49ers roar to rout of Lions

The 49ers are definitely on to something here. In the most dominating performance of the Mike Nolan era, the Niners took the roar out of the Detroit Lions on Sunday, and they did it with Detroit's backup quarterback from last year clearly out-playing the Lions' QB of today. With J.T. O'Sullivan once again leading the way, anything seemed possible for the 49ers during their lopsided 31-13 rout.

The 49ers came out strong and were in complete control from start to finish, riding another impressive effort by O'Sullivan and a breakout performance by running back Frank Gore to their largest margin of victory since 2003.

But Gore and O'Sullivan were only in the front of a long line of heroes for the Niners, who stomped on an opponent for a full 60 minutes like they never have before since Nolan took over as head coach in 2005.

"We put it all together today," said Nate Clements, who combined with fellow cornerback Walt Harris and the rest of San Francisco's secondary to shut down the Lions' vaunted receiver tandem of Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson, thereby rendering Detroit's offense impotent.

"We showed what we're capable of doing," Clements continued. "Now we have to build off this."

To be sure, there was plenty to build on.

The 49ers rolled to 370 yards of total offense, controlling the ball for almost 36 minutes and pretty much having their way with a Detroit defense that was pulverized up front by San Francisco's offensive line of tackles Joe Staley and Barry Sims, guards Tony Wragge and Adam Snyder and center Eric Heitmann.

Gore rushed for a season-high 130 yards on 27 carries, setting the tone with his grinding push on short runs and explosive burst in the open field. His four-yard scoot into the end zone gave San Francisco a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, and it was at that point the realization set in that the 49ers were ahead to stay.

"It was great," Gore said. "Coming out fast, not making any turnovers, just putting points on the board and doing what we do. We're making it easy, and we're still learning. If everybody gets on the right page, it's going to be crazy."

Mike Martz began to dig deeper into his offensive repertoire, diversifying San Francisco's attack with new wrinkles that included more deep throws, detailed spread formations and even a double reverse that resulted in an 18-yard gain.

The 49ers even pulled their field-goal unit off the field to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Return specialist Allen Rossum entered the offensive huddle and took a reverse handoff into the corner of the end zone to score the touchdown that put the game away at 28-6.

And then there was O'Sullivan. He again was superb, setting up strong in the pocket, putting his passes on the money and also buying time and making plays with his feet.

O'Sullivan finished 16 of 23 for 189 yards passing, finding Isaac Bruce on a six-yard pass for the game's first touchdown and hitting tight end Delanie Walker with a 24-yard scoring strike that gave the 49ers a 21-3 halftime lead.

O'Sullivan also rushed for 32 yards and finished with a 123.3 quarterback rating. But he was far from satisfied.

"I'm excited about the way we played and we're headed in the right direction," O'Sullivan said. "But I still feel like we left a lot of yards out there. I think I missed some throws, and from that standpoint, I want to get into the film and keep us going in the right direction. We're trying to score touchdowns every time we go out there."

The 49ers also got a charge out of their defense, which limited the Lions to 240 yards and intercepted two Jon Kitna passes. The 49ers also forced three fumbles, but each was recovered by the Lions.

Those were some of the few instances where something went right for the Detroit offense as Kitna was sacked four times and completed only half of his 30 passes before limping off the field late in the game with a leg injury.

The 49ers got a ferocious effort from newcomer Justin Smith, who once again lined up in a variety of positions along San Francisco's defensive front and recorded four tackles, one sack, one tackle for a loss, forced a fumble and made an athletic play to intercept a pass near the line of scrimmage late in the fourth quarter that was the perfect exclamation point on San Francisco's exclamatory afternoon. The 49ers also got two sacks from Roderick Green.

"We were able to go out there and really take control of the game," 49ers safety Mark Roman said. "I hate to say it, but it's been our M.O. to win ugly around here. This one was pretty. It was definitely good to go out and win it like we won it today. The guys up front were just making our job on the back end real easy."

The same could be said on the other side of the ball, where San Francisco's offensive line – with Sims replacing injured Jonas Jennings at right tackle – had its best game of the young season.

After experiencing some struggles last week in Seattle, when O'Sullivan was sacked eight times and hit just as many times more and Gore averaged just 3.2 yards a carry, the line unit tossed around their Detroit counterparts all day. O'Sullivan's lone sack came when he tried to dash forward on a scramble, and the 49ers averaged 4.7 yards a pop while rushing for a season-best 182 yards.

"It's one of those deals where we're talking about confidence," Wragge said. "The win last week in Seattle allowed us to build confidence in ourselves. Confidence builds confidence, obviously. We have a feeling right now that we're going to go out and do what we're trained to do and execute, and it's going to happen. It's not that we might do it. We're going to do it. This is not a maybe, if, we'll try. It's a do."

Instead of basking in one of their biggest victories in years, most of the 49ers instead already were looking ahead to next week's game at New Orleans, which will give San Francisco a better gauge of where it really stands among NFC teams.

At 2-1 with a two-game winning streak, the 49ers have moved into a tie atop the NFC West with Arizona, which lost Sunday at Washington.

San Francisco will take that momentum into what figures to be its toughest stretch of schedule this season with upcoming games against New Orleans, New England, Philadelphia, the New York Giants and NFC West rematches against Seattle and Arizona.

Of course, the 49ers also were 2-1 last year before it all fell apart and the season caved in on them.

"We don't care what our record's been in the past," Roman said. "This is 2008. There will be lows and there will be plateaus, but let's start climbing the mountain now, you know what I mean? We're starting to climb that mountain."

And Sunday's wipeout of the Lions was a very big step.


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