SAN FRANCISCO -- There were actually two handshakes between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz. The first was a pregame shake in which the two men smiled at one another in a moment that took about 1.7 seconds. The second came after a San Francisco win against the Lions. More congeniality, a slight hug, a smile.
Handshake 2, the sequel, was highly anticlimatic, like the second Die Hard movie. Thus thankfully the handshake nonsense is now officially over. That's far too much time spent on what the hands of two grown men are doing. Time to move onto a more important subject -- like how the 49ers are the best team in football.
There is no other conclusion that can be drawn after the 49ers' 27-19 victory against the Lions. It's not just that the 49ers went into Green Bay last week and pounded the Packers. Or that they controlled an explosive Lions offense on Sunday night. It is how they are winning.
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San Francisco brutalized Detroit. They not only inflicted damage, they took Detroit's best punch in the face and smirked, the way Bruce Lee would get hit, and smile a little, letting his opponent know the punch was more like a tickle. The symbol of this was the bloodied face of 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who while sliding got elbowed in the face by a Detroit player (one of many calls missed by the replacement refs) and looked like he just fought for the heavyweight title.
"I felt during the game, and at the end of the game, that was one of Alex's best performances," Harbaugh explained. Harbaugh then added that Smith was "as tough as a two-dollar steak. I grew up eating a lot of them. I know what I'm talking about."
Smith continues to prove nothing fazes him. Even a knock to the face. Then again, that's this entire 49ers team.
Tight end Vernon Davis was poked in the eye one play fairly badly. He went to the sideline, sniffed some ammonia capsules, and then went back in. Very little fazes these guys.
A physical interior Lions defensive line got knocked on its butt by the 49ers offense repeatedly. You won't see that many pancakes at an IHOP. The only thing missing was a little syrup and butter. Frank Gore beast moded for 89 yards on 17 carries and a score. Smith, despite the blood, had a 107 passer rating and no picks. He added two scores and 226 yards passing on 20 of 31 pass attempts.
San Francisco left off exactly where it did from last year. Smith's excellent play and accurate passing means teams have to respect all phases of their offense. Smith hit nine different receivers and because his offensive line is so good (and physical) he got plenty of time to throw.
The 49ers can beat a team in the passing game. In the running game. On defense. On special teams. Any which way. No team in football is as well rounded.
This guarantees nothing. But in a league that, again, features teams that can't seem to find steadiness, the 49ers are the model of it. "We try to be a team that plays physically but also doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Smith said.
"We know it's early in the season," Gore said, "but this is what we want to be all year. We're a physical team that can pretty much do a bunch of different stuff."
You know the 49ers are a different group when Michael Crabtree, often maligned, is now catching passes in traffic and coming up with huge catches. He did some of this last year and is continuing this season.
"Crabtree is big," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "I know last game we saw him do something like that [catch passes in traffic] 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, amazing."
That's how far this 49ers team continues to come. Michael Crabtree is called amazing. Next thing you know, Randy Moss will be called stable.
Where do the 49ers go from here? This team is dangerous and unlikely to fade from frontrunner status. They went to the NFC title game last year. So they have playoff experience, they're talented and most of all, they're nasty.
You can shake on it.