49ers Make Statement, Leave Room For Improvement In Win Over Lions

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers passes the ball during their game against the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park on September 16, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Sunday evening saw the San Francisco 49ers take care of their business and defeat the Detroit Lions 27-19. In reality, the final score was not indicative of the difference between these two teams last night. The Lions hung around thanks primarily to some dropped passes and special teams miscues, but in reality, the 49ers generally controlled much of this game.

The 49ers made a statement in this game as they were more physical than the Lions, and were able to contain their normally dynamic offense. Although Calvin Johnson hauled in 94 receiving yards, the 49ers once again kept him out of the end zone. The 49ers had little trouble with Kevin Smith and the Lions rushing attack, holding the entire group to 82 yards on 26 carries. It was another strong 49ers defensive performance.

On the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers offense received some timely performances to put this game out of reach. Michael Crabtree had some monster catches, with three third down conversions in the fourth quarter. Frank Gore had another strong performance as the 15-17 carry mark might be his magic number. Vernon Davis stepped up with two touchdowns, including an impressive catch and run late.

And of course, Alex Smith put together solid day. Although his numbers do note reflect it, Alex Smith had a very solid performance. If not for some untimely drops, the 49ers potentially win this game by upwards of three scores. I suppose that is would, coulda, shoulda, but the upside to that is that it leaves plenty of teaching moments for the 49ers. This team has not reached its peak, but instead is in a position with plenty left to prove on both sides of the ball. I would imagine that until they are pitching 35-0 shutouts every week, the coaching staff will be able to keep them on task.

The concern of overconfidence is something that will linger to a certain extent, but again, the business-like manner of this team makes it a bit less of a concern for now. There are opportunities to get tripped up in coming, but I really like everything I've seen and heard from this team. It starts at the top with the coach, but this is a team of veterans that seem ideally suited to handle the pressure that will start to build.

This team is now Target No. 1 in the league. They play with a certain amount of swagger and confidence, but it has not yet struck me as arrogance that could cost them. The team seems to take heed of Coach Harbaugh's mantra of moving forward with humble hearts. That could prove key in the coming weeks.

Head after the jump for some post-game quotes across the team, as well as a brief video recap.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - September 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

What were your overall impressions of this one?

"Real good impressions. I think the thing that stood out in our mind, just directly after our game, was team really sucked it up. Sucked it up down the stretch. And probably the guy who typified it the most was [WR] Michael Crabtree. Just sucking it up, getting those big first downs, physical run after catch. And then a lot of guys. A lot of guys overcame some stuff and got the job done. And we knew it would be a tough, close, aggressive, bell-ringing game. And it was."

There was some skirmishes. There was some physicality. Did you go in knowing there would be some of that, expecting it with Detroit?

"Yeah, we expected a physical game, anticipated that. 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 ball game."

How solid of a job did your secondary and overall defense do on WR Calvin Johnson and keeping him from making the big plays?

"Well, a guy like that and a quarterback the caliber of [Matthew] Stafford and the other playmakers they have, you're not going to just shut them down to negative yards every single time. But, thought that overall did a tremendous job. Let a couple, couple get out, the screen late and a few others. But, eventually getting them stopped, keeping them out of the end zone for 58 minutes of the game. I thought was very impressive as well."

Do you think you could have pulled away at any time second, third quarter?

"Do I think we could have?"

Yeah.

"Sure. You could always-you could have. Yeah [laughs]."

Kind of looked conservative at times, that's why I'm asking.

"Did it look conservative to you? OK."

You took the point, the field goal off the board, taken the penalty. Other times you've taken the field goal.

"One other time, yeah."

One other time, I'm sorry.

"Yeah. Then a couple other times we took the penalty and kept the drive going."

What goes into that process for you?

"Just playing the percentages and the feel for it. Felt like we could punch it in there."

Can you talk about how your nickel defense did against the run? It seemed like the Lions liked to run the ball quite a bit against the nickel?

"Yeah. And they did a pretty good job of it and our guys did a pretty good job of getting them shut down. And we didn't let any big runs get out. And then you try to keep the big runs, the big passes from happening and then eventually you get them shut on a series of downs and I our guys I thought did a real good job of that."

