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John J. Raspanti
The 49ers return to Candlestick Park for their first home game of the 2012 season. Their trip to Lambeau Field last Sunday was a triumphant one as they clipped the Green Bay Packers 30-22. The victory was their first in Green Bay since 1990.
Quarterback Alex Smith continues to silence his critics. Smith completed 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards. He also broke Steve Young's franchise mark with his 185th consecutive pass without an interception. Running back Frank Gore ran through and around the Packer defenders, gaining 112 yards.
"It's a big win," said Gore Monday. "We've got to keep going, keep working...try to get better and try to get a victory this week."
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was Smith's go to guy with seven catches for 76 yards. Randy Moss caught his first touchdown pass in 14 months. New kid on the block (and former New York Giant) Mario Manningham chipped in with four catches.
The Lions edged the Rams at home 27-23. Quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 32 of 48 passes for 355 yards. Stafford also threw three interceptions. The young signal caller shook off the picks and drove the Lions 80 yards on nine plays. With ten seconds left in regulation, he threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith in the end zone. Smith also rushed for 62 yards on 13 attempts. Calvin "Megatron" Johnson snatched six passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Johnson feels the game against San Francisco is a chance for the Lions to make an early season statement.
"If there are games you circle, this should definitely be one of the games," Johnson told the team's website.
The 49er defense played very well against the high-powered Packer offense. Linebacker NoVorro Brown led the team with 11 tackles and an interception. Cornerback Tarell Brown collected seven tackles. Linebacker Patrick Willis chipped in with six. Second-year man Aldon Smith sacked Aaron Rodgers early in the game.
Linebacker Justin Durant's 12 tackles led the Lions. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch was second with nine. Big defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh picked up two tackles and a sack. Injuries could be a factor. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Bill Bentley (concussion) missed practice Thursday.
The 49ers will be attempting to prevail for 14th time in 15 matchups with the Lions.
A big deal will be made about the "handshake" between Harbaugh and Schwartz and how the Lions will put extra emphasis on this game, etc. etc, but this isn't college ball. That will have no impact here. Talent will win this game and while both teams have their share, the 49ers continue to look like the real deal. This is the best defense the NFL has seen in some time. What they were lacking last year, was an equally potent offense. Too soon to tell, as the Pack certainly not known for their defense (though they looked pretty good against the Bears), but after game 1, it looks like adding a couple of veteran receivers to the offense has paid off big time.
We'd be shocked if the 49ers don't end up being a participant in the NFC Championship game this year. With that in mind, if we're going to be correct, these are the games they'll have to win. The 49ers are the better team here. The handshake will be interesting this time around! 49ers -6.5
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