A week after stopping the Packers’ potent offense in Green Bay, the 49ers’ defense smothered the Lions’ big-play offense at Candlestick Park.
Two weeks, two KOs for a defensive unit that has become the gold standard for the NFL.
“That’s our D,” said 49ers tight end Delanie Walker to reporters after Sunday’s 27-19 victory over the Lions. “They’re some dogs.”
After two games, the unbeaten Niners rank No. 7 overall in the NFL in rushing defense, No. 11 in total defense and No. 12 in scoring defense, but those numbers are a bit deceiving. San Francisco is giving up an average of 20.5 points per game, which doesn’t sound impressive, but it’s come against two top QBs in Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.
And, when the Lions tried to establish the running game Sunday, they were able to pick up some yards (82), but they came on 26 carries – 3.15 yards per try. As teams found out last season, rushing the ball against the San Francisco front seven is difficult.
Also, as a defense, the Niners may give up some yards, but they’ll shut you down when it counts. The lone Detroit touchdown – after four field goals – came with less than two minutes in the game.
“They had to come out and try,” Niners safety Donte Whitner said of the Lions’ efforts on the ground. “Especially after Green Bay came out last week and ran the ball nine times. They knew that if it got into just a throwing fest, it wouldn’t have been a good thing for them, so they had to at least try to run the football.”
Even with the 49ers in nickel pass coverage much of the day – with an extra player in the secondary and one fewer linebacker – San Francisco was able to handle the run.
“Our guys did a pretty good job of getting them shut down,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “And we didn’t let any good runs get out.”
The longest run of the day by the Lions, in fact, was an 11-yard quarterback draw by Stafford, noted the Press Democrat’s Phil Barber.
In the passing game, too, the Niners wouldn’t let the Lions get any home-run balls.
“They (the 49ers) are a team that won’t let you hit it with the big pass,” Stafford told Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press. “They do that to everybody. You gotta pick and choose when you’re going to go for the pass on them.”
Up next for the 49ers is a date with Minnesota Sunday and one of the NFL's top running backs in Adrian Peterson.