2012 49ers: D Tames Lions
(originally written 10/1/12)
It's hard not to love what the 49ers are doing right now. 2-0 to start the 2012 season and playing very well on both sides of the ball.
I mean, on their first offensive possession vs. Detroit on Sunday, they scored on four plays without even being tackled! Alex Smith, untouched and never pressured—not only on that possession but for much of the game—has probably had more difficulty finding stadium parking than he did leading that drive.
The Detroit Lions, known for their pass-happiness, partially due to their lack of an elite RB, did their best to establish the run with Kevin Smith. While Smith was marginally effective at best (16 rushes, 53 yards), the 49ers secondary and linebacker corps kept Matt Stafford under control.
Stafford's lone TD pass did not occur until very late in the game during hurry-up mode. Stafford wasn't running for his life as much as Lions QBs of the recent past, but he still managed to badly miss a number of Lion receivers—including his interception to DaShon Goldson in which no Lion receiver was anywhere in the picture, whether 4:3 or 16:9.
Jason Hanson began kicking for the Lions when I literally was in sixth grade. I'm now 32 with a three-year-old. Hanson likely has muscle pulls older than my daughter. He made 4-of-5 field goals for a Lion team unable to penetrate the red zone until the fourth quarter—including one make and miss off the crossbar! I've never seen two kicks in one game hit the crossbar.
I've also never seen a quarterback sack go uncalled. It was one of those flagrant missed calls that makes you question if your eyes saw what you think they saw. Early in the fourth, Amhad Brooks had Stafford wrapped up at the San Francisco 30; Stafford's knee hit the ground, as the rule dictates it must in order to be a sack. Yet Stafford got up and still tried to find a receiver before being sacked again at the 36. This is akin to Prince Fielder swinging, missing and running to first base anyway.
History will show the Lions put up a respectable 19 points and only lost by eight, but the score was not that close.
The closest Detroit came to entering the red zone prior to Stafford's late TD pass was a 4th-and-4 at the Niners' 20! The TD came with 1:45 to go in the game; that's 58 minutes and 15 seconds in which Detroit never got in the 49er red zone!
Not even on Kendall Hunter's kick-return fumble (Boy, Ted Ginn can't get healthy fast enough) at the 49er 25 did Patrick Willis, Brooks, Carlos Rogers, the Smiths and company relent. Megatron, a.k.a. Calvin Johnson—he of 96 receptions in 2011—did total eight catches for 94 non-impact yards (48 of those yards came on two 2nd-half catches at which time San Francisco held all the momentum.)
I'm not even going to get into HandshakeGate because a) the whole "controversy" is asinine, and b) I'm not here to talk about the past.
All in all, it was an excellent home win by the defending NFC West champions. Next up: the team goes to 1-1 on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET.