Sunday's game between the Lions and 49ers was won for the ages. Physical on both sides of the ball with the victory going to the Niners. Although Detroit fans are probably upset over the loss, I think there's room for optimism concerning the team. For starters, I believe the Lions are still clearly the better team. Why? Looking at the Niners, they still have the same problem they've had since Steve Young left: Alex Smith. Inspite of the team's 5-1 record, Smith will be the downfall of Niners when the games really count. I know NFL personalities like the talking heads at ESPN have been raving about "how well Alex Smith plays under Harbaugh" and how "Harbaugh keeps things simple for Smith so that's why he's playing at a high level." That "simplicity" is what will eventually do them in. If you look at the Niners on film, It's not hard to see where the success of their offense is based: The running game. As long as Frank Gore can run the ball, Harbaugh can keep things simple for Smith. This team is only going to go as far as Frank Gore and the Niner defense takes them, not Alex Smith. Once they play an opponent who can exploit both of those realities, the Niners are toast. As good as SF's defense is, they're not good enough to stop an Aaron Rodgers led Packers team. They're not good enough to slow down a Drew Brees led Saints attack. And if they face the Lions for a second time around via the playoffs, I don't believe they will be able to walk away with a win from that game either.
I have been watching this year's Lions team very closely. That being said, there is one thing that is very evident to me about it. The only thing that can stop them, is themselves. It has enough pieces in place to not only make the playoffs, but also go deep into the post-season. The Lions lost against the Niners because it's players just don't realize how good they really are specifically on offense. I saw many opportunities for them to exploit the Niners defense in which Stafford and company left points on the field. I was shocked at how little Calvin Johnson was used. Matthew Stafford needs to realize that Calvin Johnson is always open. I don't care if he has 3 or even 4 guys on him. You throw him the ball because he's bigger, faster, and more athletic than any corner or safety in the league. When the game is on the line the ball needs to go to Johnson. Even on plays where opposing defenses over commit to take him away, the Lions have more than enough playmakers to utilize on the field to make defenses pay. Megatron is like Shaq on a football field. Shaq in his prime was virtually unstoppable. Too big. Too strong. Johnson is that rare of a talent on the football field as well. There is not a player in the league who can stop him. That includes Darrelle Revis. When the Lions figure this out, they will even be tougher to beat than they are right now.
In essence, the loss to the Niners is really not a big deal regarding the future of where the Lions are headed this year. The Niners are still the "Niners." As long as Alex Smith is still the QB of that team, they are going nowhere. He will eventually fold the way he always does.