Time to believe: 49ers beat previously unbeaten Lions, 25-19

By Larry Lage

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 16 2011 10:57 p.m. MDT

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes the ball in the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011.

Associated Press

DETROIT — Jim Harbaugh charged across the field, lifting his shirt to expose his belly to attempt a chest bump. He extended his right hand to Jim Schwartz for a shake and slapped him on the back with his left hand.

Schwartz didn't like what was done or said — claiming he heard an expletive — and went charging after Harbaugh. What an emotion-filled scene following a meeting of turnaround teams that matched pregame hype in San Francisco's 25-19 victory over Detroit on Sunday.

The NFC might have a nasty new rivalry no one saw coming.

After the 49ers knocked the Lions from the unbeaten ranks on Alex Smith's touchdown pass with 1:51 left, both coaches added some highlights — or lowlights — of their own.

Harbaugh took the blame in one breath — and a shot in the next.

"That's totally on me," Harbaugh said. "I shook his hand too hard."

Harbaugh, a first-year NFL coach who played at Michigan, had to be separated from Schwartz more than once after Schwartz came running and lunging toward him as both teams were going to the tunnel.

"I went to congratulate coach Harbaugh and got shoved out of the way," Schwartz said. "I didn't expect an obscenity at that point. Obviously, when you win a game like that, you are excited, but there is a protocol that goes with this league."

Players from the 49ers (5-1) and Lions (5-1) gathered and appeared to restore order — probably because they were worn out from a hard-hitting, penalty-filled game with four lead changes after halftime.

"Ironically, I was playing peacemaker," Detroit defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "But this is an emotional sport."

Smith's fourth-down, 6-yard pass to Delanie Walker gave San Francisco the go-ahead touchdown with 1:51 left. The play stood after video review didn't show definitely whether Walker's right knee was down before the ball reached the goal line.

David Akers gave San Francisco a six-point lead with 1:02 to go with a 37-yard field goal.

Detroit had a chance to drive for a tying field goal or a go-ahead TD, but couldn't get a first down against a swarming defense that hit and confused quarterback Matthew Stafford from the start.

That last drive started with San Francisco's fifth sack and ended with a catch and lateral — 69 yards short of the end zone — to trigger Harbaugh's exuberant celebration.

"It fires me up a lot," Harbaugh said. "If that offends you or anybody else, then so be it."

San Francisco lost its first five games last season and the five-time championship franchise failed to finish with a winning record for the eighth straight year. Harbaugh has made an instant impact, quickly changing culture with many of the same players. The NFC West-leading 49ers have won five of their first six games for the first time since 1998.

"He loves football," Smith said. "He's an emotional guy, and it's showing up on this team."

Smith lost a fumble on his first snap and threw an interception late in the third quarter, matching his turnover totals from the first five games in both categories.

But the No. 1 pick overall from the 2005 draft made a clutch pass to Walker for the win when Michael Crabtree drew away the defense.

"They kind of jumped Crab and left me open in the middle," Walker said. "Alex made a great read and made a perfect throw."

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