Game breakdown: 49ers/Lions

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's game between the 49ers and Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, NFL rankings for both teams, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the showdown between first-place teams that currently hold the top two seeds in the NFC if the playoffs were to begin today.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT
SITE: Ford Field in Detroit
SURFACE: FieldTurf
RECORDS: 49ers 4-1, 1-0 in NFC West, 3-1 in NFC; Lions 5-0, 2-0 in NFC North, 4-0 in NFC
LAST WEEK: 49ers defeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-3; Lions beat Chicago Bears 24-13
NFL RANKINGS: 49ers: No. 27 in total offense, No. 13 in total defense. Lions: No. 10 in total offense, No. 12 in total defense.
TV: FOX (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa)

SERIES HISTORY: 62nd regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 34-26-1. The 49ers have won the last seven meetings and 12 of the last 13. These two teams used to be in the same division and played twice each season until 1966. This could be the biggest 49ers-Lions game in 54 years. The two teams tied for the NFL Western Division title in 1957 with 8-4 records, which necessitated a one-game playoff. The 49ers led 27-7 midway through the third quarter and then watched the Lions storm back for a 31-27 win. The 49ers defeated the Lions 19-13 in 2006 in their only other trip to Ford Field.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Bears RB Matt Forte found some solid running lanes in Detroit on Monday night and that's where the 49ers need to attack with Frank Gore. San Francisco lacks a dynamic passing game, which is further thinned by injuries to WRs Braylon Edwards and Josh Morgan. The Lions generate an excellent push inside on short drops and storm the edges on deeper sets, so QB Alex Smith's 104.1 passer rating – built on efficiency – will receive a stress test. The 49ers are thriving on strong run defense and a plus-10 turnover margin. Lions RB Jahvid Best doesn't figure to be a major factor on the ground, but will be an important outlet receiver to keep Stafford out of constant third-and-long situations. No one has found an answer for WR Calvin Johnson (NFL record nine touchdown catches through five games), and San Francisco has to pick its poison because the Lions have a pair of quality tight ends who present mismatches over the middle of the field.

FAST FACTS: The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in an NFL-high 27 consecutive games. ... The Lions are 5-0 for the first time since 1956.

BY THE NUMBERS: 64 -- The 49ers scoring differential, which is second in the league to the Lions (70). 1-9 -- The combined record of the Lions and 49ers heading into Week 6 of the NFL season last year. 9-1 -- Their combined record heading into a Week 6 matchup this season. 6 -- The number of quarterbacks in the NFL who have more touchdown passes than Calvin Johnson has touchdown receptions (9). 109-23 -- The amount the Lions are outscoring opponents in the second half this season. 7.5 -- The number of sacks for Lions DE Cliff Avril in his last eight home games.

--- "You all gotta play harder!" -- 49ers TE Vernon Davis, in his message to Bucs CB Ronde Barber during the 49ers' 48-3 blowout last Sunday.
--- "They are 4-1 and their only loss was an overtime game, so, obviously, they've been in every game. The biggest thing is they're taking care of the football. They are plus-10 in turnover ratio, they've thrown one interception and that's a big departure from where they've been in the past." -- Lions coach Jim Schwartz when asked this week about the 49ers.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers face the same type of defense they trounced last Sunday. Both the Lions and Buccaneers play a spread-out scheme defensively. The 49ers were able to run outside on the Bucs and will try to do the same against the Lions. Detroit starts slow, and the 49ers will try to start fast and take early control of the game, which is what they did against Tampa Bay.

LIONS GAME PLAN: Coach Jim Schwartz said the 49ers' 3-4 defense is very similar to the Packers' 3-4 scheme the Lions face twice every season. He raved about their front seven and called their secondary aggressive. The last time the Lions faced the Packers last season they attacked it with 41 rushing attempts for 190 yards. Part of that was due to the fact that backup quarterback Drew Stanton was starting, but the game plan for the Lions against the 49ers will certainly be similar in that they'll try to establish a run game early on. The Lions consider quick, short passes an extension of their run game, too, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been calling more and more of those types of plays over the last few weeks. On defense, not much changes from week-to-week for the Lions. The front four is going to attack the quarterback and rely on the back seven to clean up any draws or screens, which they did a terrific job of against the Bears. The corners are playing more man-to-man coverage than in years past and that's allowing defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to be creative in his calls.

--- 49ers CB Carlos Rogers, who has three interceptions this season, vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who leads the NFL with nine touchdown receptions this year. The 49ers play a lot of zone coverage but expect Rogers to keep a close eye on Johnson and have him when they do man-up. Johnson is averaging 15.6 yards per catch and is certainly Stafford's first option when looking downfield. Rogers is one of the best corners in the league at playing the ball, making this an interesting matchup.
--- Lions RT Gosder Cherilus, who has been benched in two games this season vs. 49ers pass rushers Parys Haralson, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, who can all play on the right side.
--- 49ers WR/KR Ted Ginn, who became the first player in franchise history to return a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in a single game, vs. Lions coverage units that swallowed up the Bears' Devin Hester: Hester returned four kickoffss for 84 yards and one punt for one yard against the Lions Monday. The Lions' coverage units struggled the first three weeks of the season, ranking 29th in kickoff coverage and 27th in punt coverage. But over the last two weeks against the Cowboys and Bears they've been terrific.
--- Lions T Jeff Backus, who has started 165 straight games at left tackle for the Lions, vs. 49ers rookie OLB Aldon Smith, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks on the season: Smith doesn't start for the 49ers but when he's in the game, you know he's coming after the quarterback. He had a two-sack performance against the Buccaneers last week and is one of the league's bright, young pass rushers. The Lions have given up only six sacks this season, the third fewest in the league. Backus has faced Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware and Bears DE Julius Peppers in consecutive weeks and has only allowed a half sack to Ware.

