As thrilling as the event was for America in a voyeuristic sort of way, I find myself wishing last year's "handshake gate" incident had never happened. It overshadowed everything that was important in an otherwise fantastic football game between the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers.
Lost in all the fury and discussion about proper handshake decorum was the fact that both teams actually played one of the better football games of last season. There was hard hitting defense. At times, offenses found it difficult to move the ball. Sandwiched around all of that, there were spectacular runs, passes, and even a last second touchdown on fourth down which eventually won the game.
It was tough, quality football on the field for 60 minutes. Two teams that looked like mirror images of one another duked it out in a gridiron fist fight, and either could make the argument that they were the better team. Lions' fans were left thirsting for a rematch, while 49ers' fans could be rightfully excited. The problem? Nobody cared about that.
Why? Just because Jim Harbaugh had to get fired up and slap Jim Schwartz's hand and back. After that, Schwartz had to take public offense to Harbaugh's exuberance. Players got involved near the tunnel, and a supposedly ugly scene was underway. At that moment, the actual game was suddenly rendered meaningless. It was as if nothing happened on the field until the fight broke out. Everybody loves to gawk at a good fight, and suddenly, they had a big one.
Forget that fancy window dressing. This second matchup isn't about handshakes or taking offense at someone's excitable personality. It's not about what might happen when Schwartz and Harbaugh meet again. It's just a fantastic rematch of two teams who's similar, identically tough play puts them in a football brotherhood.
Last October, statistically, nearly everything was a draw. San Francisco had 314 yards, while Detroit gained 310. The 49ers had 17 total drives to the Lions' 16, and generated 5.0 yards per play to Deroit's 4.2. There was only two lopsided areas; rushing and passing. The Lions were dominated 203 to 66 on the ground, and the 49ers were worked 244 to 111 through the air. That proved to be the difference in the outcome. How will both teams adjust to each of their Achilles heels in the rematch? Will Harbaugh devise a way to stop Calvin Johnson? Can Gunther Cunningham bottle up Frank Gore this time around?
Those should be the major talking points this week, so remember the numbers and forget what you know about Schwartz and Harbaugh's icy personal interactions. Two evenly matched teams are set to do battle in a rematch of a fantastic game. That's what's most important.
Think of the Lions and 49ers as football siblings who don't always get along because they're so similar. Don't let the incessant need for a media sideshow get in the way of this great contest.
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