Lions 19 vs. 49ers 27: Final Report Cards, Players Grades for San Francisco

Michael ErlerCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2012

Lions 19 vs. 49ers 27: Final Report Cards, Players Grades for San Francisco

0 of 10

    The 49ers never dominated the Lions, but they just did everything a little bit better throughout the course of three hours and it added up at the end to a neat, efficient, incident-free 27-19 win over the Lions in San Francisco's home opener at Candlestick Park.

    The Niners offense wasn't always smooth, but they saved their best drive of the game for last, converting three 3rd-and-longs on passes from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree, and finished off the drive on Smith's second touchdown pass of the night to Vernon Davis.

    The Lions never found the end zone until less than two minutes were left in the game, and once 49ers punt returner Kyle Williams came up with the on side kick, the game was over. 

Quarterback

1 of 10

    Alex Smith: A

    Smith was decent in the first half, but outstanding in the second, completing 13-of-17 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, and almost all of his incompletions were flat drops by the receivers. He never connected on any bombs, but continued to shred the Lions with short and intermediate passes

    Smith had no problems reading the Lions defense and while he was sacked three times and bloodied on a hit to nose on a late scramble, the Lions never came close to forcing him into a turnover. Smith extended his franchise record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception to 216, and it's 284 if you count the postseason.

    Smith finished the night 20-of-31, for 226 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers, and a passer rating of 107.7. He has a 115.9 passer rating through two games. 

    Colin Kaepernick: Inc.

    Did not play.

    Scott Tolzien: Inc. 

    Did not play.

Running Backs

2 of 10

    Frank Gore: A-

    Frank Gore's night will get lost in the shuffle amid the euphoria of the team's final touchdown drive, but he had a workmanlike 89 rushing yards (and one touchdown) on 17 carries and he was the offense's steadiest performer through three quarters.

    He repeatedly penetrating through the first two levels of Detroit's defense on trap plays up the gut, taking advantage of the Lions over-aggressive defensive tackles. 

    Neither of Gore's two biggest plays were runs though.

    He had a huge down field block on a 3rd-and-14 play late in the fourth, which helped spring Michael Crabtree for the first down reception, and later in the drive had a 15-yard reception on a swing pass from Alex Smith on a play in which he gained almost all the yards on his own after making the first guy miss with a sharp cut.

    Kendall Hunter: B

    Hunter didn't have many opportunities, but he totaled 44 yards on seven touches running and receiving as Frank Gore's backup. He blocked well when he had to and did most of his damage running the ball on toss plays. 

    Hunter was the beneficiary of Randy Moss clearing the underneath coverage on a 12-yard reception in the fourth quarter. 

    Bruce Miller: C-

    Miller had a couple of whiffs in short-yardage running plays as a blocker and dropped what would've been a decent gain on a fourth down drive during his only opportunity as a receiver. 

    Anthony Dixon: Inc.

    Did not play from scrimmage. 

Wide Receivers

3 of 10

    Michael Crabtree: B+

    For the second consecutive game Crabtree paced the team in receptions, with six. He had a bad third down in the second quarter that stalled what had been a promising drive, but he was clutch down the stretch, converting three straight third downs on a late fourth quarter drive, on receptions of 7, 16 and 11 yards. 

    Overall Crabtree came up with grabs on six of his seven targets, and the Niners will take that every time. 

    Randy Moss: C-

    Moss didn't play much, and was targeted just one time by Alex Smith, catching the pass for 14 yards. He contributed on a fourth quarter reception from Kendall Hunter, when he cleared out a side of the field for the underneath route, but overall it was a quiet game from the 35-year-old. 

    Mario Manningham: C+

    Had three receptions on short crossing routes for 28 yards and added a 29-yard end around on the team's opening series of the game, which culminated in a touchdown. It doesn't sound like much, but it's more than I expected in the early going from Manningham, who didn't participate at all for various reasons during the preseason. 

    Kyle Williams: D

    Played quite a bit and was targeted twice by Smith, but didn't have a catch. It looked like he was roughed up on one pass intended his way, but the refs rules that he dropped it on his own. 

