Here is a drive-by-drive look at how the 49ers beat the by a score of 20-6 on Sunday.
- The Lions opened yesterday's game with a stellar drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock and lasted 15 plays. Unlike most of the Lions' long drives, there were only a couple third-down conversions, because the offense was moving the ball extremely well on first and second down. Third down did come up again when the Lions were on the 8-yard line, and they did not move the chains. Jason Hanson's 27-yard field goal was good, but it was a definite disappointment for the Lions not to cap off the drive with a touchdown.
- Following three and outs by both teams, the 49ers ran a play-action that left Michael Crabtree wide open downfield. He made the catch and was tackled by Will James after bobbling the ball for a second or two. That prevented him from scoring, but the gain of 50 yards put the 49ers in field goal range and Ricky Schmitt nailed his first career attempt, a 33-yard kick, to tie the game up at 3 after the drive stalled.
- The Lions appeared to have another solid drive going, but on the fifth play of the possession, Drew Stanton was hit from behind and had the ball knocked out of his hands. Takeo Spikes recovered the fumble at the San Francisco 47, giving the 49ers great field position.
- The Lions' defense bailed out the offense by making a big stop on 4th and 1 at the Detroit 24. San Francisco decided to go for it, and Frank Gore was stopped for no gain, giving the ball back to the Lions and keeping the score tied at 3.
- Calvin Johnson made a catch on 3rd and 6 for a gain of 20, but he had the ball stripped by Ahmad Brooks, who also forced the fumble on the Lions' last drive. It looked like Calvin was going to be able to recover his own fumble or Bryant Johnson would get to it, but the two came diving in at the same time and as a result prevented each other from getting the ball. A 49er ended up with it at the SF 48, and once again the defense had to bail out the offense following a critical mistake.
- Thankfully, just like the last drive, the Lions' defense again made a stop after the turnover. This time they forced a punt, which was downed at the 4-yard line.
- The Lions went three and out, but a good punt put the 49ers in their territory to start the next drive. Unfortunately, though, the good field position finally translated into points for San Francisco. The defense did make a stop, but Ricky Schmitt made a 39-yard field goal to give the 49ers the lead.
- With a couple minutes left on the clock, the Lions appeared to have a chance to tie things back up before halftime, but on the fourth play of the drive, Drew Stanton threw a terrible pass and was intercepted by Patrick Willis, who took the pick back to the Detroit 40.
- San Francisco made it down to the 10-yard line before the defense made a stop, but no points were scored thanks in part to Jim Schwartz calling a timeout before Schmitt was about to attempt another field goal. The kick would have been good, but the timeout forced him to do it again, and the second time around it was blocked. As a result, the Lions got the ball back and were able to take a knee to run out the clock and go into halftime only trailing 6-3.
- The second half opened with back-to-back three and outs, but the 49ers got things going offensively on their second drive of the third quarter. It helped that they started on the Lions' 49-yard line after a bad punt by Nick Harris and that the Lions couldn't stop Frank Gore for a few plays. He ran for 19, 7, 15, and 6 yards before being stuffed for no gain on the 2-yard line. That made it 3rd and goal, and the 49ers faked the handoff to Gore. It looked like a perfectly executed bootleg that would allow Alex Smith to run into the end zone untouched, but at the last second he threw it to Vernon Davis for a touchdown. The Lions challenged since it looked like Smith may have been over the line of scrimmage when he made the pass, but the call on the field was upheld and the 49ers took a 13-3 lead.
- The Lions' problems on offense continued with another three and out, and the 49ers capitalized on the decent field position (their 37) for the second drive in a row. Frank Gore touched the ball on every play of the drive, but the biggest play actually involved him catching a pass. On 4th and 1 at the SF 46, Gore got wide open and caught a pass that turned into a gain of 48 yards. It was just an absolute breakdown by the Lions' defense, and three plays later Gore ran into the end zone from a yard out to put the 49ers on top 20-3. The extra point was nearly no good, but the ball went over the crossbar despite being partially blocked by a Lions player.
- Calvin Johnson caught a pass for a gain of 30 yards on the Lions' next drive, which was the first and only time Detroit moved the chains in the third quarter.
- The Lions got another first down thanks to a pass interference penalty on San Francisco, keeping the drive alive after a Drew Stanton pass on 4th and 8 was incomplete. It didn't matter all that much, though, because the same player that got the interference penalty intercepted Stanton on the next play. Stanton simply threw the ball behind an open receiver and got picked off as a result.
- The 49ers picked up one first down before having to punt, and they again downed the ball deep in Lions territory, this time at the 2-yard line.
- The Lions moved the ball once on their own and once because of a penalty on San Francisco before the drive completely stalled and they had to punt.
- Julian Peterson, playing against one of his former teams, stripped the ball from Frank Gore, allowing Sammie Hill to recover the fumble to give Detroit the ball at the 49ers' 29. On the next play, however, Drew Stanton threw another terrible pass and was picked off by Dre' Bly, giving the ball right back to San Francisco. That mistake ended his day, as Daunte Culpepper came in after San Francisco went three and out. Culpepper led the Lions down the field with a bunch of short passes and Detroit got a 38-yard field goal out of it to make the score 20-6.
- The Lions got the ball back after another 49ers three and out, but Calvin Johnson fumbled it away for the second time in this game. He caught a pass that would have moved the chains on 4th and 1, but Dre' Bly stripped him and recovered the fumble, allowing Alex Smith to take a knee three times to end the game.
Despite not having Larry Foote and Phillip Buchanon, the defense played quite well. Yes, they gave up a couple big plays that ended up leading to points, but numerous times the offense made mistakes to back the defense up against a wall and the defense responded by making a stop. All in all, I was definitely pleased with the defense, especially players like Jason Hunter and Louis Delmas, who both had a great game.
The offense, on the other hand, was bad again. Promising drives either ended in a field goal or more often a turnover, though having a quarterback making his first ever start obviously contributed to that. Still, someone like Calvin Johnson, who did have a good game statistically, can't be fumbling the ball multiple times, especially in situations where the Lions are moving the ball. Overall, it was just a terrible game by the offense, which isn't surprising, but it is disappointing to see another relatively good performance by the defense go to waste like that.