Reading the keys: 49ers/Lions
Pound the rock with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter
YES: Once again the 49ers were convincing on the ground, rushing for 148 yards and averaging 5.5 a pop. Gore set the tone by running through the Detroit defense for the fifth consecutive time in his career. Gore had 62 yards rushing on 10 carries at halftime before finishing with 89 yards and a 1-yard touchdown burst that put the Niners ahead 14-6 at the intermission. That gives Gore 590 yards and 5 TDs rushing against the Lions in five career games. Hunter chipped in with 23 yards rushing as the Niners rumbled for 91 yards on the ground in the first half to allow San Francisco to assume command of the game.
Put the heat on Matthew Stafford
YES: Stafford had time to throw on plenty of occasions, but the Niners had him rattled throughout the evening and he never came close to finding any kind of rhythm. Stafford was dropped for sacks by Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks also got a hit on him on a key third-down play after Detroit had driven to the San Francisco 21 in the second quarter. That forced Stafford to throw incomplete and the Lions had to settle for a 40-yard field goal attempt by Jason Hansen, who clanged his kick off the right upright. The Niners put enough heat on Stafford to leave the Detroit QB with average numbers – for him, at least – at the end of the night: 19 completions in 32 attempts for 230 yards, one interception and a passer rating of 78.9.
Niners interior offensive line vs. Detroit interior defensive line
YES: The Niners did a number on Detroit starting defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams, particularly in the running game. Suh finished with just three tackles and was taken out of several plays, and Williams had only one assisted tackle to show for his evening of work. Detroit's third tackle, Nick Fairley, made no plays and his name did not show up on the final defensive statistics sheet. Suh and Williams got some pressure on passing downs, but this was a battle that was won by San Francisco's guys up front.
Attack Lions' banged-up secondary
YES: The Niners went at the Lions from the start and consistently burned Detroit reserves that were playing in place of injured starters. Tight end Vernon Davis burned reserve free safety John Wendling for a 21-yard touchdown reception on San Francisco's fourth offensive play, which came one play after Michael Crabtree had burned backup cornerback Jacob Lacey – also starting for an injured regular – for a 17-yard gain. It never got much better for the Lions as Alex Smith kept the pressure on throughout the evening while completing 20 of 31 passes for 226 yards and two TDs.
Limit Megatron's big plays
YES: For a guy who finished with eight receptions for 94 yards, Calvin Johnson was never much of a factor in the game. Practically all of his receptions came underneath coverage, and his biggest play went for 26 yards. Johnson finished with an average of just 11.8 yards on his eight catches, and the 49ers kept him out of the end zone.
Keep the Lions off Alex Smith's back
NO: Smith was dropped for three sacks by Detroit's formidable front four and he was hit at least two other times. Smith was under pressure on several occasions but still managed to move the San Francisco offense and finish with fine passing numbers. Still, the 49ers did not protect their quarterback as well as they could have, and two games into the season, Smith is taking too many hits.
Keep close on the TEs
YES: The Niners did an outstanding job in coverage on Detroit's trio of pass-catching tight ends. Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller were nonfactors most of the game, and that trio finished the night with a combined five receptions for a measly 38 yards, an average of just 7.6 yards per reception. Pettigrew did catch a 9-yard pass from Stafford on third-and-goal for Detroit's only touchdown with 1:29 remaining to play, but the big-play starter was limited to just two catches for seven yards the rest of the game.
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