Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - Alex Smith's six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker with 1:51 remaining lifted the San Francisco 49ers over the previously unbeaten Detroit Lions, 25-19, in one of the unexpected marquee matchups of the Week 6 schedule.
Going into Week 6 last year, these two teams were a combined 1-9. Both teams went on to finish the 2010 season with 6-10 records.
Obviously, things were much different heading into Sunday's matchup, with the teams combining for a 9-1 mark.
Frank Gore carried the ball 15 times for 141 yards and a touchdown for the 49ers (5-1), who are off to their best six-game start since 1998 (5-1).
Smith completed 17-of-32 passes for 125 yards, a touchdown and an interception for San Francisco, which has won eight straight games against Detroit.
Matthew Stafford completed 28-of-50 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions (5-1), who were looking for their first 6-0 start since 1956.
Calvin Johnson came into the game with at least one TD catch in every contest this season. The star wide receiver had a big day with seven catches for 113 yards, but was held without a touchdown.
"We didn't play our best in any of the three phases: offense, defense or special teams," said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. "(But it) still came down to one play at the end on defense and we fell just short."
Down by two, 15-13, late in the third quarter, the Lions got a huge interception. Amari Spievey picked off Smith and returned the ball 30 yards to the San Fran 49. Nate Burleson's 14-yard catch got the ball to the 22. Two plays later, Dashon Goldson of the 49ers kicked the ball after an incompletion. That set up a 3rd-and-5.
Johnson caught a nine-yard pass for a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, Burleson seemed to make a catch in the back of the end zone. It was ruled an incomplete pass on the field, but it was reversed to a touchdown following a review. A failed two-point conversion kept the Lions in front by a 19-15 margin with 13:48 to play.
Later in the fourth, Ted Ginn returned a punt 40 yards to the Detroit 35. Two nine-yard rushes by Kendall Hunter preceded a nine-yard run by Gore. With a 1st-and-goal at the seven, San Fran lost one yard over the next three plays to set up a fourth down. Smith found Walker coming underneath the coverage and hit the tight end for a six-yard score. The ball just crossed the line before Walker's knee hit the ground, giving the 49ers a 22-19 lead with 1:51 remaining.
After the Lions went three-and-out, David Akers made a 37-yard field goal to make it a 25-19 game with 1:02 to play.
San Francisco's defense held strong to send Detroit to its first loss since December 5th of last year.
After the game, both head coaches exchanged words at midfield. The incident ended with Schwartz running after 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. The two coaches had to be separated.
"I went to congratulate coach Harbaugh and got shoved out of the way," Schwartz said. "And then I didn't expect an obscenity at that point, so it was a surprise to me at the end of the game."
Harbaugh said that he was just really excited about the win.
"I was just really revved up and that is totally on me," Harbaugh said."I shook his hand too hard. I really went in and it was a strong, kind of a slap- grab handshake, kind of like the same as I had been doing with (special-teams player Blake) Costanzo and some of the other guys. That was on me. A little too hard of a handshake there."
Detroit's defense made a big play early on to get the crowd going. On San Francisco's first offensive play, Smith had the ball stripped away by defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.
The Lions moved the ball to the two-yard line, but a false start penalty moved the ball back five yards. Two incomplete passes were followed by Jason Hanson's 25-yard field goal with 11:35 left.
Detroit scored the first touchdown of the contest late in the first quarter. A defensive pass interference penalty put the ball at the 16. Three players later, tight end Brandon Pettigrew made a great catch in the middle of the end zone with Patrick Willis all over him. The score made it 10-0 with 4:44 left.
The 49ers promptly responded with a touchdown. Gore's 47-yard run put the ball at the one. He then completed the eight-play drive with a TD run on the first play of the second quarter.
A nice play by San Francisco's defense cut the gap to one. Aldon Smith sacked Stafford in the end zone for a safety with 7:44 remaining until half.
The Lions had the ball at the San Fran 23-yard line late in the first half, but a 15-yard chop block penalty proved to be a drive killer. Hanson went on to miss a 52-yard field goal to keep it 10-9.
The 49ers had just enough time to move the ball to the 37 of the Lions. With five seconds left on the clock, Akers came onto the field and made a 55-yard field goal to give the visitors a 12-10 edge at the break.
Detroit, which has trailed at the half in each of its last three wins, gave the ball to Jahvid Best early in the second half. The running back caught passes of 21 and 32 yards to get the ball to the six. But the Lions settled for a 24-yard Hanson field goal and 13-12 lead.
But Gore's 55-yard run led to a 31-yarder from Akers for a 15-13 San Fran lead with 9:23 left in the third.
The 49ers lead the all-time regular season series with the Lions, which dates back to 1950, by a 35-26-1 margin. Detroit is just 1-13 in its last 14 games versus the 49ers, with its only win in that span coming in Week 4 of 1995 (27-24)...Detroit had won nine straight contests dating back to last season... The 49ers are 3-0 on the road this year, which is their first three-game road win streak in a single season since 1997 (won five straight road games)...San Fran had 203 rushing yards, compared to 66 for the Lions...The 49ers had 15 penalties for 120 yards.