Inside the camps


Blocking Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is hard enough, but not knowing who your left guard is going to be makes it all the more difficult. Second-year guard Mike Iupati has the talent and the girth at 335 pounds to possibly handle the 307-pound Suh, but Iupati missed Wednesday's practice with a sore right knee and was limited on Thursday.

Suh lines up often over right guard, but on passing downs he can go anywhere. "You may see me over the tight ends, over the tackle, the left tackle," he said. "You may see me standing up. You never know."

Suh actually got most of his 10 sacks last season from the "joker" position, which stations Suh as a standup rusher over one of the two guards or the center. So far this year, Suh is drawing more double teams and has been limited to two sacks.

Whether Iupati plays or not, Suh will likely be over right guard Adam Snyder during base downs. Snyder faced a similar player last week in Bucs second-year tackle Gerald McCoy, and pretty much shut him down. Snyder is an athletic player, but at only 295 pounds, will have to watch for Suh's devastating bull rush.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he would not switch Snyder to left guard if Iupati is shelved, but instead would put Chilo Rachal at left guard. Rachal started the season at right guard but lost his job to Snyder after week three.

Suh seemed to like the possible machinations the 49ers have gone through on their offensive line.

"If you're not going to protect me from your quarterback then I'm going to continue to hit him," Suh forewarned.


Coach Jim Schwartz said it best on Thursday.

"We haven't had a bunch of injuries but at that one position we have had some issues," he said.

That one position is safety and the Lions are down to one completely healthy player. Veteran Erik Coleman, who was the primary backup to starters Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey, was placed on injured reserve Thursday.

He suffered a severe high ankle sprain at Dallas and was still on crutches this week.

"It's tough losing a guy like that," Delmas said. "Having him down is difficult and we will miss him as a teammate, but we've got guys who can step in and play."

Guys might be overstating it. John Wendling, who up until Coleman's injury was used exclusively on special teams, is now the primary backup.

Veteran Vincent Fuller, who was signed last week and played against the Bears Monday, missed practice Thursday with an elbow injury. He is questionable for Sunday.

Both starters are banged up, as well. Delmas has been playing through an abdominal strain and Spievey missed the Monday night game with a hamstring injury. He was limited at practice Thursday.

"I think the guys who have filled in have done a good job," Schwartz said, referring to Wendling and Fuller. "They've tackled well and defended the deep part of the field. When you are getting poor safety play, you are giving up long runs - I'm not talking 20 yards, I am talking 60 yards - and long passes down the middle of the field. We've not had that."

Wendling has already played more defensive snaps this season than at any other point in his five-year career. He made his first career start on Monday and made three tackles.

"I never accepted that I could only play special teams," Wendling said. "My thing has always been, I can play safety in this league and I've always wanted to and I've always prepared myself to. I am going to take care of my stuff on special teams and whatever role I'm asked to do, I am going to do my best, but, yeah, I've kind of been waiting for the chance."

There hasn't appeared to be any drop-off in continuity between cornerbacks and safeties or the cohesion of the secondary.

"It doesn't disrupt anything because the guys who are stepping in are performing just as well," said cornerback Chris Houston. "There's never any drop-off in our room. We don't have to help or cover up any areas. Everybody in our room is professional and they know what to do."

Personnel news


--- LB NaVorro Bowman (neck) participated in all of practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday.

--- WR Michael Crabtree (feet), S Dashon Goldson (knee), G Mike Iupati (knee), G Adam Snyder (forearm), DT Isaac Sopoaga (infection), CB Shawntae Spencer (toe) were all limited in Thursday's practice but were listed as probable on Friday's injury report.

--- CB Shawntae Spencer (toe) will get the opportunity to win his job back as the nickel cornerback. Coach Jim Harbaugh said if Spencer practices better than rookie Chris Culliver, he'll be the nickel back. Spencer suited up but did not play against the Bucs.

--- WR Kerry Taylor was signed to the practice squad. The former Arizona State star is the nephew of former 49ers receiver John Taylor.

--- WR Braylon Edwards (knee) said he's aiming to come back after the team's Oct. 23 bye and play against his former team – Cleveland – when the 49ers host the Browns on Oct. 30.


--- TE Joe Jon Finley was signed on Thursday to fill the roster spot vacated by Erik Coleman. Finley, one of the team's final cuts before the season, spent last season on the practice squad. He spent the previous year on the 49ers practice squad.

--- TE Tony Scheffler (concussion) did not practice Thursday and given that the Lions signed Joe Jon Finley to replace Erik Coleman, he could be out a while. Said coach Jim Schwartz, "We'll see. I don't want to read the tea leaves. Joe Jon had a good training camp and he'll be ready to play if we need him." Scheffler was listed as out for Sunday's game on Friday's injury report.

--- WR Nate Burleson has been somewhat of the forgotten man in the offense (five catches in the last three games), but he's not sweating it. "We're winning," he said. "You'll never hear a peep out of me when we're winning. If we're struggling as an offense and I am not getting the ball, I might say something. But right now, we're polished and we're looking good. We're 5-0. I can go the rest of the season with zero catches if we're winning games."

--- OLB Justin Durant (concussion) still hasn't been cleared for practice.

--- WR Rashied Davis (foot), a gunner on the coverage teams, practiced for the first time since Sept. 23.

--- CB Aaron Berry (groin) continues to be limited in practice.

--- DT Corey Williams limped off with a trainer during the team stretching period and angrily threw his helmet. He got what appeared to be his left ankle or foot re-taped and rejoined practice in time for individual drills. He finished practice.

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