The Lions 27-19 loss Sunday night to the 49ers was tough pill to swallow, particularly because the Lions didn’t play their best football. In fact, they played closer to their worst football than their best. The Lions were fortunate to escape Candlestick Park with a loss of just eight points when it could have been much worse had the Lions not scored a late touchdown. Below are key reasons why the Lions lost to the 49ers.
Matthew Stafford wasn’t very sharp for most of the night as he under and over-threw receivers who were wide open. His worst throw by far, and perhaps his worst decision, was his throw over the middle of the field that resulted in an interception. There wasn’t a single Lions’ receiver in sight. If the Lions are going to be a top tier team Stafford has to play like a top-tier quarterback, and Sunday he looked very average, with the exception of a few throws.
Stafford was not the only Lion to blame on offense. There were many drops in the game by the Lions’ receiving corps, especially among the tight ends in Brandon Pettigrew, and Tony Scheffler. If the Lions were going to beat the 49ers they needed play a clean game, yet they continually made mental lapses and missed easy catches.
Missed Opportunities: Special teams gave the Lions a chance to take control of the game and get some much needed momentum early when Tahir Whitehead forced a fumble and Kassem Osgood recovered it during a kickoff early in the game. Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity and settled for another field goal. This was particularly upsetting to see because the Lions didn’t take too many shots to the end zone during this uneventful drive. I would have liked to have seen a screen pass to one of the Lions’ running backs, or a throw to a big receiver like Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, or especially Calvin Johnson. I think we all learned last year that throwing the ball up to Calvin Johnson in the red zone is never a bad option.
Perhaps the worst play of the game for the Lions is when the Lions’ Drayton Florence ran into 49ers kicker David Akers which would up costing the Lions a touchdown instead of a field goal. This play was a huge momentum swing for the 49ers as the Lions never got within eight points for the rest of the game.
The Lions also missed a 40 plus yard field goal after a long drive which could have brought the Lions within five points. I don’t blame Jason Hanson for missing the field goal, but it was a missed opportunity non the less, and David Akers didn’t seem to have any problems capitalizing on his field goal opportunities.
The theme for the game was missed opportunities, as is the theme for most NFL games. However, most of the Lions’ opportunities were the kind they often capitalize on, which is why this was such a frustrating game to watch. The Lions had every chance to make something happen, yet they never could make the play.
Defense: Overall the defense played very average to poor throughout the game, especially considering the 49ers offense is not a top unit in the NFL. The Lions did not learn from their mistakes a year ago when they were burned again and again by counters, reverses and misdirections from the 49ers run game, as they were burned, repeatedly by scheme blocks and reverses by the 49ers.
To be honest I’m stunned the Lions weren’t able to slow down the 49ers run game, as they have the talent in their front seven to neutralize any run game in the NFL. Either there was very poor preparation and/or execution, or the front four for the Lions, which has been invested in heavily, is not as good as we all thought.
Outlook For Lions: If you’ve ever read any of my articles, then you know I have very high expectations for the Lions. I’m very optimistic about this team because they proved to me last year they will do whatever it takes to win, no matter the circumstances. Even when the Lions are out-matched talent-wise, or play a really bad game, they seem to out heart the other teams which is the most important quality to success. However, I’m very disappointed in the Lions so far this season because they have lacked the edge they played with last season.
I expected the Lions to take the next step in their rebuilding and insert themselves as one of the top teams in the NFL with a win over the 49ers. However, the Lions didn’t show up to play and remain a team with a bright future and a lot of work to do. I still believe this team will find a groove this season and show a lot of growth, but the Lions may still be a season or two away from a deep playoff run.