49ers vs. Lions: Thumbs up and thumbs down

Which way does the thumb turn for the non-stop motor of Justin Smith, the butterfingers of Vernon Davis, tight end Delanie Walker, the blowout blocking of a charged-up line, running back Frank Gore, a Bruu-ing crowd at Candlestick Park, some Mike Martz razzle-dazzle, Mike Nolan going for the jugular, San Francisco's ball security, Joe Nedney's hooking tendencies, and much more? Check inside.

Thumbs up: You really have to appreciate the non-stop motor of defensive end/tackle/linebacker Justin Smith, who once again was all over the field on defense and spending a lot of time in the Detroit backfield. Smith had one of those great all-around games that shows you why the 49ers forked out the big bucks to acquire him. He was stout against the run and provided some nice pressure on passing downs, recording a sack and several pressures. He also finished with four tackles – one for a loss – forced a fumble and intercepted a pass while spearheading one of San Francisco's finest defensive efforts in years. And, for a 290-pound man, his spin moves at the line of scrimmage are to die for.

Thumbs up: Vernon Davis is the starter at tight end, but it's just about time the 49ers started getting Delanie Walker involved. Walker had his first three receptions of the season, including a 24-yard grab near the goal line that he took into the end zone standing up. The 49ers have to get this guy on the field more often, because he can make plays, and he's really a big wide receiver playing tight end, which makes him a tough match-up for opponents.

Thumbs up: My gosh, how about that blowout blocking by the offensive line? This might have been one of guard Adam Snyder's best games as a 49er, and Tony Wragge continues to both surprise and excel. The 49ers pulverized the Lions up front, and that allowed the team to pile up 182 rushing yards. The pass blocking also was night-and-day improved over last week, and J.T. O'Sullivan had plenty of time to make plays, which the guy is starting to get pretty good at.

Thumbs up: It's a thing of beauty to watch Frank Gore in top form. The dynamic tailback had his best game of the season and is back on track toward the Pro Bowl after rushing for a game-high 130 yards and adding another 32 on four receptions. Gore's cutback 33-yard run early in the game showed an elite player turning a simple off-tackle run into a big play once he got into the open field. Gore had several bursts to daylight where the Lions couldn't bring him down until he'd already picked up big yardage. Even Gore, who wants it all, will be happy with 162 total yards from scrimmage any day.

Thumbs up: You've got to love it when you hear the Candlestick Park crowd Bruu-ing heavily. It may sound a bit like booing to the uninformed observer, but it's actually a cheering salute to 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce, who caught his first touchdown pass as a 49er to begin the scoring in his 200th NFL game.

Thumbs ups: To the 49ers getting the ball to tight end Vernon Davis down the field.The 49ers looked deep down the middle to Davis three times Sunday, and while neither of those plays connected, each of them came close, and it will give opponents more and more to think about next time.

Thumbs down: Davis knows how to get open, but he is still struggling to bring down catchable passes. As the saying goes, if you can touch it, you need to catch it. Davis had his hands on a pass near the goal line in the first quarter but couldn't hang on, even though the pass was thrown behind him and should have been thrown earlier. But there was no excuse when Davis got loose deep down the middle and O'Sullivan put a pretty 50-yard spiral right on his fingertips. Davis allowed it to slip through them. That could have been an 80-yard touchdown play. Instead, it was a temporary momentum killer. If Davis wants to be all he says he wants to be, he needs to make that catch.

Thumbs up: The aggressive play of Michael Lewis along the line of scrimmage is another dimension that is making the San Francisco defense just tougher and tougher. Lewis is a strong safety and looks like one, but he plays like a linebacker. His tackle of 225-pound halfback Rudi Johnson in the backfield for a five-yard loss that thwarted a Detroit drive was truly Lewis in his element. He finished with four tackles.

Thumbs down: When Davis does get his hands on the ball, he can be magic, as he showed by bolting upfield for a 17-yard gain after taking a short pass in the flat. But tapping his chest, raising his arms and generally bringing attention to himself every time he makes a play is a little bit over the top. Or a lot a bit over the top. We like Vernon's exuberance, but save it for the plays that really mean something.

Thumbs up: The 49ers need to see more of free safety Mark Roman acting like a ballhawk. Roman swooped in from deep center field to break up a long pass from Jon Kitna to Calvin Johnson in the first quarter, and he keeps getting closer and closer to getting his hands on the football.

Thumbs up: The Niners are going to be tough to beat when their offense can control the football for almost 36 minutes a game. A nice mixture of run and pass combined with an effective defense that allowed only 14 first downs kept the 49ers machine churning smoothly throughout the afternoon.

