The San Francisco 49ers are eliminated from playoff contention, and improving to 7-8 by defeating the woeful Detroit Lions isn’t exactly cause for celebration.
But for the 49ers, today’s 20-6 win over Detroit does represent progress.
The 49ers now just need to beat the Rams next week to finish the season 8-8, for their first non-losing season since 2002. That year the 49ers went 10-6, lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, and fired coach Steve Mariucci following the season. No coach in San Francisco has managed to muster a season better than 7-9 since.
Today quarterback Alex Smith had a solid outing, completing 20 of 31 passes for 230 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. Frank Gore added 28 carries for 71 yards and four catches for 81 yards.
For Detroit, the offense couldn’t hold onto the ball, as quarterback Drew Stanton threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, while wide receiver Calvin Johnson lost two fumbles. Their 2-13 record is better than last year’s, but the Lions don’t look much better than they did a season ago.
The 49ers, however, are clearly getting better. A win next week and a .500 record would represent a real step forward.