The Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers are set to play an important early season game but the way it is being hyped has nothing to do with the matchups on the field. It’s all about Jim Schwartz facing Jim Harbaugh for the first time since the two exchanged heated words following the postgame handshake last October.
It will be an incident frequently rehashed on the pregame shows and game broadcast but it isn’t something that either side is giving much thought. Schwartz addressed the topic it yesterday:
The NFL’s a very scrutinized thing. It comes with it, but that’s long in the past. That seems so long ago that that occurred. When two teams take the field, that’s not going to be on one players’ mind and that’s the only thing that’s important.
Harbaugh was even more dismissive according to the San Jose Mercury News:
People who choose to use that to promote this game or any other game are really missing the point. As a rule of thumb, I have too much respect for the men who play this game – on both side sides to give it any significance.
Jim Harbaugh is exactly right. The truth is that the game has plenty of intrigue without any consideration of what happened after their last meeting.
The Lions are coming off their first playoff appearance since 1999 and trying to prove they can become consistent contenders. The 49ers are coming off a surprising NFC Championship Game appearance in 2011 and an upset win at Green Bay in week one.
It’s a rematch not of coaches following an abrasive incident. It is a rematch of two playoff teams that played a very competitive game last season. The 49ers handed the previously unbeaten Lions their first loss of the season thanks to a fourth down touchdown pass with under two minutes remaining.
Not only is a Lions-49ers matchup a game between two good teams, they are two teams with contrasting styles. The 49ers have developed into one of the top defensive teams in the NFL while the Lions rely more on their high-powered offense. The 49ers want to attack a defense through a physical running game while the Lions are perfectly happy to throw the ball early and often.
Strength will be put up against strength on Sunday night. It should be a lot of fun to watch, and that has nothing to do with last season’s handshake. Some games need extra story lines to make them interesting. Lions versus 49ers in week two is not one of them.