It was Jim Harbaugh who got the better end of the handshake once again.
An inspired defensive effort combined with undisciplined play by Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions added up to a 27-19 win in favor of San Francisco.
The Lions made a late comeback to make the score interesting, but this game was controlled by the 49ers from start to finish. San Francisco jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and never looked back.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford never got into a rhythm in this game, missing throws early and often. Stafford finished with 230 yards on 19-of-32 passing with a touchdown and an interception, but both the touchdown and nearly 100 of the yards came with under three minutes left when it appeared the 49ers backed off into a semi-prevent defense.
I can’t point the finger at Stafford alone, but the defense did a far better job than I thought. It was the offense that fell flat on their face in this game, Stafford especially. The interception Stafford threw was 10 feet over the head of his intended target, and his struggles continued throughout the game. Stafford threw over, under, and behind his receivers in regular fashion.
Stafford, however, wasn’t the only Lion to play sloppily. Detroit committed eight penalties for 67 yards, the biggest one being a running into the kicker penalty that turned a field goal into an eventual touchdown.
In the messy play category, DE Cliff Avril’s name has to come up. Avril got thrown around all night, and didn’t record a single tackle in the game. It seems sackmaster Cliff spent too much time holding out and not enough time working out this offseason.
Outside of Avril, the Lions’ makeshift defense held better than expected. They gave up 349 yards and 27 points, which aren’t great numbers, but it was enough to keep Detroit in the game. It was the defense, however, that allowed the Niners to drive down the field and score the put-away touchdown with just over six minutes left. The 49ers converted third downs of 7, 9, and 14 yards on the drive, with all three being passes to WR Michael Crabtree.
Considering three starting members of Detroit’s secondary were out with an injury, 27 points is acceptable.
The Lions offense scoring 12 points in the first 58 minutes of the game is anything but acceptable.
Stafford was bad and the playcalling questionable. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan called only two screen passes, something I believe the Lions are good at executing. Of course, one of the screen plays was derailed because Stafford chucked it at WR Calvin Johnson’s shoes. Tough to do much with a screen pass when you have to hit the deck to catch it.
Johnson failed to get 100 yards, finishing with eight catches for 94 yards. Johnson’s goal of 100 yards in every game during the 2012 season won’t happen, but he was hardly the problem for Detroit. In fact, Megatron was Detroit’s best offensive weapon in the game.
I understand the theory of keeping a balanced attack on offense, but the Lions are a pass-first team. I don’t think the Lions passed enough in this game, but with Stafford playing the way he did, it’s tough to blame Linehan for trying to run it.
I’m not sure it would have helped, but Ryan Broyles didn’t see the field despite being active. Lions fans will have to wait at least another week to see what the kid can do.
After a very uneventful handshake with Harbaugh after the game, Schwartz summed things up pretty well.
“We have to be better in all phases.”
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