After watching and re-watching every play from the 49ers’ 31-13 victory over the Lions on Sunday, it’s time to toss around a few kudos and some observations:
UPDATE: The 49ers announced today CB Shawntae Spencer will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. He has not yet been placed on injured reserve. That move will happen in the near future.
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After watching and re-watching every play from the 49ers’ 31-13 victory over the Lions on Sunday, it’s time to toss around a few kudos and some observations:
–Game balls on offense go to QB J.T. O’Sullivan and RB Frank Gore, of course, as well as C Eric Heitmann. Defensively, where to start? CBs Nate Clements, Walt Harris and Tarell Brown each played exceptionally well, as did Justin Smith. The top player on special teams was easily Jason Hill.
–You want aggressiveness? That’s what I saw from the 49ers’ defensive front. Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald and Justin Smith were penetrating into the backfield on just about every snap. It was clear their focus was to get pressure on Lions QB Jon Kitna. As a result, sometimes they were left vulnerable on running plays. That, and a few missed tackles, explains why Rudi Johnson rushed for 83 yards on 14 carries. The 49ers seemed pretty content after getting the big lead to allow the Lions to take those pieces of yardage on the ground.
–There is growing frustration over the play of TE Vernon Davis, as voiced by the fans at Candlestick on Sunday. But Davis also showed why he is such a big part of Mike Martz’s offensive equation. Martz likes to use Davis down the field. Twice O’Sullivan threw deep to him. Once it resulted in a defensive holding penalty. The other time, the ball skimmed off Davis’ hands. Just the fact that Davis is a viable threat down the field should continue to help this offense. Defenses have to account for him, and that’s an element that was lacking from the offense last season.
–Why isn’t Delanie Walker used more in that regard? Walker is a very good receiver and route-runner, but his blocking is still coming along. He is not offer the same dual threat as Davis as a blocker and receiver, so he does not create the same matchup dilemma for a defense.
–Jeff Ulbrich started at the strong inside linebacker position again. But for how much longer? He played the first series, then Takeo Spikes entered. Ulbrich played one more series the rest of the game. Spikes has not clearly outplayed Ulbrich, but it looks as if the coaching staff is giving Spikes every opportunity to take that job.
–The 49ers could announce today that CB Shawntae Spencer will undergo season-ending knee surgery. After Brown’s performance, it’ll be interesting to see if he’s earned the job as the No. 3 man. The 49ers’ coaching staff has an affinity for veteran Donald Strickland, who has missed the past two games with a knee sprain.
–During the exhibition season, I kept wondering what Martz was trying to accomplish when he’d have O’Sullivan line up in the slot before motioning back under center to take the snap. Martz was just trying to get the defense thinking, while also setting up some stuff for the regular season. Case in point: He had O’Sullivan lined up wide on Sunday, with Gore taking a direct snap. You better believe we’ll see that again at some point this season. It might be the same play or there might be another wrinkle from a similar formation. Everything Martz does has a purpose. By the same token, I’m figuring we’ll see more of Allen Rossum on offense. After all, that was one of the more impressive 1-yard runs you’ll see.
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OK, and now onto the all-53-man review . . .
10-Martin: Designated the No. 3 QB. He did not play.
13-Hill: He’s the backup QB. He did not play.
14-O’Sullivan: Obviously, he played pretty well. Evidence? His 123.3 passer rating. O’Sullivan made some good throws and he made better decisions. He ran for 32 yards and took only one sack. About his only negatives came on throws to TE Vernon Davis. He had Davis open 13 yards down the field early in the game but overshot him. Down on the goal line, Davis was wide open for a couple seconds before throwing late and behind him. (Davis dropped it.) . . . JTO needs to learn how to slide at the end of runs. All in all, a very strong game.
21-Gore: Played 58 snaps. He gained 130 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and also caught a team-high four passes for 32 yards. Those numbers pretty much speak for themselves.
24-Robinson: Played solely on special teams. He had a quiet game on special teams for him, with no tackles nor any really good blocks on kickoff returns.
29-Foster: Played five snaps. Had 25-yard gain wiped out by holding penalty in the third quarter. . . . Carried twice for 1 yard, both of which came deep in Detroit territory.
