San Francisco 49ers: Grading the Week 2 Win
Blast! We didn't get any handshake drams in Jim vs. Jim: Round II. Don't pretend you weren't looking for it, too.
The real story in the 49ers most recent victory against the Lions was, again, how thoroughly dominant all three units were in the game. Despite the final score of 27-19, the Lions were relegated to field goals until the middle of the fourth quarter.
Detroit's only really good drive was that touchdown drive, and it was an outlier. Matthew Stafford mostly looked lost against the 49ers defense, Calvin Johnson was hardly a factor, and the running game never got going (as usual).
On the flip side, Alex Smith had another impressive performance, Vernon Davis hauled in touchdowns number two and three, and the run game was shredding the "vaunted" front seven of the Lions.
So how does this Week 2 win grade out? Read on.
Passing Game: B+
My boy Alex Smith did it again: 20-31, 226 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 107.7 QB rating.
And that doesn't even take into account the fourth-quarter drive in which three passes in a row were dropped by three different receivers. Either way, Smith looked extremely comfortable in the pocket again, and made some gutsy decisions to throw the ball deep down field.
Those decisions paid off in the form of Vernon Davis, who has three touchdown catches already this season after two more on Sunday.
The blocking was better today, as the Lions got to Smith three times for sacks, but Joe Staley was playing a solid left tackle in general. Against a defensive line like Detroit's, three sacks isn't too bad.
One weakness was when Leonard Davis would fill in at right guard for Alex Boone—he was beat pretty handily a couple plays in a row. Other than that, there weren't many glaring holes in the 49ers' passing game on Sunday.
Smith outplayed the opposing QB for the second straight week, and aside from three drops, three sacks and one really bad snap by Jonathan Goodwin, the passing game was very, very strong.
Running Game: A
As Kendall Hunter emerges as a premier second running back option, it just makes Frank Gore better and better. I cannot wait to see what adding Brandon Jacobs (and maybe a splash of LaMichael James) does to this run scheme.
The offensive line is one of the best in the business at opening holes for their runners, and it helps when the individual styles Gore and Hunter bring while running fit perfectly with the blockers' abilities.
Gore patiently waited to hit big holes and then bust through tackles, racking up 89 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown. Hunter carried five times for 23 yards, bobbing and weaving through the smallest cracks and somehow picking up an extra yard or two on each carry.
And let's give a little credit to Bruce Miller, who might be the most anonymous fullback in the league. But really, does anyone pave the way quite like Miller?
Though the Niners' running game racked up a moderate total of 148 yards overall on the ground, they averaged 5.5 yards per carry and shredded the Lions' front seven, which is no slouch.
Front 7: A
The best students in the class consistently impress, even against the biggest challenges. The Lions actually boast a pretty good running attack, which was on full display in their Week 1 victory. The offensive line is good, plus you have to contend with Calvin Johnson across the middle and a very good receiving tight end in Brandon Pettigrew.
San Francisco only sacked Stafford twice all game, but came close many other times and was applying pressure on every passing down. Aldon Smith got himself another sack, and Ray McDonald busted through for one as well.
Ahmad Brooks had another good game, making some big hits on Stafford in the backfield to rattle him. Patrick Willis led the team with eight tackles, and Justin Smith was back in full force, recording five tackles of his own.
And even though Pettigrew caught a late touchdown pass, he was limited to three catches for just 16 yards on the day, while Willis and NaVorro Bowman each knocked down a pass intended for him.
Oh, and of course...the fun part—the Lions entire running game: 26 rushes, 82 yards, average of 3.2 yards per carry.
This was one of the better games the 49ers secondary played over the last two seasons. Stafford's M.O. is to usually throw for 300 yards and a few touchdowns. On Sunday, it was 230 with one. To a tight end.
Dashon Goldson, Chris Culliver and Carlos Rogers each knocked a pass away and teamed up to put some solid coverage on Megatron. Though Johnson's stat line was decent (eight catches, 94 yards), the 49ers were great in double-team formations to keep his action limited.
Goldson came away with a very nice diving interception and made a few big hits over the middle. Donte Whitner also got in on the action, with three tackles, one of which almost took the head off a receiver.
All together, it was a very solid game from the secondary, shutting down one of the best QB-WR tandems in the NFL. Also, if not for the awful pass interference call on Culliver in the first half, the Lions scored six points less than the final score indicates.
Special Teams: B-
Let's turn this aspect of the 49ers victory into our weekly "Good, Bad and Ugly" segment:
David Akers, again. He went 2-for-2 on field goals despite windy conditions at Candlestick. He's about as reliable as they come. And not to mention his slight acting job on the field goal attempt that turned into a touchdown after a roughing the kicker call.
"Bad" is such a strong word, but Andy Lee only averaged about 36 yards on each of three punts on Sunday. I guess I'm more confused than anything—I'm used to seeing 50-plus out of Lee, and this must have just been an off night.
It doesn't matter if the Lions were "supposed" to be kicking off after their first field goal. They were kicking off, and Kendall Hunter got rocked on the return, coughing the ball up and allowing the Lions to immediately put three more points on the board.
Jim Harbaugh and friends did it again—I don't care how many people want to hate and call him "annoying" or "a whiner," the fact is the guy knows how to win. I'll take a passionate, possibly polarizing figure leading my team any day if it gets us wins.
The things that Harbaugh has done with this team in such a short time are incredible. There doesn't look to be a team even remotely as good or focused as the 49ers right now.
If the first two games of this season are any indication, the 49ers can hang with, and dominate, anyone in the NFL. The Packers in Lambeau Field and the Lions at home was one of the tougher beginning stretches on any schedule this season, and the Niners handled both teams with relative ease.
Bonus points for clearly, cleverly mocking Schwartz on the postgame handshake this time, with little finger pats on the back. Let's just hope Harbaugh also gave a dead-fish wrist to shake.
Another great effort by everyone involved in Week 2. The offense looked fantastic, never really stalling or running into a great deal of trouble. The defense, as usual was impenetrable. And though certain parts of the special teams unit was underwhelming, the 49ers still played well there too.
I'll register a few tiny complaints:
1) The dropped passes. In a closer game, that's not going to get it done. I'm going to count those as flukes.
2) The touchdown in the fourth quarter. Yes, it was poor coverage. No, it won't happen again. At least not that easily.
3) The fumble by Hunter. He's normally very sure-handed with the ball. Once in a while on a return, a guy will get blindsided by a winger running full speed. It happens. It didn't hurt us too much.
4) Vernon...we know you can dunk, dude. Don't give up!
All in all, it was a solid effort by the 49ers, especially Alex Smith and the secondary. Here's to hoping there is no let down in Minnesota next week!
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