Is that the storyline?
Mike: No question, it's the hook going in, but the game had better take over soon. And it should. The 49ers opened with a powerful win at Green Bay. The Lions got a big fourth quarter from
But Handshake II will provide the drama.
Tim: It certainly provides the drama heading in, no doubt. I wonder how many times Schwartz is asked about the handshake this week. My guess is that he's done addressing it since he answered questions during his Monday press conference.
The game itself has enough storylines to fill a notebook. That defense against this offense. Randy Moss against the Lions secondary. Last year’s game coming down to a fourth-quarter conversion. Both teams 1-0. I could go on and on.
What are looking forward to most about the game, Mike?
Mike: I’ve got to be honest. I spent a lot of my career covering boxing, and I loved the theatrics of boxing, so Handshake II interests me.
But the game’s the thing, and I want to see how the Lions’ offense holds up against a terrific 49ers defense, and how the 49ers attack the Lions with Randy Moss, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore.
For this early in the season, NBC has a chance for a good show on a Sunday night.
Tim: To me it’s a statement game for the Lions. Last year, they beat only one playoff team (Broncos) on way to a 10-6 record and their first playoff appearance in 12 years.
This is a chance for a signature win on the road against a great defense and a team expected to compete for the NFC Championship. It makes a huge statement early in the season.
For the Lions to take the next step, they have to start beating playoff-quality teams. When they start doing that, they’ll have taken the next step under Schwartz, in my opinion.
Mike: All good points, Tim, but I’m not looking at the broad picture. Not that it isn’t important or isn’t meaningful, but I want to see how the Lions perform overall in a big game early in the season.
The last time they played on Sunday night, it was last season in New Orleans, and they imploded with bad penalties. They looked bad, and people probably remember the comment by Cris Collinsworth, after
“Haven’t they learned anything from Thanksgiving?” Collinsworth said, referring to
Just play good, solid, smart football. I think it’s early for statement games.
Where do you see the biggest matchups?
Tim: If the Lions can stop San Francisco running back Frank Gore the way they did Steven Jackson on Sunday, they’re in business. The 49ers rushed for 186 yards against the Packers in that win Sunday, and when they can control the ball like that and let quarterback Alex Smith play a ball-control and play-action passing game, they’re impossible to beat with that defense.
We all know Matthew Stafford will have to play well and make plays for the Lions to win, but if the defense makes Smith have to make plays, then I think they have a shot.
Who would have thought going into Sunday’s game,
Mike: I wouldn’t have thought that, but I don’t think Alex Smith will beat Stafford in the passing game. He can throw against any defense, even one as good as San Francisco’s. That doesn’t guarantee a victory, but the passing game gives the Lions a chance in any game.
Yes, the 49ers deserve to be favored, but strange things have been known to happen in San Francisco. Maybe this will be another one.