Off to a slow offensive start but a quick defensive start with turnovers the 49ers eventually pulled away from the lowly Lions and won 20-6 on Sunday. The 49ers offense only managed 20 points off the defenses six turnovers but no mistakes were made by the offense and they were effective enough to put some points on the board for the win. It was a meaningless game for both teams in terms of neither are bound for the playoffs but for the Niners a win pushed them one step closer to 8-8 and ending their seven straight losing seasons. Let’s hand out some game gold nuggets.
(Game gold nuggets are based on a 1-5 scale, 1 being the worst, 5 being the best)
The Lions are not exactly a good defensive team so only converting a field goal out of six turnovers is why the 49ers are not playoff bound and received three nuggets. Alex Smith had a decent game throwing for 230 yards while completing 20 of 31 passes with one touchdown and no interceptions. What was the key for Smith yesterday was having no turnovers but there were missed throws by him that could have resulted in more yards and touchdowns. Smith’s lone TD pass was pretty as I thought Smith was going to run it in but pulled up to throw to tight end Vernon Davis in the end zone. At the time I didn’t think it was a smart move and that Smith stepped over the line of scrimmage but in the end it was upheld so I guess good play. Smith should have shined more against a team like the Lions. With his performance he showed he still has lots of progress to make.
Running back Frank Gore had the big day on offense and carried the team with 71 rushing yards and a touchdown to go along with four receptions for 81 receiving yards. It was exciting to watch the pass 48-yard pass from Smith to Gore that set up a touchdown. I had not jumped up from my couch with so much excitement while watching a 49ers game in a long time. Congrats to Gore on rushing for a 49ers franchise record fourth straight season with 1000 rushing yards.
The stars shined once again on defense. The Lions did have back up quarterback Drew Stanton in most of the game but by creating three interceptions and recovering three fumbles the D won another game for the 49ers. Safety Dashon Goldson, cornerback Dre’ Bly and linebackers Patrick Willis all had interceptions off Stanton and he was sacked twice. Goldson is showing each week that he not only a hard hitter but a playmaker on defense as well. Hats off to cornerback Shawtae Spencer for containing Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to just 96 yards with seven receptions and no touchdowns. Johnson did start off hot but was shut down by Spencer for most of the game. This is a positive sign for the secondary going into next season because hopefully Spencer will continue his excellent play this year into the next and become one of the starting corners.
The pass rush seems to improve with every week. The 49ers pressured Stanton all day that forced turnovers and sacks. Inserting linebacker Ahmad Brooks into the game more has paid off as he has been hunting quarterbacks every game since he has become the starter. Holding an opponent to just six points and 289 offensive yards and creating six turnovers is what the 49ers defensive should have played like. We should expect nothing less from the D against teams like the Lions by being relentless and physical.
Regular kicker Joe Nedney was inactive due to injury so the Niners brought in rookie free agent kicker Ricky Schmitt who had never kicked a field goal in the regular season. He went two for three on field goals and the missed kicked was blocked. Let’s hope Nedney comes back this week. Punter Andy Lee was his usual self averaging over 40 yards a punt. The 49ers coverage on punts and kickoffs also did well as the Lions got nowhere on the returns.
I am disappointed offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye could not get more out of his team than 20 points with having numerous teams to score but failed. Raye got the offense going in the second half by making adjustments but he still has take some of the blame for the offense not scoring more against such a bad team.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky drew up another brilliant game plan that exploited all of the Lions’ flaws forcing six turnovers. This was the third game this season in which the 49ers D created five or more turnovers. Very impressive, the heart of this Niners team is the defense.
Mike Singletary needs to find that balance on offense that will get Alex Smith to make more plays. Raye and Smith are a huge part of this but Singletary sets the tone of the offense and he needs to have the same level of success on offense that he has received on defense. Until then the 49ers remain a .500 team.
Last game of the season against the Rams in St. Louis and a win finishes the 49ers at 8-8 stopping a seven year losing streak. The prospects are high for a win but the 49ers need to blow out the Rams at home to send a statement at the start of their off-season.
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