Tight Ends

4 of 10

    Vernon Davis: A-

    Davis had another highly productive game, making the most out of his five receptions, as he totaled a team-leading 73 yards and scored two touchdowns. 

    As usual, Davis did most of his damage on underneath crossing routes and play-action passes, but the Niners were able to free him up in scoring range a lot easier than the Lions could with Megatron. 

    Davis was also a monster as a run blocker, and had a lot to do with the team's success in their trap plays up the gut and their toss plays outside. 

    Delanie Walker: C-

    Considering the way he began his career it sounds shocking to say, but Walker has evolved his game to the point where he's more of an asset as a blocker these days than a receiver. Smith only looked Walker's way twice, and Walker dropped one of those. 

    You'd think he'd benefit from all the attention defenses have to give Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and others, but it hasn't happened. 

Offensive Line

5 of 10

    Joe Staley: B+

    A much better outing for Staley here than in the opener at Green Bay. The Niners had success running toss plays to his side and he was able to seal the strong side linebacker a couple of times on trap plays as well. 

    Staley's man Kyle Vanden Bosch did have one sack, but it wasn't Staley's fault as Vanden Bosch was just cleaning up off initial penetration elsewhere.

    Mike Iupati: A-

    The Niners were able to run roughshod over the Lions all night, and Iupati was prominently involved, whether they were running behind his back or he was walling off defenders inside on misdirection plays. Basically, if he got beat, it was because the design of the play called for him to pretend he got beat. 

    Jonathan Goodwin: B-

    Had a bad shotgun snap to Smith that could've led to disaster but was otherwise fairly clean. He could've helped out more on Ndamukong Suh, but it's tricky trying to guess on assignments. 

    Alex Boone: C

    Welcome to the NFL, Alex Boone, courtesy of Ndamukong Suh. Though the stat sheet will say that Suh had a great game with 1.5 sacks, one of those was of the coverage variety and he only overpowered Boone only a few times. Considering that Suh is one of the best in the business and Boone just had one start to his name, the coaches will gladly take it.

    Anthony Davis: A-

    The Niners didn't run to Davis' side nearly as much as they did in the opener, but he dominated Cliff Avril all night, keeping him off the stat sheet completely. If there was any quibble with Davis' night, I thought his work in space on the second level was lacking.

    Leonard Davis: C-

    Played some in the "jumbo" package but the 49ers weren't able to run all that well when Detroit knew it was coming. 

    Daniel Kilgore: C-

    See Leonard Davis commentary.

Defensive Line

6 of 10

    Justin Smith: B+

    Led the defensive linemen with five tackles and collapsed the pocket a couple of times on Matthew Stafford, but the Lions made sure to pay ample attention to him. Smith did work well to free up Aldon Smith though. 

    Ray McDonald: B

    Recorded his first sack of the season early in the fourth quarter, which helped hold the Lions to a field goal on the drive and was solid holding the point against the run. 

    Isaac Sopoaga: B

    Got to play a lot more against the Lions than he did in the opener at Green Bay, as Detroit was more willing to use their base offense during the first three quarters. Sopoaga had two early tackles, and had a lot to do with limiting the Lions to 3.2 yards-per-carry.

    Ricky Jean Francois: Inc.

    If he played at all from scrimmage, I didn't notice. 

    Will Tukuafu: Inc.

    Played a lot more (and not well) as a fullback in the team's "jumbo" package than he did on defense. Did have a special teams tackle. 

    Demarcus Dobbs: Inc.

    Only played on special teams.

Linebackers

7 of 10

    Patrick Willis: A-

    Far better against Detroit than he was against the Packers.

    Willis led the team with nine tackles, helped shut down Kevin Smith and Detroit's running game, and didn't allow the Lions to take advantage of him in coverage, as Brandon Pettigrew just had three catches for 18 yards.

    NaVorro Bowman: B+

    Detroit kept setting picks against Calvin Johnson's man on short crossing routes, which placed the responsibility of wrapping up Megatron squarely on Bowman's shoulders. He responded to that challenge most of the night. 

