SAN FRANCISCO -- I know what I know, and I'm not going to tell you how I know it. Agreed?

I knew for a fact against the Lions Alex Smith frequently called two plays in the huddle. He would come to the line of scrimmage, look around and, many times — yes many — killed the first play, and that meant the offense ran the second play.

Got that?

But I wanted confirmation. Jim Harbaugh — Harbaugh the Vague and Evasive — was answering postgame questions at his postgame presser in his usual vague way when I asked if Smith called two plays in the huddle and sometimes killed the first play.

Harbaugh eyeballed me as only he can eyeball a media pest. And then he said, "Yes." The coach actually answered a direct question and gave away a tiny fraction of what he calls "scheme," and to him scheme is the holy of holies and he never talks about it. Except this time he did. Yes, he said.

There may be a real person inside Coach Harbaugh, for which, at this moment as I write my column on a crushing deadline, I am deeply grateful. Harbaugh went on to say Smith had an especially excellent game. Part of the excellence was getting out of the wrong play at the line, and directing the offense to the right play.

Are you with me? And that leads me to a deep thought about Smith. Many of us — me especially — debate how good he is, or if he's good at all. Let's put all that aside for a moment. I mean, he's 2-0 so far this season. We don't know if he can bring a team back because lately he hasn't had to. So that discussion is highly theoretical.

But one thing we know for sure and we know it right now. Smith is special in one area. He is smart in life and, more important, he is football smart. And because of Smith's intellect, Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman can depend on him not to run the wrong play.

Understand how important that is. Smith almost always runs the perfect play given the situation. He may not always be successful with the play — although against the Lions he was plenty successful — but he runs the right play and avoids the wrong play. By way of comparison, the Lions' Matthew Stafford often ran the wrong play and ran it badly on top of that. Stafford is a kindergartner and Smith is completing his Ph.D.

But I don't want to get lost on Smith, because this is not exclusively a Smith column. It is a state of the 49ers column, one I'm happy to write. It's imperative to praise the 49ers, imperative after they beat the Detroit Lions 27-19. It is imperative to praise them, not a little, but to heap a mountain of praise on them.

The 49ers opened this season with the highest degree of difficulty, starting in Green Bay against THAT team with THAT quarterback, and winning. And then opening at home against the Lions, a quality team. It's not that the 49ers beat these outfits — the 49ers dominated them.

At no time in either game were the 49ers in danger of losing. At no time in either game were the 49ers even challenged or made to sweat or worry or change their game plan or make any significant adjustment. Granted, two games is a small sample and things change fast in the NFL, but based upon these two whopping victories, the 49ers are the class of the league. Not merely the class of the NFC West. The class of the whole NFL.

How have they manifested this class? Specifically, how did they manifest it against the Lions?

Well, the Lions' offense, pretty hot in most games, became a nonfactor, as vestigial as the appendix is to the human body. You want vestigial? In the first half, Stafford had a passer rating of 29.9. The 49ers' defense made Stafford look awful. True, he has questionable mechanics and missed significant passes he should have made, but still.

And as usual, the Niners took away the opponent's running game, and as usual, the Niners mixed the run and pass on offense, and as usual, they used Frank Gore brilliantly — yes brilliantly, getting the best out of him without exhausting him.

This you must understand. The NFL is a passing league. The 49ers are not a passing team, not really. They are a run-first team, and they try to retain a run/pass balance. This makes them either a throwback or ahead of their time. You make the call.

I want to say something else about Harbaugh, in praise of Harbaugh, whom I criticize for his social inabilities and his lack of tact. His team is incredibly well-coached. You know that. I am going to use a word now and I don't mean it as criticism. I mean it as description. "Mechanical."

The 49ers' offense and defense are well coached and mechanical, as in running like machines. Bill Walsh's offense, in contrast, had more flair, was more poetic and beautiful. But mechanical also is good as long as it works. And Harbaugh's offense works. He has terrific coordinators, and that is the mark of a confident head coach, someone not afraid of other smart minds in the building, minds which may challenge his football mind.

So, I end with Harbaugh who kindly confirmed what I knew. The coaching part of Harbaugh is the best part of him. It is reliable, smart, tough, savvy and wise.

You can admire Harbaugh the coach. I certainly do.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.