Game Preview: Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers — Week 3

The NFL season is in full force in Week 2. One game is in the books and the Lions are 1-0 outlasting the Rams 27-23 at Ford Field Week 1. But now it’s time for some Prime Time. No not Deion Sanders, Sunday Night Football in an epic rematch between the Detroit Lions and another team in full force the 1-0 San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers beat the Lions in 2011 25-19 in a controversial game. The 49ers won the game after an Alex Smith TD pass late in the 4th Quarter to Delanie Walker on 4th-and-goal beating Louis Delmas and an overpursuing Bobby Carpenter. The 49ers ran the ball very well behind two long Frank Gore runs and some solid Kendall Hunter runs late in the game. This 49ers success along with Jim Harbaughs belly fat irked Jim Schwartz enough causing an after game scuffle following the Lions first 2011 loss. How will 2012 re-match turn out? Michael Buffer said it best Let’s GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!

San Francisco run game

Frank Gore ran wild Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. Gore ran for 112 yards at 7 YPC and a big 23 yard TD after a turnover to give the 49ers a big lead. The Lions did a great job holding Steven Jackson to 53 yards on 21 carries against a subpar Rams Offensive Line (+2.6 run defense for Detroit) that was missing center Scott Wells for over half the game due to a season ending injury. Though Jackson is a talented running back better than Gore, the 49ers should be a much stiffer test for the Detroit Lions defense. The 49ers offensive line ranked 2nd in the league last week with a +12.4 showing against the Packers defense with an offensive line consisting of Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis. 49ers also ran many jumbo packages with extra Olinemen adding former Lion Leonard Davis and Guard Daniel Kilgore to beef up the line. Expect more of these packages against the Lions. And the 49ers can bring in QB Colin Kaepernick for a shotgun run as they did against the Packers. The Lions have struggled against running QBs in the past.

If the Lions are to stop Frank Gore and backup Kendall Hunter, they must maintain good gap discipline like they did in Week 1 and not miss tackles. Justin Durant, Stephen Tulloch, Sammie Lee Hill, Corey Williams and Nick Fariley all excelled in run defense in Week 1 and Erik Coleman and Jacob Lacey were solid in secondary support of the run game. They must continue that performance and get more help from Suh and the Lions Defensive Ends. Cliff Avril continued his run defense struggles with -1.6 showing in Week 1. San Francisco will no doubt run right at Avril and Suh (who struggled in the 2011 game). Look for more wham blocks doubling Suh and opening up holes. It will be up to the Lions LBs and Lions safeties to fill the Lions.

Advantage: 49ers


This game could definitely come down to turnovers and based on Week 1 the Lions have a lot of work to do to protect the football. Matthew Stafford was picked off 3 times in the first half one for a pick 6 to give the Rams a 13-7 lead late in the first half. These turnovers simply cannot happen against the 49ers. All it took was one big turnover for the 49ers to beat the Packers on the road with a big 4th quarter interception and the 49ers did not commit a turnover in the game. The 49ers are a team that protects that ball very well since 2011 and the Lions did not force any turnovers of the lowly Rams. Corey Williams did force a fumble on a strip sack but the Rams recovered. The Lions must force 1 maybe 2 turnovers to stay with the 49ers.

Advantage: 49ers

Lions pass defense

Good news Chris Houston practiced Wednesday and Thursday but the bad news rookie Bill Bentley went out with a concussion in the 3rd Quarter and hasn’t practiced. Both players along with safety Louis Delmas are all up in the air for Week 2 but Houston should play. The Lions without Bentley, allowed 10 points in the 4th Quarter and fellow rookie Jonte Green filling in for Bentley allowed the lone Ram touchdown of the game. Either Houston or Bentley must get healthy for this game to handle Crabtree and Moss. Delmas did not practice and the Lions safeties have done a solid job so far but safeties John Wendling and Erik Coleman can only get you so far against playoff teams.

49ers passing game looked much improved though Smith only threw for 211 yards but was very efficient going 20/26 and tossed 2 big touchdowns in Week 1. The Lions must disrupt Smith and force more incompletions instead of over 70% completions and the Lions must force one pick at minimum. Will Chris Houston with a questionable ankle, Jacob Lacey, Drayton Florence, Erik Coleman and  John Wendling be up to the task if Bentley and Delmas can’t give it a go? Stay tuned to that injury report.

Advantage: 49ers

Lions pass rush

The Lions need their pass rush more than ever in this game to stop the passing attack and force turnovers. Lions had 4 sacks, 5 hits and 2 hurries against the Rams in 31 drop backs by Sam Bradford. They must build on this performance against the 49ers Oline that actually struggled in 2011 (4th to last per PFF) in pass blocking. The 49ers Oline did have trouble in 2011 at times protecting Alex Smith but they did not throw as often as other teams.

Week 1 San Francisco was a mixed bag in protecting Smith allowing low hits and hurries but they did allow 4 sacks as Clay Matthews abused Left Tackle Joe Staley. Staley looks to rebound but so do Kyle VandenBosch  and Lawrence Jackson as they combined for only 1 hit from the Right End position.And Jackson has not practiced either day with a calf injury so it may be Willie Young spelling KVB. The interior Dline once again of Suh, Corey Williams(knee) and Nick Fariley is where the Lions have the best chance to bring pressure. Cliff Avril versus Anthony Davis should be another important matchup for the Lions as Avril had 1 sack, 2 hits and 1 hurry and Davis allowed a sack Week 1.

Advantage: Lions

Lions run game

Nobody runs on the 49ers. Kevin Smith did well and was efficient against the Rams with 63 yards and 4.8 YPC but nobody runs on the 49ers. See ya Week 3 LeShoure.

Advantage: 49ers

Lions passing game

Matthew Stafford leads the league in yardage with 355 yards and 66% completion on 48 attempts. He must have that success Week 2 but protect the ball much better to give the Lions a shot in this game. Since the 49ers shut down the run all the time, expect Stafford to pass a lot again. Hopefully this time he has that success and protects the ball much better leading to more TDs instead of redzone turnovers.

49ers gave up over 300 yards and 2 TDs Week 1 to Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers are still susceptible to giving up big pass plays and this is where the Lions can win the game. In order for this to happen, the Lion must protect Stafford like in Week 1 only allowing one sack in 49 drop backs.

Advantage: Lions


No handshake fights. It’s a passing league, folks. Lions win 31-27 riding their passing game yet again and this time force a few turnovers dropping the jaws of all the Lion hatters.

Where it could go wrong

  1. Force Stafford into several turnovers again. 2 would be disaster for the Lions
  2. No protection for Stafford compared to Week 1 hindering their only scoring option through the air. Look out for the Smiths andAhmad Brooks
  3. Frank Gore runs wild plus the new 49ers weapons make it a trend of success and out shoot the Lions

Lions basically need everything to go right to make my prediction come true. Protect Stafford, Stafford protects the ball and Lions defense force a turnover or two and the Lions will have a chance in a shootout as Gore will still run wild and the new San Fran weapons will move the ball. Shock the world. Lions need to bring their A game. Lions 2-0!!!

About the author

Known as much for his in-depth analytical articles and statistically intensive style as his sometimes brash and confrontational tone, Russ Thomas covers the Detroit Lions beat for the Water Cooler Sports Network. Feel free to contact him at .