This game was a mountain to climb for Los Leos, but it was made a mission impossible by inept game-planning on both sides of the ball. The players acquitted themselves as well as we could expect, but in the final analysis, we have to point the needles at the coaching staff for a game that was beyond their creative talents, or lack thereof.
They Are Who We Thought They Were
Give the Niners their due; they deserve top billing on next week’s power rankings as the best team in the NFL. Anyone who disagrees with this assessment should take up Parcheesi, and forget football.
So How Does an Offense Beat The Best Defense In the NFL?
OK, I get that the Lions had to run the ball, even if it meant wasting a play. That Niners' defensive front seven is terrifying and needed to be slowed down. San Francisco seldom rushed more than three defenders and were content to control the line of scrimmage while denying the Lions the passing lanes that they depend on.
The Niners didn’t penetrate too deep, and were always in position to make a play. Hell, they even drop defensive ends into coverage. Simple. Brilliant.
The only way to counter this defense is to go to an up-tempo passing game augmented by play-action draws and trap plays. The Lions have the speed on the perimeters, and tight ends that can dictate to any defense. Sadly, the coaches failed to put QB Matt Stafford in a position where he could succeed.
I don’t want to hear excuses about running backs, either. It is what it is. Deal with it. Scheme for it. Overcome it. That’s what good teams do.
Sadder yet, Stafford got off to a notoriously slow start throwing the ball. He threw wounded ducks into bad spots. He executed plays as if he didn’t believe in them. He misread defenses that he instinctively knew would be thrown against him.
The Lions offense showed multiple formations, but the Niners blanketed the vertical passing game, causing Stafford to check down like some automaton. Stafford challenged the deep coverage once in the first half; a play that WR Titus Young Sr. gave up on against double coverage in the end zone.
Niners DE Aldon Smith Is the NFL’s Defensive MVP
Niners DE Aldon Smith played like the defensive MVP leader that he is. He was used in a number of creative and effective ways that Stafford and the Lions coaches seemed unwilling to believe.
Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan treated Smith like another “X” on the blackboard. Smith is the most toxic “X” in the NFL.
Need to chip Calvin Johnson off a pass route? Need to contain the edge against the run? Need an outside pass rush? Need a cover DE? Aldon Smith is your huckleberry.
Smith’s credentials were certified in Green Bay just a week ago. So…what was it with Linehan that he chose not to scheme Aldon Smith out of the game? I mean, this is doable if you allocate enough blockers, or simply avoid him, isn’t it?
No Excuses For the Lions Defense
We certainly got a lot of lip service out of Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham about different looks on the D-line, didn’t we? So, where was this new, dynamic look? You know, “The Gray?”
Hey! Gunther! I’m talking to you! Your “meet me at the QB" thing ain’t getting it done! Wake up!
The front four was out of more plays than not by failing to control the line of scrimmage. Defensive tackles collapsing the pocket is fine against a pass-happy team, but this is the 49ers, a disciplined ball-control team. Defensive ends who rush up field are useless traffic cones against a well balanced and well managed offense.
Does the word “containment” even exist in your vocabulary?
The Lions were without starting LCB Chris Houston, RCB Bill Bentley and safety Louis Delmas. Boo hoo! The play of CBs Jacob Lacey, Drayton Florence, Jonte Green, and safeties Erik Coleman along with John Wendling wasn’t hapless, given the circumstances.
The linebackers, for the most part, held up their end very well also. It was the front four who were among the bottom five in tackling stats.
This static, predictable base defense has to go. That means you, Gunther, should take up needlepoint. You have an eye for talent; you just don’t know how to employ it.
“We Left a Lot of Plays on the Field”
That’s Lions head coach Jim Schwartz’ spin on what was actually a blowout despite the 27 - 19 score.
The Lions were dominated in every phase of the game with the possible exception of special teams.
Speaking of Special Teams
Memo to Drayton Florence: If you are going to block a punt, kill the punter if you take that poor angle. Make it a helmet-to-helmet mugging. Steal his lunch money too.
But, a weak angle and an “excuse me” hit on a punter should not be tolerated. It should be fined by a kangaroo court in the locker room.
I like my steak medium rare, you loser!
Detroit visits the Titans next week. The Lions will take out their frustrations one of the worst teams in the NFL. Once again, they will look like world beaters as the spread should favor Detroit by about 10 points.
We know the truth though, that the Lions will scramble for a playoff spot and make another early playoff exit. The reason should be clear by now. San Francisco just demonstrated it. Competitive talent and good depth is there. It’s the coaching that bears closer scrutiny. It’s the coaching that should have the villagers in the streets with torches and pitchforks.