What exactly did we say in our pre-game analysis of the Detroit Lions? I believe it was that each team should stick to their strengths and be themselves. Well, the San Francisco 49ers played the way they should and the Lions tried to be somebody they’re not.
I know the basis behind “establish the run, then look to pass” and I completely understand it. But since the Lions don’t really have a run to establish in the first place, what was the basis behind trying to do it against the best run defense in the NFL?
It was evident from the first alternating series of the game, where the Lions ran twice for about four yards–total, not each–and then went three-and-out following an incomplete pass by Matthew Stafford. The Lions also took a timeout due to the unorganized nature of running three continuous plays successfully.
Likewise, the Niners had nearly no issues following their game plan on their first offensive series. Frank Gore carried the ball efficiently, as well as wide receiver Mario Manningham who had a 29 yard gallop, while quarterback Alex Smith was able to find receivers easily down the field. He completed two of three on the drive for 38 yards, the final completion a 21-yard strike to tight end Vernon Davis for his first of two touchdowns on the night.
In my opinion, despite all the critics and analysis screaming that establishing the run is the first thing to do, I have to wholeheartedly disagree in the case of the Lions vs. 49ers.
San Fran has one of the best defenses in the NFL, if the not the best run defense at that. So why, as an aerial-attacking, non-running football team, would the Detroit Lions continue to look for yards on the ground?
When you have Stafford, Calvin Johnson and a deep receiving corps, you have to look for them to make big plays, whether it’s deep down the field or for five to six yards at a time.
When the Lions defeated the St. Louis Rams in week 1, Stafford threw the ball 48 times. He only attempted 32 passes against the 49ers, and the bulk of those throws came in the fourth quarter, 12 to be exact.
Last season the Lions had the highest pass-to-run ratio in the league (66 percent pass, 34 percent run). There’s a reason for that and it’s because the Lions are simply better through the air than on the ground. At times and in certain games, it is important to try and run the football. But against the one defense that is praying for you to do so? I don’t think so.
Like we discussed in the game preview, the Lions need to be themselves, a passing team. They had the mentality of “we’re going to run the ball, and run it down their throats.” Well guess what? They didn’t, because that’s not who they are. Hopefully the Lions learned something from this game: be the team you are. There are some teams you should try and run on, and some you shouldn’t. The 49ers fall under the latter category.