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Sunday night wrap-up: 49ers kicking it old school

Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball for a one yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park on September 16, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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The handshake was anti-climactic, a civil exchange that wouldn’t have been worth mentioning without the context.

It was the bludgeoning Jim Harbaugh’s guys gave Jim Schwartz’s on the field that made this one noteworthy.

The 49ers pounded the Lions into submission in prime time, sending a message that they’re still going to win games by being more physical than your side.

The 49ers ran for 148 yards in a 27-19 win over the Lions, with Frank Gore looking like a young man again and pacing the offense.

They also held a potent offense to four Jason Hanson field goals for the meaningful 58 minutes, bullying the Lions at the line of scrimmage.

It’s become fashionable to say it’s a passing league, as if minimizing old ways takes away their effectiveness. But the two most dominant-looking teams of the day were the 49ers and the Texans, who get it done in the old style.

You might not want to watch it every week, but when it’s executed well, it’s still an impressive thing to watch.

Here are five more things we learned on Sunday Night Football:

1. Alex Smith has grown beyond being compared to a Trent Dilfer-style handler, whose only job is to not screw it up.

He makes plays occasionally, and he even bled for good measure. Those third-down conversions late were beautifully designed and beautifully executed.

But the beauty of Smith in this offense isn’t what he does, it’s what they don’t bother asking him to do, and him being OK with that.

He’s got an average arm, but makes up for it by throwing (and not throwing) at the right time.

He’s a prime example of the fit being more important than the talent, and he and Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman fit together perfectly.

They could do different things with a better player, but Smith has also grown to the point where they’re able to work with him.

2. The Lions are missing something on offense.

It’s easy to pin it on suspended running back Mikel Leshoure, who will return next week.

But if not him, it needs to be someone. They need some degree of balance, and the cast of characters they’re using at the moment (Kevin Smith, Joique Bell) aren’t getting it done.

Leshoure would probably suffice. In a perfect world, they could use him in tandem with Jahvid Best, still on the PUP list because of his post-concussion issues. Best’s ability as a pass-catcher out of the backfield would be especially useful on third down, where the Lions struggled so much early.

3. Harbaugh can talk about No. 1 receivers all he wants. It’s his fullbacks and tight ends that make his offense go.

Vernon Davis is a matchup nightmare, and not just for the Lions. I’m not sure (short of a young Dennis Rodman) who is capable of covering this guy.

But Delanie Walker’s role as the move tight end/fullback shouldn’t be overlooked. He doesn’t turn up in box scores often, but he’s excellent at rooting out linebackers.

He had a number of tooth-rattling blocks that made Frank Gore look faster than he really is, and rarely gets mention. Consider this a small step toward catching up.

4. Speaking of which, Randy Moss gets a lot of credit from opposing defensive backs. Why is another question.

He had four catches for 47 yards and a score last week, one for 14 against the Lions.

This isn’t the Moss that can knock the top off a defense, but they sure play him that way when he’s on the field.

5. Matt Stafford is a very good quarterback.

Matt Stafford threw some very bad balls.

His first half pick was quacking before Dashon Goldson got his hands on it, and he threw a few in the dirt as well. He also locks onto Calvin Johnson to the exclusion of other targets.

Maybe it was windy, or maybe the 49ers forced him to look more erratic than he actually is. Either way, he did not leave this one looking good.