Talent overcomes mistakes in Detroit’s 32-17 win over 49ers

The Lions (6-9) struggled at times, especially in the tackling department, but their surging offense steadied Detroit to a 32-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers (4-11). Lions quarterback, Matthew Stafford continued his stellar play connecting on 29 of his 37 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns.

A slow start on defense allowed the 49ers to score their first opening drive touchdown on the season. Plagued by horrendous tackling at times, San Francisco moved the ball well against the Lions defense reaching 17 points just before the half behind Blaine Gabbert‘s two touchdowns.

Detroit would march down the field to take a lead they would never relinquish on a Matt Prater field goal as time expired in the first half. They began the drive with only 35 seconds on the clock and two timeouts.

The Detroit defense recovered after halftime, holding the 49ers without a point the remainder of the game. The Lions offense, continuing to move the ball well, increased their lead throughout while burning valuable clock time.

In what could be Calvin Johnson‘s last home game in Detroit, he pulled in six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. Somehow he even managed to have yet another catch overturned by replay in what undoubtedly appeared to be a textbook catch and possession. Only in Detroit.

The Game Turned When

The Lions, uncharacteristic of Caldwell’s tenure, went for the score before halftime after receiving the ball with 35 seconds and two timeouts. Chunk plays through the air capped by a big Stafford to Golden Tate pass brought the Lions within field goal position.

They were able to spike the ball with two seconds left on the clock catching the 49ers offside, moving Prater’s field goal attempt five yards closer. He punched it through giving the Lions a 20-17 lead they would not surrender.

The drive showed just why Jim Caldwell’s time in Detroit has been so frustrating at times. His often questionable decisions and lack of playing to his team’s strengths have held the Lions back on multiple occasions, and it’s easy to wonder if choices like that would have led to more success.

A Look Ahead

Though it’s a lost season, coach Jim Caldwell has said he would not use the last few games to give young players more opportunity. While not what most fans would like to hear, it is not all that surprising considering Caldwell’s stubborn demeanor and the fact that he is coaching for his job, whether with the Lions or a future team.

That being said, there is not much left for the Lions but to play out the string and continue evaluating the team going forward. Unfortunately yet another win is pushing the Lions further down the draft board. While fun now, it may be costly come next season.

The Lions travel to Chicago to face the Bears in their final game of the season next Sunday.

How It Went Down

Poor tackling was the story on defense for the Lions the entire first half. It started early as they repeatedly missed assignments allowing the 49ers to swiftly move the length of the field for their only opening drive touchdown on the season.

After an end zone pass interference call on Nevin Lawson put the 49ers on the one yard line, Blaine Gabbert hooked up with Vance McDonald for the score.

A nice return by Ameer Abdullah would set Detroit up with good field position but they could only muster a field goal after a promising drive sputtered just outside the red zone. The Lions offensive line struggled in pass protection but the 49ers had troubles of their own repeatedly jumping offside.

A San Francisco three and out gave the Lions good starting field position once again but after three plays Detroit faced fourth and one. Proving they were playing to win, Detroit ran a fake punt snapping directly to safety Isa Abdul-Quddus who would easily pick up the first down.

A few plays later, Matthew Stafford rifled a 29 yard bullet to TJ Jones in between closing defenders for a touchdown. It was a play very few quarterbacks can make and one that demonstrated just how dialed in Stafford has been lately.

The Lions 10-7 lead would not last long as they still couldn’t figure out how to tackle 49ers running backs DuJuan Harris (who wasn’t even on the team last week) and Jarryd Hayne (just promoted from the practice squad).

San Francisco took advantage and the lead on Gabbert’s second touchdown pass, a 16 yarder to Torrey Smith.

The Lions would go three and out after Calvin Johnson dropped a deep pass he should have been able to come down with, but the ensuing punt would pin the 49ers deep setting up a crucial miscue.

The 49ers failed to move the ball and on third down, Gabbert was stripped of the ball inside the two yard line where the Lions would recover it.

Textbook blocking allowed Joique Bell to walk into the end zone untouched on the next play putting Detroit back on top, 17-14.

Back to back late hit penalties against the Lions gave San Francisco 30 free yards, but they could do nothing with it and Phil Dawson missed his 45 yard field goal attempt.

A defensive stop gave the 49ers the ball at their own ten yard line with 2:41 left in the half. Chunk yardage through the air and a pass interference call quickly moved the ball down the field.

Again unable to tackle in space, the Lions bent but would force 49ers into another field goal attempt. Dawson would connect, this time tying the game from forty yards out.

The Lions took over on their twenty yard line with 35 seconds on the clock and two timeouts. Not content taking a knee, Detroit tried to score. A quick 16 yard catch and ankle twisting run by Theo Riddick was followed by a timeout. San Francisco was drawn offside giving the Lions a few free yards but would then sack Stafford, forcing Detroit to use their final timeout deep in their own territory with only twenty seconds on the clock.

Yet another 49er offside penalty was followed by Stafford hooking up with Golden Tate for 36 yards, but Tate failed to get out of bounds as the clock ticked on. Detroit hustled to get set and spiked the ball with two seconds remaining.

San Francisco wasn’t able to get set before the spike resulting in another offside penalty and moving the ball five yards closer. Detroit would take the lead for good on Matt Prater’s 38 yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

The game slowed after the half as Detroit’s defense tightened and cut down on mistakes. The defense still committed a few bad penalties and missed a few assignments but it wasn’t enough for San Francisco to get on the board in the second half.

The Lions offense did their part to put the game away with a couple scoring drives late in the game. Despite offensive line struggles, the Lions moved the ball well through the air. Theo Riddick danced around would-be tacklers and Calvin Johnson caught a one yard touchdown pass easily beating his defender to put Detroit up 29-17.

The Lions failed on their two-point try but wouldn’t need the cushion. The 49ers couldn’t get anything going and Detroit would drive back down the field to further ice the game.

On the Lions last meaningful drive Calvin Johnson caught what appeared to be a 22 yard pass down to the San Francisco one yard line. He had clear control and possession as he tried to get to the goal line and was brought down, however the 49ers would challenge the play. Inexplicably the catch was overturned, much to the dismay of Fox rules expert, Mike Pereira and the Detroit fans.

Regardless, the Lions would kick a field goal increasing their lead 32-17 and it would stay that way until the clock hit zero.

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