With the season hanging in the balance after a 0-2 start, the Lions didn't fail to disappoint as they went to San Francisco and got dominated by the 49ers. The Lions not only fell behind 21-3 in the first half, but they didn't even bother to make a comeback attempt, either. The 49ers had little trouble moving the ball both in the air and on the ground, and aside from Rudi Johnson, the Lions' offense didn't do anything. That combination resulted in a 31-13 loss that can only be summed up as typical.
Detroit won the toss and elected to take the ball first. To me that was seen as a way to get the offense in a rhythm again after last week's end of the fourth quarter debacle, specifically by Jon Kitna. Well, the rhythm didn't show up for most of the game, especially on the first few drives. The Lions punted the ball away after their drive went only to their own 35.
The 49ers' special teams played a big part in this game early on as San Francisco was able to win the field position battle. San Francisco's drive stalled after they got to the Detroit 41, but a punt down to the 10-yard line backed up the Lions' offense. On 3rd and 6 at the 14, Jon Kitna dropped back to pass, was sacked, and fumbled the ball. It came loose inside the 3-yard line and was recovered by Dominic Raiola at the 2. Nick Harris then came out to punt, and although it went 57 yards, he had to kick the ball very quickly in order to prevent it from getting blocked. That allowed Allen Rossum to return the punt just past midfield to give SF great field position.
The 49ers wasted little time in taking advantage of that field position thanks to Frank Gore. Gore busted loose for a 33-yard gain that set up an eventual 6-yard touchdown pass from former Lion J.T. O'Sullivan to Isaac Bruce. O'Sullivan scrambled around and found Bruce on the right side of the end zone for the score, putting the 49ers on top 7-0.
After the Lions went three and out and the 49ers again started near midfield, it was obvious that this was about to become a rout. All it took was a couple medium length passes by O'Sullivan and then a healthy dose of Frank Gore for the 49ers to add to their lead. Gore scored his first TD of the day on a 4-yard run and gave San Francisco a 14-0 lead. It was evident that the Lions had to do something on their next drive; otherwise, they were going to go down 21-0 for the third straight week.
On the proceeding drive the Lions did get on the scoreboard. However, it was only a 44-yard Jason Hanson field goal. The field goal was set up mainly by Rudi Johnson, who ended up having a great game and may have separated himself as this team's starter. Kevin Smith played at the start of the game, but that was it once Johnson started playing well.
Although the Lions couldn't go down 21-0 in this game like they had done the previous two weeks, you could still sense that the 49ers were about to add another TD. That turned out to be the case in really ugly fashion for the Lions. After a defensive holding, O'Sullivan completed passes of 25, 18, and 24 yards. The last one went to Delanie Walker for a touchdown that put SF on top 21-3. The pass defense got shredded on this drive as O'Sullivan completed passes with ease. Mike Martz had to have been enjoying this.
As the first half came to an end, there was some really questionable coaching that happened. San Francisco was held to fourth down and was forced to punt the ball away with 10 seconds left. The Lions called a timeout to stop the clock with 10 seconds remaining, but what made no sense to me is that they could have stopped the clock much earlier but waited to call the timeout. That meant that the clock ran out on the ensuing punt, even after a couple of penalties were called and then declined by both teams.
After the Lions defense came up with a huge stop after a promising drive for the 49ers stalled to open the second half, it was the offense's turn to start clawing its way back. I figured they'd go down and score to make this at least somewhat interesting like the previous two weeks, but unfortunately that never happened. Detroit's offense did seem to be clicking and they did have a rhythm going. However, that rhythm quickly ended when Jon Kitna underthrew Mike Furrey and was picked off. The interception was a typical Kitna move that killed all the momentum the Lions had going.
Following a missed field goal by San Francisco and back-to-back three and outs by both teams, the Lions did cut into the 49ers' lead. Once again, though, it was only a field goal (this time from 51 yards out) by Jason Hanson. Rudi Johnson ran for 27 yards before the offense failed to move the chains again to set up the field goal that made the score 21-6 late in the third quarter.
San Francisco got the ball back really needing only a touchdown to put this game out of reach. Unlike their past scoring drives, they slowly moved the ball this time and used up the clock while they went down the field. It was another healthy dose of Frank Gore as well as a couple O'Sullivan passes every once in a while that eventually put the ball on the Lions' 1-yard line. SF had it 4th and goal and originally was just going to kick a field goal. However, after taking a timeout to talk things over, the 49ers decided to go for the TD. Allen Rossum, who normally plays cornerback, came into the game because of his speed. He got the ball on an end around and simply outran Lions defenders to the left pylon and squeezed into the end zone for a touchdown.
Needing points quickly, the Lions went into hurry-up mode on the following drive and finally scored a touchdown of their own. Jon Kitna was having success finding open receivers for respectable gains, but it was actually Rudi Johnson that had the biggest gain of them all. He got the ball on a screen pass, broke a couple tackles, and ran into the end zone after a nice move or two for a 34-yard TD. That made the score 28-13 with less than seven minutes to go, meaning it was onside kick time.
Jason Hanson kicked the onside and the bounce didn't go in the Lions' favor. In fact, the ball bounced right to Arnaz Battle, who proceeded to return it 28 yards all the way down to the Detroit 12-yard line. The 49ers were unable to get back into the end zone, but they added a field goal from 25 yards out to truly put the game out of reach. Detroit still had 4:25 left, but considering they were trailing 31-13, this game was as good as over.
The Lions came back out again in hurry-up mode and again were moving the ball. Problem is they were moving the ball very slowly on short passes where the receivers stayed inbounds. It's not like it mattered anyways, but it was just another example of poor play-calling in a situation where Detroit had to move the ball quickly. Even so, that would be the least important thing about this drive.
As Jon Kitna dropped back to pass, his protection collapsed and he was sacked for a loss of 6 yards. When Kitna went down it looked like his leg got wrapped under the defender and he came up gimpy. Kitna limped off the field in pain with what appeared to be a leg injury, and at first glance it looked to be pretty severe. However, after the game he was limping around, and as it turns out he sprained his knee. I'm not exactly sure how long he will be out for, but just as an example, Seahawks running back Maurice Morris missed the last two games with the same injury. That is how long he was expected to be out for, so we'll have to see if that's the case with Kitna as well.
After Kitna went out with the injury, Dan Orlovsky came in and quickly showed that he is not anything more than a backup quarterback. Orlovsky was picked off by a defensive end on a screen pass. Yes, a defensive end. Although he didn't have time to warm up, there is no excuse for getting picked off like he did, which brings me to my next point.
Since the Lions are on a bye next week, Kitna will have a full two weeks to recover if he even needs to. By the time of Detroit's next game, which comes against the Bears at home on October 5, Drew Stanton should be close to if not 100% healthy, meaning he could start if it came to that. I doubt the coaches will give up on Kitna this easily, but this injury may cause them to put Stanton in. And no, Dan Orlovsky should not get the start. Not only is he not starting material, but to me, giving Stanton a shot means that this team is building toward the future. Things may not work out with Stanton, but at least we could find out sooner rather than later.
Anyways, following the interception San Francisco ran out the clock to end the game. The 49ers won 31-13 and really did put an end to the Lions' season. The loss dropped Detroit to 0-3 on the season, and with Kitna injured, the calls for Stanton to start will be unbelievably loud the next two weeks. Considering the Lions are idle this upcoming week, the main storyline will be involving who should start against Chicago on October 5. I vote for Stanton simply because this season isn't going anywhere, so what do the Lions have to lose? You could answer that question by saying "another game," but if Kitna is the starter, especially an injured Kitna, that will likely be the end result anyways.