Were there times that QB Alex Smith called two plays in huddle and killed one at the line of scrimmage?

"Yes."

How often would you say he does that in a game?

"I couldn't really say how often he does it. But, as long as we're talking about Alex, I felt that just during the game and at the end of the game there that this was one of Alex's better, best performances. He felt like there was a couple he could have made. But, I thought that he had a great night, putting the ball on the money and getting it into the hands of our guys. I thought he played an excellent game both throwing the football and getting us into right plays, as you point out."

The handshake story was our story as you said. But how did you think it was? I saw you talk to him a little bit before the game, how did you think that went? And the postgame handshake?

"Good. I thought it went good. That's the thing, it's just about this matchup, two good teams. And I think that that was the story, two good football teams going at it early in the season."

WR Michael Crabtree had some good possession catches. Do you think he enjoys this kind of game that's physical?

"I think he does, I really do. And I'm speaking for another guy here, but I think secretly he hopes it comes down to that. I think he likes that physical part of the game because he thrives on it so well. And he's a tough, tough guy that'll suck it up in a heartbeat and he did that for us tonight. And did it throughout the game, but especially on that last drive. And there was multiple guys. Some big drives, six-minute drive there at the end of the game. And a big drive early in the game that started fast. It was good from that standpoint. Started the second half fast. Thought it was a good game for our offense. Couple times we could have made some more plays and some chances we had. But I think overall, pretty darn good."

Your offense is missing some parts still. You had some inactives today. How much better can this offense get once you have all these guys back working together and getting everybody healthy?

"Well, hopefully all of our phases continue to improve and that's what we've got to do. We've got to get better and come back every single week. And prepare ourselves and win. That's the single most important factor, but you certainly want to improve while you're doing it."

After RB Kendall Hunter's fumble, the defense came and made that big defensive play on the batted down pass and then kept them out of the end zone. That series, was that a big momentum for you guys not to let them score after the fumble?

"Yeah, it was huge. We had the adversity of the turnover. And then keeping-they're never in until they're in. And our defense takes that philosophy. And they do a heck of a job and kept them out of their four field goals up until the last drive of the game. But, that was huge a number of times for our defense to get those stops."

You told NBC Reporter Michele Tafoya that they're a late-hit bunch and they're a chippy bunch. Did you say that?

"Who said that?"

Michele Tafoya quoted you as saying that. Do you think that kind of evidenced in the game? Do you think that was part of what was going on out there?

"I can't really say. I can't really say that."

Did you say that?

"I don't recall saying that."

TE Delanie Walker got kicked in the helmet what appeared to be a little late right on the side of his face where he was injured last year. That's one that sticks out.

"Yeah."

QB Alex Smith got one.

"Yeah, when he was sliding he got cut over the bridge of his nose and forearm to his head when he was sliding. But, I think the story of this game, it was a physical game. It was a physical contest. I thought it was a well-played game. And pretty clean for the most part. And good, competitive match. And our guys sucked it up and finished it and that's what we're most pleased about."

Alex's toughness after he had the bloody nose. Not that it surprised you, but do you like to see your quarterback respond to an injury shrugging it off like the way he did?

"Yeah, he's as tough as a $2 steak."

Have you had any of those lately?

"I grew up eating a lot of them. I know what I'm talking about."

QB Alex Smith
Post-Game Quotes - September 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

Looking like T Joe Staley there [in reference to both having cuts on the nose]:

"Yeah."

What does this game mean to you, the way you started and finished?

"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."

Talk about the final offensive drive, 3rd and long you would go to WR Michael Crabtree:

"Yeah, big plays. We had a bunch of guys outside and they all do a great job of being ready. Michael, all night, every time his number was called was there and delivered consistently. He's been like that, especially in the last two weeks, and kind of going into last year. He's a really consistent player."

What did you think of Crabtree talking to the offense and encouraging them to keep up with the defense?

"Yeah, the defense gets a lot of credit-deservedly so. Especially last season, they played at a really high level. Talked a lot about offense. If you can get offense, defense and special teams all rolling, you know how scary it can be. Michael is the guy who has been there, worked extremely hard, he continues to work extremely hard and our guys look to him."

How dazed were you on the scramble when you took a forearm to the face?

