SAN FRANCISCO ? With a 10-point second-half lead on the Detroit Lions, it seemed the only way the 49ers could lose was if they did something inconceivable.
Coach Mike Singletary opted to go for it on fourth down late in the third quarter at the 49ers? 46-yard line. Instead of keeping the door ajar for a Lions comeback, Alex Smith?s 48-yard pass to Frank Gore, in essence, sealed the victory at Candlestick Park.
?Obviously, it was a gutsy call there,? Smith said.
And it was a successful call. Gore scored three plays later on a 1-yard run for the 49ers? final points in their 20-6 victory over the Lions.
?I thought the defense had begun to get in rhythm,? Singletary said. ?I think we had sort of figured out what they were trying to do and feeling pretty confident defensively. ... So it just seemed like it was a good time to do it.?
Smith and Gore executed a play-fake into the middle of the line, and then Gore made an over-the-shoulder catch and turned upfield for the big gain.
?Alex just told me to get out,? Gore said. ?He was going to look for me. I did a great play fake. They bit and then they dropped back. I saw them turn their backs and I just leaked out and Alex threw me the ball.?
Singletary said he alerted offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye prior to the third-down play that he was prepared to go for it on fourth-and-1.
?And that?s about all I?m going to tell him,? Singletary said. ?But, for the most part, he called it, and he made that play, and it worked out well.?
When the 49ers ran the play in practice, it was never as easy as it was in the first quarter of Sunday?s game. But when Smith rolled right and looked down the field, he saw nobody near 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree.
What looked like a certain touchdown turned into a field goal, though. Smith?s pass was underthrown, and Crabtree bobbled the ball as he tried to secure it. Those flaws allowed Lions cornerback William James enough time to recover and stop Crabtree after a 50-yard gain to the Detroit 14-yard line.
The 49ers settled for Ricky Schmitt?s 33-yard field goal.
?It never came open like that during the week (in practice), I?ll tell you that,? Smith said. ?He broke open. I tried to get it out there to him. It?s like a lay-up. You don?t want to necessarily make that too difficult on him. It was probably a combination of a little underthrown and the bobble, and it?s not a touchdown.?
Left tackle Joe Staley, who missed six games with ligament damage in his right knee, did not play in the second half with a contusion to the same knee. Veteran Barry Sims replaced Staley.
Right guard Chilo Rachal (left knee strain) missed one play, and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (right wrist sprain) played the entire game.
Second-year player Cody Wallace, a fourth-round draft pick, suited up for the first time in his career. Wallace saw action on special teams, as a tight end in a goal-line situation, at right guard to replace Rachal for one play, and for a series at center.