Could DeAndre Levy be the Lions' starting middle linebacker next season?
The Lions drafted Levy in the third round this year, thinking he could play in the middle. He played in the middle in the offseason and training camp.
Thanks to the arrival of veteran Larry Foote, Levy moved back to the outside, where he played at Wisconsin. But with Foote out with a foot injury Sunday at San Francisco, Levy started in the middle for the first time.
Levy said the middle was a little bit different than he expected, but he felt he did well making the defensive calls.
"Even at outside, when I'm taking reps, I kind of in my head make the call and kind of get a feel for where everybody's supposed to be," Levy said. "But I think it's just my eyes, seeing everything from that perspective and just trusting it. I got a little too comfortable at outside sometimes, and I think I was a little bit slow on some fits today. I think it will just get better with time."
Foote is on a one-year contract, so there could be an opening in the middle next season. And defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said last week he saw an encouraging sign concerning Levy's leadership.
"I'm not going to tell you what player it was, but (Levy) grabbed one by the jersey and yanked him back in the huddle because he was mouthing off to somebody," Cunningham said. "He says, 'Get in the huddle, shut up and listen to the call.'
"For a rookie to do that, that's pretty amazing to me."
- Six times Sunday, the Lions offense turned over the ball and gave the 49ers possession at the San Francisco 42 or better. Each time, the defense didn't allow a point.
"We responded pretty well," linebacker DeAndre Levy said. "But in a game like this, it kind of comes down to our defense against theirs. They got six takeaways. We've got to take the ball away just as many times. Overall as a team, we're not good enough to overcome a lot of mistakes like that right now."
The Lions forced only one turnover themselves, and they continued to be burned by big plays.
"If we could take back a couple of those plays, we give the offense an even better opportunity to kind of right their wrongs," said linebacker Julian Peterson, who forced a fumble. "I know they didn't want to create six turnovers. But when that happens, we've got to step up and make a play ourselves and try to get in the end zone, and we didn't do that."
- The Lions thought this one crossed the line. In the third quarter Sunday, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith rolled right and, at least at first, looked as if he could have taken the ball into the end zone himself. But linebacker Julian Peterson closed quickly. Just before the sideline, Smith tossed the ball over Peterson's head to tight end Vernon Davis for a 2-yard touchdown, giving the 49ers a 13-3 lead. The Lions challenged, thinking Smith was over the line of scrimmage when he released the ball. As the play was reviewed, TV replays appeared to show Smith's body over the blue line of scrimmage superimposed on the screen. But referee Walt Anderson upheld the call.
"It was close," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "That's a really tough play to get overturned. The definition of the rule is, their entire body needs to be past the line of scrimmage. So if there's any gray area at all, they're going to stay with the decision on the field."
Peterson said he was amazed.
"The ref said it was a fine line," Peterson said. "He said he didn't have enough evidence. I really thought he was just over the line, but it is what it is -- inconclusive evidence."
Individual Player Notes:
- QB Matthew Stafford had knee clean-up surgery Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala. He is expected to recover quickly and be ready for the start of the offseason program in March.
- WR Bryant Johnson still hasn't caught more than two passes in a game since Oct. 11.
- WR Dennis Northcutt struggled badly Sunday. He had no catches on offense, and he didn't catch either punt he was out to return. The 49ers downed one at the 4, the other at the 2.
- S Marvin White continues to struggle badly -- from biting on play-action fakes to missing tackles.
- S Louis Delmas had another strong game Sunday. He tied for second on the team with seven tackles, including one tackle for a loss.
- DE Jason Hunter was active. He had the Lions' only sack, plus a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and a pass defensed.