"I wouldn't say dazed, just bleeding. I looked up, saw the flag and thought for sure it was a personal foul call, but all of a sudden we were backed up and it was a holding call. I was pretty stunned we didn't get that call."

Do you feel that you guys are riding the momentum from last year or is this completely fresh?

"Yeah, it's totally different. We are over and done with last year. It's talked about, but for us we put it behind us, and relearn everything. That's how we look at it, a totally fresh start."

Do you feel that you guys are clicking sooner? Week 2 and you guys look good.

"Compared to last year? Yeah, last year was a different circumstance. We were coming out of the lockout, we had a new coaching staff. So, much more stability now, we had an offseason, a camp. As an offensive unit it was a nice change and you're not learning things for the first time."

A lot of people talk about the Detroit defensive front, how do you think your offensive line did against them?

"I thought they did a great job all night, on both the run and the pass. We put a lot on those guys up front, not only do they have to be physical but also think on their feet. They did a good job of that. I think they did an outstanding job."

How much better will this team be once all injured players return?

"Oh yeah, a lot of room for improvement. It's a continual work in progress. We left a lot of yards out there, it wasn't until that last drive on the third down. A lot of room for improvement, no question. I know it's going to take everyone."

K David Akers
Post-Game Quotes - September 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

On the wind impacting the kickers tonight:

"Well, that's really not a good opportunity when you have a minute or so left in the half -it was not a kicker friendly night tonight that's for sure, it was switching back. I hit one that went through the end zone and then my next kickoff, the wind was right in my face and it went down around the goal line. It was a crazy night, just ask [Lions K] Jason Hanson. The ball was moving everywhere and you thought it would. Was it an ideal situation tonight? Probably not."

It just feels like everything is clicking at this point, it seemed like you guys were in control of that entire game.

"It was a great game but we had some mistakes. We had some blunders on special teams, giving up way too many yards, I'm sure the defense would like to stop the run a little bit more. They kind of just bent, but they didn't really ever break tonight and that was huge just to take threes instead of sevens. And then the offense did a great job. [RB] Frank [Gore] did a great job, [QB] Alex [Smith] did a great job, [WR Michael Crabtree] Crab and [TE] Vernon [Davis]. And I always give the credit to the o-linemen for giving me time to hit and make the kicks. I took that hit pretty well I thought."

G/T Alex Boone
Post-Game Quotes - September 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

What did you think of the game tonight?

"We played well tonight and played hard. We did not dominate as much as we wanted to tonight, but I think it was a great game overall."

You guys had two tough opponents to start out and are 2-0, what are you guys thinking in the locker room right now?

"Thinking, ‘Hey we have to go to Minnesota next week and it is going to be a tough game.' We are going to have to prepare like it is the Super Bowl because this is a great team and it is hard to play in their house. So we need to have a good week of preparation."

What did you think of [RB] Frank [Gore] and his big yardage runs?

"He did a great job finding the crease and hitting the holes. He does a tremendous job and he is a physical player. He is an elusive player and I love it."

CB Tarell Brown
Post -Game Quotes - September 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

On the fans:

"We have great fans, a great community, a great city and just to come home and enjoy it in our city, get that first win was important."

You guys held them to four field goals early, 12 points. Can you tell me how big that was just to keep them out of the end zone until late?

"It's always big, anytime you can keep guys to three points. I think as our defense says, ‘We want to be very stingy.' We want to limit them to yards and keep them to three points. If we can't get a turnover we want to keep them to three and that's what we did. Our offense did a great job of moving the ball and scoring points and that's all we needed."

You guys are an aggressive group as defensive backs. Two tough challenges for you guys right out of the gate, is your confidence level at an all-time high?

"To be honest with you, we always have a very high confidence level. The thing about this team is we are very high on ourselves, but we also go to work every day. That's the thing, we always grind, we are always willing to work and we are always willing to go out there and put it all on the line."

Early on, your offense usually puts you guys in a good position, you have a short field to work with after the turnover on the kickoff. What was your mindset there and obviously being able to hold them to three points in that situation when they were on the 20 yard line.

"We are excited about that. We have a drive. I think as a good defense, you got to be excited about that. Anytime you are backed up in your territory it's really time for you to put the nuts and bolts down. As far as us as a defense, we look forward to it and go out there and try to hold those guys to three points."

