The clock struck 12 and the gilded coach pulled out of the palace parking lot without Cinderella, as the San Francisco 49ers took yet another surprising step forward, beating previously undefeated Detroit on the road 25-19 Sunday.
The 49ers hit the Lions at their strongest point, rush defense, trampling Detroit on 203 yards rushing, the second straight week San Francisco has ground out over 200 yards rushing. The Niners' defense also kept Lions wideout supreme Calvin Johnson out of the end zone for the first time this season. Down by five, 19-14, with just under two minutes to play, quarterback Alex Smith smartly delivered a 6-yard slant-in to Delanie Walker for the go-ahead score. Both teams stand at 5-1, but San Francisco now jumps to the top as the league's biggest surprise.
PULL-EEEZE! The NFL saved itself some sizeable embarrassment Sunday when a touchdown reception by the Lions' Nate Burleson initially was called incomplete. The play was a mirror reflection of last year's most controversial play: the Calvin Johnson TD reception against Chicago that was ruled incomplete because Johnson supposedly didn't hold the ball through the completion to the ground, to the locker room, to the parking lot after the game. Anyone who saw that play felt ripped off. It was as clear a touchdown as ever was scored. The call on Burleson, rightfully, was overturned. The problem is in the wording of what is a completion. I find it odd that the receiver has to immobilize the ball without movement and possess the ball "through completion," when running backs only have to wave the ball within a two-block radius of the end zone to get the arms-up signal.
ANGLING FOR THE CORNER: Looking closely at the play that knocked out Pittsburgh strong safety Troy Polamalu in the Steelers' 17-13 win over Jacksonville, the concussion-inducing play was more than just Polamalu's lead-with-the-head tackle of granite-thighed Maurice Jones-Drew. It was actually a three-prong hit on Polamalu. On the ground after the tackle, Polamalu was nailed by his own defensive end, Brett Keisel, who was blocked back into the play. Topping it all off, Steelers free safety Ryan Clark rushed up and head-butted Polamalu afterward!...It was nice to see replays of a one-handed touchdown catch by a receiver not wearing tackified gloves. Kudos to you, Dallas Clark, for being the throwback that you are. The Indianapolis Colts' tight end made the 1-yard fourth-quarter grab in a 27-17 loss to Cincinnati, a team beginning to get some "Biggest Surprise" votes. The Bengals are now 4-2 behind rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. Hard to believe the once-mighty, now Manning-less Colts have plummeted to 0-6.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: San Francisco running back Frank Gore collected 141 rushing yards including a 55-yard touchdown run to help the 49ers pull down Detroit from the ranks of the unbeaten. But it was Gore's eye-popping 9.4 yards per carry average on just 15 carries that earned him this week's top honor.
Alan Ross is the author of 32 books, including Away from the Ball: The NFL's Off-the-Field Heroes. E-mail him at: email@example.com
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