coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh took center stage. In what had become known as “the handshake,” Harbaugh gave an overenthusiastic handshake and pat on the back. Schwartz took issue with it and charged at Harbaugh directly after. However, both coaches have seemingly put away the controversy with Schwartz stating that it’s “long in the past.”
The Lions will need to improve tremendously if they hope to defeat a 49ers team on Sunday Night that looks to be the NFC’s best to start the season. Already with one of the league’s top, if not the best, defenses, the 49ers added wide receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to improve their aerial attack over the offseason.
The Lions will certainly need to win the turnover battle to contend in this one. Against the Rams, they lost the takeaway battle three to zero on account of Stafford’s three interceptions. St. Louis actually possessed the lead until the final minute of the ball game before Stafford’s touchdown pass to Kevin Smith.
San Francisco features a stout rushing defense featuring Pro Bowlers Patrick Willis and Justin Smith that only allowed three rushing touchdowns during the 2011 regular season. They also limited the Packers to just 45 yards on the ground in the week 1 opener, meaning that a win for the Lions is likely going to go through the arm of Matthew Stafford and the hands of Calvin Johnson.
Johnson, who managed 111 yards on 6 catches against the Rams, will need to try and exploit the 49ers secondary if the Lions wish to have any chance in this contest.
With one of the best defenses in the league, a quarterback in Alex Smith who rarely turns the ball over (just 5 interceptions in 2011), and a consistent rushing attack led by backs Frank Gore and Kendell Hunter, expect the 49ers to control this game early and give the Lions their first loss of 2012 as well. Even with his club’s A-game, Jim Schwartz’s Lions will be too overwhelmed in this one.
San Francisco 49ers: 27
Detroit Lions: 16
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Written by Matt Austin