While the 49ers offense put up 27 points, the defense was the real hero in this game.
In particular, three players stood out the most in this highly touted battle between two NFC heavyweights.
1) Justin Smith
As usual, Smith proved to be unstoppable and was constantly double-teamed. Despite the extra attention, Smith anchored the 49ers run defense.
The Lions surprisingly came out the gate with a run based approach, and despite the quantity of carries, the 49ers kept the opposing team’s running backs in check.
Smith is simply dominant, and today’s performance didn’t prove otherwise.
2) Dashon Goldson
The Niners secondary did an excellent job in keeping Calvin Johnson in check. At 6’5’’, Johnson has the speed of a much smaller receiver.
Goldson was in position to provide help to the 49ers cornerbacks, and was excellent near the line of scrimmage.
3) Patrick Willis
Willis is a tackling machine, but his coverage in this game was almost flawless. The 49ers similarly approached today’s game like last season’s matchup against the Lions.
49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio allowed All Pro linebacker Navorro Bowman to roam, while assigning Patrick Willis to shadow Brandon Pettigrew.
There was two misplays by Willis, one being the touchdown, and the other a miscommunication that left Pettigrew open, but for the most part, his coverage was excellent.
Willis is the most complete linebacker in the league, and has put himself in the early lead for the defensive player of the year award.