WR Michael Crabtree
Press Conference - September 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

Coach said he didn't want to speak for another man, but he thinks you really liked the physical, hand-checking type game. Can you shed some light on it? You seemed to do pretty well.

"It's football. I'm just doing whatever it takes to win. Third down, second down, first down. Wherever it takes to get the W."

How are you at sustaining that drive with three catches on third and long?

"I really wasn't thinking about it. I was just trying to take one play at a time. Whatever [QB] Alex [Smith] threw I was trying to catch it. Felt bad on one third down I dropped the pass and I felt like I had to redeem myself."

What was their secondary like up there? Just they had a lot of moving parts with guys out. Did they seem out of sync?

"A lot of cover two. It's hard to throw the ball when guys are playing cover two. Big ups to [RB] Frank [Gore] and these guys moving the ball in the run game. The offensive line was moving guys up front. So, overall we did a good job."

Michael, you obviously got some yards after the catch with those third down conversions. Do you feel like you're moving as well as you have at least since last year and maybe in your career?

"Yeah, I feel like I went over this with you guys. I'm just getting better every day. I'm healthy right now, thank God. And I'm just going to keep it moving."

Facing a lot of cover two, is that sort of a compliment to the passing game?

"I guess so. Usually, last year we had a lot of cover one. A lot of blitzing. A lot of hot routes. This year I guess they are respecting the pass game a little bit. But, like I said, we're taking it one game at a time. You never know what the next team is going to give us."

Can you speak on how well your defense has done? Stopping Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and QB Matthew Stafford the next?

"Our defense is great. That's probably the best compliment you can get. They're a great defense. And all those guys, from the front line to the DBs, they're making plays. And like I said, I talked to the whole team this week and I was like, we've just got to match that on offense. We've got to come out here and give it our all. Get those first downs, get the chains moving, and really try to keep our defense on the sideline."

When you said you talked to the whole team, were you talking about just going to the locker room, or did you actually have a conversation?

"It was my birthday, so they made me talk in the middle of the field. And I just told them what I had on my mind."

What was your favorite catch today that you made?

"Every time I catch the ball I feel like I need to catch every pass. Like I said, did that one drop, it's still in my mind. So, every time you're talking about catching the ball, I'm thinking about that drop."

Can you talk about playing alongside TE Vernon Davis? It seems like he's taking it to another level as one of the, if not the best tight end in the game.

"Vernon's doing a good job. We've got two good tight ends. Wide receivers opening it up and the run game is opening it up for all of us. So, we're just trying to put everything together, make plays. Big ups to Vernon, two touchdowns tonight. And I'm excited."

Some guys are labeled as possession receivers, really good possession receivers. Would you like to be known as that?

"I'd like to be known as an overall football player, not just in one category. Really just trying to make plays."

What do you think of your team being able to put together a drive at the end when you needed it?

"I felt like our team played good on all three sides of the ball, defense, offense and special teams. That's what it takes to get this W."

TE Vernon Davis
Post-Game Quotes - September 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

How do you feel the game went today?

"It went well today, we did a great job and came at them right off the bat. We did everything we had to do to take care of this Detroit Lions team. I am extremely happy for [QB] Alex [Smith] because he made a lot of plays for us. Also [RB] Frank Gore and [WR] Michael Crabtree stepped up as usually. They carried it over from last week and the defense did an outstanding job helping us tonight.

The first touchdown you had tonight, how did you get that wide open?

"It was pretty much the same play we ran when we played New York, last year in the playoffs. Their safety comes down and I go right up the sideline, kind of like a go route for a wide receiver. [QB]Alex [Smith] saw my route and we made the play."

What happened to your eye tonight and was it intentional?

"I got poked in my eye. Since I got poked I had to sit down. I do not know if it was intentional by [Cliff] Avril [DE]. I am just not sure."

Are you guys starting right where you left off last year regarding the offense?

Yeah definitely, but we are trying to do more. We are trying to correct the areas where we have made a lot of mistakes and areas that we did not finish by correcting those things. We brought in [WR] Randy Moss and [WR] Mario Manningham to help us, but I think we are making good strides right now. What we have to do is keep our focus and executing our game plan."