45-Keasey: Played 25 snaps. He caught a 12-yard pass, and did a pretty good job as a blocker for Gore.
46-Walker: Played seven snaps. Easily beat LB Ryan Nece down the field and O’Sullivan found him for a 24-yard TD catch in the second quarter. . . Holding penalty vs. LB Alex Lewis nullified Foster’s 25-yard run . . . Making a bid for more action on offense, as perhaps Mike Martz can create a niche for him. . . . Also had two assisted tackles on special teams.
47-Bajema: Played 18 snaps. Made fantastic block to take RDE out of the play on Gore’s 33-yard gain in the first quarter. . . . Added an assisted tackle on special teams.
62-Rachal: Suited up for the first time in an NFL game, but did not play.
64-Baas: Played back-to-back series (11 snaps total) in the second quarter. . . . He replaced Adam Snyder, beginning with that three-play, 72-yard drive. . . He held up his end of the bargain on all three of those completions. . . . On the next series, he did a nice job of coming off a double-team to toss aside a blitzing DB, allowing O’Sullivan time to complete a 13-yard pass to Isaac Bruce on a third-and-7 play . . . Gave up pressure to DT Cory Redding that forced O’Sullivan to move up in the pocket, resulting in Corey Smith’s sack. . . Got in for a play later at the goal line as an extra blocker, but the 49ers were stuffed for no gain.
65-Sims: Started at right tackle for injured Jonas Jennings. . . . Drove his man, DT Cory Redding, completely out of the picture on Gore’s 4-yard TD run in the second quarter. . . . Did a nice job in pass protection throughout the game.
66-Heitmann: Started at center. Made a crushing block of LB Ernie Sims to clear the way for Gore’s 4-yard TD run. . . . Controlled NT Chuck Darby one-on-one to open gaping hole for Gore on 20-yard run in the third quarter . . . A strong performance throughout the game.
68-Snyder: Started at left guard. . . . Nice push on double-team block with Joe Staley to spring Gore for 9-yard gain on a third-and-1 at the start of the third quarter. . . Started off on double-team block and then got into LB Paris Lenon on Gore’s 20-yard third-quarter run. . . Was not physically dominating at the point of attack, but he fulfilled his assignment very well. . . . Slowed his athleticsm on one play in which he got into the linebacker and was driving him 10-15 yards down the field on a run play to the right side. Gore was stopped near the line of scrimmage or it would’ve been a huge play. . . . Baas rotated in for two possessions in the second quarter, but he played every snap at left guard, other than those 11 plays.
69-Wragge: Started at right guard and played pretty well. . . He did get beaten badly on one play by DT Shaun Cody, forcing JTO to run for his life. O’Sullivan turned it into a 13-yard gain. . . . Pulled and made double-team block on Gore’s 20-yard run in the third quarter.
74-Staley: He was out front leading the way on Gore’s 33-yard run. LB Paris Lenon decleated Staley with a huge hit, but that collision took Lenon out of the play. Staley later said he was going for a huge hit, but let his pad level get too high and he got leveled. . . His pass-blocking was strong. . . The man he was blocking, C.Smith, recorded the lone sack of O’Sullivan, but it was not Staley’s fault as pressure forced O’Sullivan to move up into Smith’s path. . . Big block on Gore 20-yard gain.
75-Jennings: Inactive with a right shoulder injury.
82-Johnson: Played 52 snaps. Nice catch against tight coverage of CB Brian Kelly for 25-yard gain in second quarter on only pass that came his way . . . Took handoff on end around and then lateraled it to Battle on reverse for 18-yard gain.
83-Battle: Played 25 snaps. Caught all three passes that came his way for 22 yards. . . . Also got his hands on the ball on a reverse that went for 18 yards in the first quarter. . . Target on a defensive pass-interference 6-yard penalty . . . Fielded one-hopper on onside kick attempt and returned it 28 yards to the Lions’ 12 in the fourth quarter.
84-Morgan: Played 13 snaps. Opened the game with a nice tackle on the kickoff. He had two special-teams tackles. . . . