Showcased in the bright lights of Sunday Night Football, the Detroit Lions fell to the San Francisco 49ers a second consecutive year, 27-19, to fall to 1-1 to begin the 2012 season. The ridiculously stingy defense of the 49ers held the Lions under 300 total yards and kept star wide receiver Calvin Johnson out of the end zone, forcing the Lions to try and turn to the running game more so than they would have liked to.
Predictably, a 49ers defense that did not allow their first rushing touchdown until week 15 stymied a below average ground attack from the Lions. As a team, Detroit rushed for 82 yards on just 3.2 yards an attempt, led by Kevin Smith’s 53 yards on 16 carries.
49er quarterback Alex Smith finished with an efficient 226 yards with 20 completions against 31 attempts with two touchdowns. Smith, who had just seven turnovers throughout all of the 2011 regular season, once again was turnover free. Tight end Vernon Davis was on the receiving end of both Smith touchdown passes, coming from 21 yards out in the first quarter and 23 in the fourth quarter.
While the Lions did manage to limit their turnovers to just one on a Stafford interception, the tough 49ers defense managed to keep Detroit outside of the red zone until late in the fourth quarter. The lone Lions’ touchdown score came on a 9-yard strike from Stafford to tight end Brandon Pettigrew with 1:29 to make the game just one possession. Stafford finished the game with 230 yards on 19 of 32 passing with that one touchdown and the earlier pick. The first 12 points of the Lions came on four Jason Hanson field goals.
It was going to take a near perfect game from Detroit to pull out a victory against what looks like a team that could be primed for a Super Bowl run in San Francisco. While they managed to stay even in the turnover department at one apiece (49er running back Kendell Hunter fumbled on a kick return), the Lions offense was just not able to generate enough drives into the 49er red zone to pose a serious threat. Touchdowns win games in the NFL, and only one red zone opportunity is no formula for doing that, especially in today’s offense heavy league. Unfortunately, for the Lions, they came up a bit short.
My prediction for the Lions week 2 contest had them falling to San Francisco by a score of 27-16. They may not get any closer than this all season, as the final score was just three points off of what I thought at 27-19. We’ll take it.
Second Threat: The Lions need to establish a second receiving threat alongside Calvin Johnson. Despite have 94 yards on 8 catches, Johnson was constantly double teamed and prevented from scoring for the second consecutive week to begin the season. Stafford needs another threat that he can turn to so he can stretch the field more than he has been able to through two weeks. Backup running back Joique Bell was the Lions second receiver with 59 yards. 50 of those yards came on one play.
Running Game: Once again, the Lions running attack has not been able to provide balance to their offense. Kevin Smith and Joique Bell have helped to feed a rushing game the ranks just 26th in the league out of 32 teams. Mikel LeShure returns from a two-game suspension in week 3 against the Tennessee Titans hoping to provide a more consistent threat.
Defense: Despite the better part of the Lions defense coming from the front four, led by Ndaumkong Suh, they were still gashed for 148 yards on the ground. With a secondary that has been short-handed in not having cornerback Chris Houston and safety Louis Delmas to start the season, the Lions front four as well as their linebacking core must be able to stop the run in order to cover up the weakness of the secondary as best as possible.
The 1-1 Detroit Lions travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans, who have begun the season 0-2 and been outscored by 49 points.
NFC North Standings
Detroit Lions (1-1)
Green Bay Packers (1-1)
Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Chicago Bears (1-1)
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Written by Matt Austin