49ers lead Lions 17-9 after 3rd quarter

Alex Smith threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis, Frank

Gore ran for 93 yards and a score and the San Francisco 49ers took

a 17-9 lead over the Detroit Lions through three quarters Sunday

night.

San Francisco’s stout defense smothered Matthew Stafford and

Calvin Johnson on a cold, late summer night at Candlestick Park.

The Lions settled for field goals of 41, 40 and 38 yards by Jason

Hanson, who also missed a 40-yard attempt off the right upright in

the second quarter.

San Francisco stopped the Lions three-and-out on the game’s

opening possession and took all of four plays and 72 seconds to

complete its 67-yard TD drive that ended with Davis’ TD catch.

A pass interference penalty on Chris Culliver and a fumble by

Kendall Hunter put the Lions deep in San Francisco territory on the

next two possessions. Detroit’s drives stalled each time, settling

for field goals each time.

San Francisco picked on Detroit’s depleted secondary from the

start.

Cornerback Chris Houston (ankle) and safety Louis Delmas (left

knee surgery) were inactive for the second straight game, and

rookie cornerback Bill Bentley was out after sustaining a

concussion in a 27-23 season-opening win against the Rams.

Mario Manningham took an end around for 29 yards up the right

sideline, then Smith found Michael Crabtree for a 17-yard

completion before hooking up with Davis on the TD pass. Davis, who

came up short trying to dunk the ball over the crossbar in Green

Bay last week, instead hopped a row of photographers and took a

jump shot that cleanly cleared the crossbar.

Detroit answered back quickly – with some help.

The replacement referees called a 33-yard pass interference

penalty on Culliver while covering Titus Young that gave the Lions

a first down on the San Francisco 26. Detroit couldn’t capitalize

and were forced to kick a 38-yard field goal.

Tahir Whitehead stripped Hunter on the ensuing kickoff, and

Kassim Osgood recovered at the San Francisco 25. The 49ers’ defense

stopped Stafford and the Lions again, and Hanson kicked a 41-yard

field goal to slice San Francisco’s lead to 7-6.

San Francisco hadn’t committed a turnover in its previous six

regular-season games dating to last season, the second-longest

streak in NFL history. The 49ers could have matched the league

record set by the 2010 New England Patriots with another

turnover-free game against the Lions.

Dashon Goldson intercepted an overthrown pass by Stafford later

in the first quarter and returned it 20 yards to the Detroit 23.

Stafford threw for 355 yards in last week’s win over St. Louis at

home but also had three interceptions before halftime for the first

time – and said he couldn’t do that again for the Lions to win.

Adding to the mistakes by Detroit, Drayton Florence ran into

kicker David Akers to extend San Francisco’s drive and Jacob Lacey

was whistled for pass interference against Randy Moss in the end

zone. That set up Gore’s 1-yard TD run on the first play of the

second quarter, extending San Francisco’s lead to 14-6.

Johnson caught a 24-yard pass from Stafford on third-and-6 to

move to the San Francisco 46. Once again, though, Stafford and the

Lions struggled to get into the end zone. Only this time, Hanson’s

40-yard field goal attempt bounced off the right upright to the

delight of the Candlestick crowd.

Akers kicked a 36-yard field goal after a 10-play, 62-yard drive

to open the second half that put San Francisco ahead 17-6 with 9:42

remaining in the third quarter. Detroit answered with its own

10-play, 39-yard drive that ended in Hanson’s 40-yard field

goal.

The rematch of last season’s postgame handshake ”mini

controversy,” as 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh called it this week,

certainly had a more civil start.

Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz waved to each other during

pregame warmups and jogged near midfield for a cordial handshake.

That was far different from last October, when San Francisco

rallied for a 25-19 win at Ford Field to hand Detroit its first

loss following a 5-0 start and Harbaugh enraged Schwartz with a

firm backslap and handshake – the two even had to be separated

running off the field.

Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at:

www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP