No. 4: 49ers won’t be able to stop interior runs
Taking away Detroit’s fourth-quarter comeback attempts, San Francisco’s defense looked fantastic enough, regularly swarming Lions quarterback Jared Goff despite his team having a good offensive line. And there were plenty of other positive defensive takeaways, too, especially linebacker Dre Greenlaw’s pick-six interception.
Yet if there were two notable problems the 49ers defense dealt with for the bulk of the game, it was covering Detroit tight end T.J. Hockenson and allowing the Lions’ crop of running backs to rip off chunk yardage.
Especially up the middle.
In total, Detroit rushed for 116 yards, a touchdown and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Many of those runs were straight up the middle, too, with wide lanes often opening up the door for carries of 8- or even 10-plus yards.
While this could potentially be worrisome, it’s important to note the Niners were without their top interior defensive tackle, Javon Kinlaw, who was inactive with a knee injury. And while Kinlaw might not be developing into a top-tier interior pass-rusher, his run-stopping efforts were crucial in San Francisco’s defensive efforts a year ago.
Those were sorely missed in Week 1.