Thumbs up: You've got to love seeing offensive coordinator Mike Martz mix in a few well-timed reverses, not to mention one of them being a double-reverse. The double-reserve went for an 18-yard gain, and a flanker-reverse handoff to return specialist Allen Rossum – who was in the game on offense – produced a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

Thumbs up: Sure the 49ers were up 21-6 and were going to win anyway, but it was good to see coach Mike Nolan go for the jugular with just under 10 minutes to play when he sent out his field-goal unit, then pulled it back off the field to go for the touchdown on the play that Rossum scored from the 1. That will help build some confidence on his offensive unit, and it also adds some juice and excitement to what the 49ers are doing out there.

Thumbs up: After committing five turnovers in the season opener, the 49ers seem to have learned their lesson about ball security. For the second game in a row, San Francisco did not commit a turnover.

Thumbs up: Make that, another big thumbs up for quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, who continues to get better every week and is looking like a quarterback who can truly take this team somewhere. The JTO express rode to another big game Sunday, completing 16 of 23 passes for 189 yards with two touchdown throws, and he also scrambled for another 32 yards. The guy continues to look like a winner.

Thumbs up: The Niners did right by getting Manny Lawson involved on defense again. The guy is a demon in pass coverage and the sideline-to-sideline range he gives the team in run support is not something to be underestimated.

Thumbs down: It was of absolutely no consequence in a blowout win, but the 49ers still are burning timeouts needlessly. They burned a TO with Detroit facing a second-and-10 play from the San Francisco 41 with 10:13 remaining in the second quarter. Huh? That wasn't exactly a crucial situation. There was some defensive confusion on the play, but the Detroit offense hadn't even come to the line of scrimmage yet. The hasty use of timeouts reeks of a team unprepared. The 49ers burned their third and final timeout of the second half with 6:57 still remaining to play with Detroit on the field ready to kick off. Sure, the Niners wanted to get it right for the onside kick that was sure to come, but come on, that's what practice is for.

Thumbs up: You've got to love seeing one of your up backs return an onside kick into the opposing red zone. That 28-yard return to the Detroit 12-yard line was a heads-up play by Arnaz Battle.

Thumbs up: The San Francisco offense is clicking well because the 49ers are getting everybody involved in the passing game. O'Sullivan hooked up with eight different receiving targets – by the end of the first half. Seven of those targets had at least one reception of 11 yards or more.

Thumbs down: To all those empty seats at Candlestick Park. Sure, the game was officially a sellout with a paid attendance of 67,249, but there was just way too many empty seats – and we're talking more than 10,000 – when the 49ers are playing this kind of good football. With home games against New England and Philadelphia coming up after a visit to New Orleans, those seats need to be filled.

Thumbs up: The 49ers are gradually giving linebacker Takeo Spikes a larger role in the defense, and that's a very good thing. Spikes is feisty and plays with flair, and he had a don't-be-coming-in-my-territory kind of hit on Roy Williams that seemed to have Williams thinking out there the rest of the afternoon.

Thumbs up: After his fine play at receiver during the preseason, you just know that Jason Hill wants to be more involved in all the fun on offense. But being the fifth receiver on the depth chart hasn't prevented him from hustling and making plays on special teams to help the team. Hill had three tackles on those units Sunday, and he also raced down in punt coverage to down the ball at the 3-yard line on a ball that would have rolled into the end zone had he not made the effort to keep it out.

Thumbs up: We also saw the emergence of cornerback Tarell Brown, who had to step up big as the nickel cornerback against a passing offense with Shawntae Spencer and Donald Strickland missing the game with injuries. Brown stepped up big all right, with the first interception of his career and generally sound play in coverage.

Thumbs down: To a holding penalty on tight end Delanie Walker that wiped out a huge rushing gain by DeShaun Foster down to the Detroit 7. It was a horrible call.

Thumbs up: You just have to love offensive formations that have quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan split out wide as a receiver. Frank Gore took a direct snap on that one and plowed into the line to set up a field-goal attempt in the middle of the field. That kind of razzle-dazzle keeps defenders guessing.

Thumbs down: To the hooking tendencies of kicker Joe Nedney. For the second consecutive week, Nedney hooked a very makeable field goal, missing the goal posts to the left. This one was a 43-yarder, which looked almost identical to the 41-yarder he missed at the end of regulation last week. In three games this season, Nedney already has as many missed field goals as he had all of last season.

Thumbs up: The pass-rushing prowess of Roderick Green is another piece of the defensive puzzle that is going to help the 49ers. Green had a game-high two sacks coming off the edge Sunday and also contributed two other hits on quarterback Jon Kitna.

Thumbs up: It's good to see the sustained emotion on the sidelines that the 49ers had throughout the game. San Francisco players continued to rally around each other and keep their heads in the game even when the outcome was decided and things began to get out of hand. That kind of passion sometimes is what it takes to push a team to an impressive 18-point victory over what turned out to be an overmatched opponent.



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