Lions vs. 49ers: Biggest Winners and Losers for San Francisco in NFL Week 2
The San Francisco 49ers greatly limited the visiting Lions, coming away with a 27-19 victory. The team is now 2-0 to start the 2012 season and appears to be the class of the NFC. Their complete, balanced approach to the game of football, termed "old school," has proved to be a winning formula.
The 49ers have looked very good against high-level competition, and it's spoken volumes about their recent ascension.
This is a team currently on the rise, with so many contributors lending a helping hand under a blue-collar, team-first philosophy. In establishing their new identity, the 49ers have seen theirs ups and downs, but it's clear that the good has far outweighed the bad.
In this piece, we'll breakdown the winners and losers from San Francisco's Week 2 matchup against Detroit.
Winner: Frank Gore
One of the constants for this team's success since 2005 has been dependent on how Frank Gore performs. If Gore has a good day, this team typically wins—and that's what happened on Sunday Night Football.
The veteran looked phenomenal in Week 2, cutting through Lions defenders and running for chunks of yards at a time. Gore averaged 5.2 yards per attempt on 17 carries, as he ran for 89 yards and a touchdown against Detroit.
He showed that even when he's under 20 attempts per game, he can still be a productive contributor who helps this team win games.
The 49ers' ground attack, led by Gore, looks like one of the league's top units, and it's still not the finished product. The 49ers are expecting to have Brandon Jacobs this season, and LaMichael James has not yet had an opportunity to be active on game day.
But Gore proved he is still capable of carrying this team. His day against the Lions should have been exciting for 49ers fans and true Frank Gore supporters. He's still got it.
Loser: NFC Contenders
It's early in the season, but the 49ers have already made themselves pretty hard to ignore. In two straight weeks to start the 2012 season, the 49ers knocked off two potential NFC title contenders—teams that otherwise looked good in the victories they do have this season.
The Niners are looking fierce right now. With San Francisco off to a hot start, it seems like other ballclubs are behind the eight ball. These teams include the likes of the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, all of whom are .500 or below right now.
San Francisco appears to be asserting themselves as the class of the NFC. And if anyone else from said conference stands in their way, they can expect a dogfight.
Winners: The 49ers' Tight Ends
The 49ers' tight ends played well against Detroit, getting the job done in Week 2. They played well in multiple facets, helping the offense from a blocking and receiving standpoint.
Niners star TE Vernon Davis had himself a night, reeling in five catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns. He continued to be a big-time weapon for the passing game, finishing with an average of 14.6 yards per catch.
The blocking from Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker stood out in particular, though. These guys displayed their selfless, team-first mentality by putting forth full effort in something as unglamorous as a run-blocking assignment.
San Francisco received a great deal of help from their tight ends, who were knocking Ndamukong Suh off balance and opening up lanes for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.
Losers: The 49ers' Pass-Catchers
San Francisco's pass-catchers wound up coming on strong at the end, the 49ers' receivers had several drops Sunday night. Alex Smith hit a number of receivers in the hands and multiple guys failed to come up with the football.
The Niners had a chance to put this game away early but failed to with dropped passes hurting drives.
Eventually, the 49ers' pass-catchers were able to overcome their brief lapse and come back to seal the deal. Michael Crabtree led the 49ers back with some clutch grabs and impressive yards after catch. Nevertheless, the drops must be noted, and understanding this team's mentality to strive for perfection, they will likely address them.
Winner: 49ers Defense
The 49ers defense was just impressive across the board.
San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith looked great in his second outing as a full-time starter. He finished with five tackles and with multiple sacks. He was constantly disruptive, he made the offense hesitate when he dropped into coverage and he was stout against the run.
On that same side, veteran defensive lineman Justin Smith had another strong performance. He did a great job of stopping the run and collapsing the pocket, causing issues for Detroit's front.
The defense has also remained impermeable, continuing to stop the run better than anyone in the league. The players consistently executed their assignments, rarely making mistakes like missed tackles or blown coverages.
The 49ers limited the Lions by taking away the deep throws and daring them to run the football. The defense kept superstar receiver Calvin Johnson under 100 yards and out of the end zone. It was a lot of underneath throws, bad execution and futility by Detroit's offense, but the 49ers certainly forced them into it.
Bonus Winner: Alex Smith
Alex Smith continues to perform at a high level, outplaying some of the league's better quarterbacks and leading his team to victories.
On Sunday night, Smith went 20-of-31 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. However, considering the dropped passes by his receivers, his stat line should look more like 26-of-31 with the way Smith played.
He was confident, decisive and mistake-free. Smith has continued to use good judgement and to the best of his ability, position the Niners to succeed. He remains turnover-less as well; not fumbling or throwing potentially costly balls into coverage.
This offense has clearly taken a step forward, as they are now one of the teams that are a threat to score 30 points per game. With Smith at the helm, this team can go far, and he's done everything to prove he is worthy of being the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.
Alex Smith continues to redefine his career.— Sam Farmer(@LATimesfarmer) September 17, 2012