Have you started seeing a change in how they are covering you this season, due to the offseason acquisitions?

"I am starting to see little fast guys cover me now, but it is pretty much the same as last year. I am not getting doubled teamed as much as I did last year because a lot of the attention is now focused on [WR] Michael [Crabtree] and [WR] Randy [Moss]. We are pretty balanced right now running the ball and passing, but it is too early in the season to speak."

LB Aldon Smith

Post-Game Quotes - September 16, 2012

San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

Can you just talk about those sacks that you - I mean you guys were just bringing pressure the whole time. How good does it feel to get those two sacks you got?

"Good I guess. I guess it's the word - I don't have a great answer. Good."

The one thing I've noticed is you're really good at stopping the run too, is that something you've really just been focused on just because you knew your role was going to be increasing this year?

"Really I haven't. I'm not going to say -I stopped the run at [The University of] Missouri. I didn't play as much last year in those run situations, so I think people were kind of questioning that. But it was always something that I was able to do. So now it's just time to put it on film and let everybody else see it."

How big of a challenge was this, to take on and shut down that offense?

"They're a good offense. But we're a good defense, so we knew that if we took care of our business then we would have a good chance of winning."

T Joe Staley

Post-Game Quotes - September 16, 2012

San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

Talk about the last drive where you guys scored a touchdown. Describe how important that was. Not just for clock management, but for the end result of the game.

"It was huge. We needed those seven points. We needed the touchdown because a field goal would not do there. It was a huge third down conversions by [WR Michael] Crabtree, which he made amazing second effort. We had great protections that allowed us to run the ball and move the chains. [QB]Alex [Smith] made good smart throws, but that was expected from Alex."

This team can play a lot of different ways, you guys can play up top or smash mouth and we saw a lot of that tonight.

"It was a physical game. We were able to do a lot of different things and we had success on the ground. We had a couple negative plays, but I felt like we were physical upfront and both sides of the ball and playmakers made plays when they had to."

S Donte Whitner

Post-Game Quotes - September 16, 2012

San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

Speaking of big win, how do you feel about your guys, about the 2-0 start?

"We feel great. We feel like we still have things to improve on, we can still get better. Just like that big play at the end of the fourth quarter, we feel like we have to improve on that. Everybody has to get to the football, we can't expect one guy to make the tackle. We have to get there, get him down and make them punt the football. So we have things to improve."

Do you just feel like you guys were in control the whole game?

"Yeah, we felt like we were in control. Just wish they wouldn't have gotten the touchdown at the end of the game. We gave up a big play. But we're going to go back and we're going to fix that. But it feels great to be 2-0."

They seemed a little more committed to the run for a team that passes so much. What effect did that have on the game for you guys?

"It didn't really have any effect at all. We were still able to keep two safeties deep at all times. We didn't have to get too nosey in the run game. Our front seven, front six did a good job of stopping the run with a light box. That's what we have to do versus teams like Green Bay and Detroit, guys who like to throw the ball a lot. We have to be able to stop the run and keep two guys deep to take away their main threats and that's what we did."

LB Patrick Willis
Post-Game Quotes - September 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions

Can you explain what TE Vernon Davis has meant for you the last few years?

"Vernon's been everything that we expect him to be. What he does on the field is, to us, is what he's supposed to do. To us, it's like good job. There's nothing miraculous in our eyes because we know the potential because he does it every day at practice."

How big was WR Michael Crabtree on that last drive, the way he lowered his shoulders to get first downs.

"Crabtree is big. I know last game we saw him do something like that and I made it known to him, I was like, ‘Crab, that's the way a receiver runs the ball in traffic.' If he knows he's in traffic, he lowers his head and fights for it. Just to still come out and do that and pretty much take the game over in the fourth quarter like he did, that's amazing."

What kind of home field advantage was that? Did you really sense the crowd, the volume they had helping you out?

"Yeah, our crowd has been tremendous. 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."

How good was this secondary tonight?

"Our secondary was tremendous. [Detroit's] a good football team. They're going to complete passes, but it's up to us to tackle them and that's what we've done for the most part. We played defense okay. There are a couple plays out there I wish I could get back myself, but that's a part of playing football. Just having an opportunity to go out there next week and redeem yourself."

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