Coaches nearly come to blows

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Coaches nearly come to blows

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Jim Harbaugh charged across the field, lifting his shirt to expose his belly to attempt a chest bump. He extended his right hand to Jim Schwartz for a shake and slapped him on the back with his left hand. Schwartz didn't like what was done or said -- claiming he heard an expletive -- and went charging after Harbaugh. What an emotion-filled scene following a meeting of turnaround teams that matched pregame hype in San Francisco's 25-19 victory over Detroit on Sunday. The NFC might have a nasty new rivalry no one saw coming. After the 49ers knocked the Lions from the unbeaten ranks on Alex Smith's touchdown pass with 1:51 left, both coaches added some highlights -- or lowlights -- of their own. Harbaugh took the blame in one breath -- and a shot in the next. "That's totally on me," Harbaugh said. "I shook his hand too hard." NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the incident will be reviewed. Harbaugh, a first-year NFL coach who played at Michigan, had to be separated from Schwartz more than once after Schwartz came running and lunging toward him as both teams were going to the tunnel. "I went to congratulate coach Harbaugh and got shoved out of the way," Schwartz said. "I didn't expect an obscenity at that point. Obviously, when you win a game like that, you are excited, but there is a protocol that goes with this league." Players from the 49ers (5-1) and Lions (5-1) gathered and appeared to restore order -- probably because they were worn out from a hard-hitting, penalty-filled game with four lead changes after halftime. "Ironically, I was playing peacemaker," Detroit defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "But this is an emotional sport." Smith's fourth-down, 6-yard pass to Delanie Walker gave San Francisco the go-ahead touchdown with 1:51 left. The play stood after video review didn't show definitely whether Walker's right knee was down before the ball reached the goal line. David Akers gave San Francisco a six-point lead with 1:02 to go with a 37-yard field goal. Detroit had a chance to drive for a winning TD, but couldn't get a first down against a swarming defense that hit and confused quarterback Matthew Stafford from the start. That last drive started with San Francisco's fifth sack and ended with a catch and lateral -- 69 yards short of the end zone -- to trigger Harbaugh's exuberant celebration. "It fires me up a lot," Harbaugh said. "If that offends you or anybody else, then so be it." San Francisco lost its first five games last season and the five-time championship franchise failed to finish with a winning record for the eighth straight year. Harbaugh has made an instant impact, quickly changing culture with many of the same players. The NFC West-leading 49ers have won five of their first six games for the first time since 1998. "He loves football," Smith said. "He's an emotional guy, and it's showing up on this team." Smith lost a fumble on his first snap and threw an interception late in the third quarter, matching his turnover totals from the first five games in both categories. But the No. 1 pick overall from the 2005 draft made a clutch pass to Walker for the win when Michael Crabtree drew away the defense. "They kind of jumped Crab and left me open in the middle," Walker said. "Alex made a great read and made a perfect throw." Smith was 17 of 32 for 125 yards, going early and often to Crabtree, who matched a career high with nine receptions for 77 yards. Frank Gore ran 15 times for 141 yards, including a season-long 55-yard gain, and scored a TD that pulled the 49ers within three after they were outscored 10-0 in the first quarter. Stafford looked shaky for the first time this season and San Francisco had a lot to do with that. "It's a good defense," he acknowledged. Stafford was 28 of 50 for 293 yards with two TDs. Detroit had won nine straight regular-season games, dating to last season, in what was the league's longest active streak. "We had trouble getting guys free, and when we did, we didn't always make the throws," Schwartz said. "We need to get the running game going so that we don't look quite so one-dimensional." The Lions couldn't move the ball on the ground with either Jahvid Best or Maurice Morris against a sturdy front and perhaps the league's best linebacking corps, allowing the 49ers to hit and harass Stafford. He was sacked once in the end zone, giving the 49ers a safety that cut their deficit to one point midway through the second quarter. Jason Hanson missed a 52-yard field goal that would've given Detroit a four-point lead late in the first half. Akers made a 55-yard kick to match a season high, putting the 49ers ahead 12-10 as time expired in the half. Brandon Pettigrew had eight catches for 42 yards and a score. Calvin Johnson added seven receptions for 113 yards, but didn't score after being the NFL's first player with nine TD receptions in the first five games of a season. Stafford connected with Nate Burleson on a 5-yard pass into the end zone ruled incomplete on the field. It was overturned after video review, giving Detroit a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Burleson caught the ball and got both feet down, then lost the ball after tumbling beyond the end zone -- a play similar to Johnson's well-documented catch that was ruled incomplete last year at Chicago. The 49ers overcame 15 penalties, including five false starts at raucous Ford Field, and Detroit drew six flags. "Once you get a couple false starts, it's like throwing gasoline on a fire," Smith said. Notes: San Francisco and Chicago combined for 14 false starts at Detroit, matching Houston's record from 2004 for the most false starts by visiting teams in back-to-back games since 1991, according to STATS LLC. ... The teams met with 9-1 records after being 1-9 at same point last season. ... Harbaugh played for Baltimore in 1998, when Schwartz was a Ravens assistant.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.