    Ahmad Brooks: C-

    Quiet day on the stat sheet, but he pressured Stafford a couple of times, hit him hard once and knocked down a pass. 

    Aldon Smith: A

    Had his best all-around game as a pure linebacker, with five tackles and a sack. He did a great job of setting the edge outside when the Lions clearly made a point of trying to run his way, and he had a couple of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. 

    He added his usual sack per game, taking advantage of a Lions offense that was in desperation mode and passing on every play late.

    Larry Grant: Inc.

    Did not play from scrimmage.

    Tavares Gooden: Inc.

    Did not play from scrimmage.

    Clark Haggans: Inc.

    Did not play.

Defensive Backs

8 of 10

    Carlos Rogers: B+

    Deflected one pass and was called for one holding penalty, but generally wasn't looked at very much by Matthew Stafford. He got a lot of safety help outside. 

    Tarell Brown: B-

    Scratched and clawed with Calvin Johnson all night and was repeatedly picked off by secondary receivers even though no penalties ever got called. He allowed a couple of grabs in garbage time but held up well when it mattered. 

    Donte Whitner: B-

    Tackled well most of the game and helped cover the receivers deep, had a couple of sloppy plays late in the game. 

    Dashon Goldson: A-

    Had a great diving interception on a horribly thrown pass to set up a touchdown and laid some licks on the second level. Was far more involved in the action than at Green Bay. 

    Chris Culliver: B+

    Was called for a 33-yard pass interference penalty to set up Detroit's first field goal, but it looked like a bad call. Came up to support the run a couple of times in the first half and had a pass deflection too. 

    Perrish Cox: B

    Played a lot less in this game as the Lions were rarely using four wide outs. Surprising since the Packers picked on him quite a bit. 

    Tramaine Brock: Inc.

    Only played on special teams.

    C.J. Spillman: Inc.

    Only played on special teams.

    Darcel McBath: Inc.

    Only played on special teams.

Special Teams

9 of 10

    David Akers: A

    Made both of his field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder, and helped draw a roughing-the-kicker penalty in the second quarter that helped give the Niners their second touchdown of the game.

    Andy Lee: B+

    Only averaged 33 yards net, but don't be fooled by the numbers. He downed two inside the 20. 

    Brian Jennings: A

    Flawless as always on all of his snaps. He can probably squeeze a ball with his butt cheeks more accurately than the Raiders guy. 

    Kendall Hunter: D+

    Averaged 21.3 yards on four kickoff returns, with a long of 26, but had an early fumble that cost the Niners three points. 

    Kyle Williams: B-

    Didn't do much as a punt returner, but deftly secured the ball while sliding on an on sides kick to seal the win for the 49ers. It was a baseball type play for a guy whose father runs the White Sox.

Coaching

10 of 10

    Grade: B+

    Jim Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio all deserve plaudits for their game plans and adjustments against Detroit.

    Offensively, the Niners didn't let the Lions front four dominate the game and constantly kept the Lions off balance by switching their alignments and formations up front, using unbalanced lines, six and seven offensive linemen at times, multiple tight ends, extra fullbacks, whatever it took.

    The Niners had a lot of success using the same basic trap play to spring Frank Gore for second and third-level runs over and over, with Joe Staley and Mike Iupati sealing off defensive tackles and strong side linebackers.

    The coaches went to the well too much with the jumbo formation and it didn't work out well on 3rd-and-short or in the play-action, but otherwise the offensive plan was sound, even if it hardly featured Randy Moss.

    The 49ers had so much success running the ball that they were able wear down the Lions defense enough where Smith had time to throw on crucial third downs late in the game. 

    On defense it was mostly Cover-2 from Fangio, with the safeties giving a lot of deep help on the receivers outside, and the Lions tried to counter it by having Calvin Johnson run a bunch of short crossing routes with the tight end picking off his corner.

    Either the coaching staff alerted the linebackers that this would be coming, or Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman were good and smart enough to figure it out on their own. Either way, the tactic didn't work for the Lions.

    Detroit also ran the ball a lot more than anticipated, but again the coaches had the defense ready for that possibility.