The Lions had everything going for them.
Home field in the Ford Stadium, with 65,000 fervent fans elevating the noise level to that of a carrier deck. Opposing team members can’t hear their teammates five feet away. Offensive tackles who can’t take their eyes off the defensive linemen had become incredibly twitchy, leading to illegal procedure calls in the first half.
Kyle Vanden Bosch beat Joe Staley on San Francisco’s first play from scrimmage for a strip-sack. The Lions earned a first down within the 5. It was on—a Lions rampage like the 48-3 wipeout they had over Kansas City in September.
But the Niner defense held the Lions to a field goal after they had secured a 1st-and-goal at the 6. A later Detroit possession within the red zone resulted in a touchdown pass to Brandon Pettigrew, giving Detroit a 10-0 lead. But if you watched the game there were three telling factors that gave 49er fans hope when things looked so dismal.
First, Lion QB Matthew Stafford was getting hit. In the end, the 49ers sacked him five times, but there was plenty of pressure from Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald. Second, the 49er secondary played really well on tight coverage up front. And third, Matthew Stafford isn't all that great of a QB, despite great numbers. But then, no quarterback is when constantly harassed.
The Lions came into the game averaging nearly 400 yards in offense and the Niners held them to 310. On their home field. The Niner defense didn’t have the benefit of a loud home crowd forcing penalty after penalty on the offense. No, the Niner defense wrapped up an explosive offense and put it on the sideline.
In the end, Pettigrew led the team with eight catches for 42 yards. All-World receiver Calvin Johnson had seven catches for 113 yards, but the Niners kept him out of the end zone. After Vanden Bosch’s strip sack, you could say there were no more big plays from the Lions. There were big gains here and there, but nothing that swung momentum in a definitive way.
For that, you have to credit the 49er defense, which made Detroit earn every yard.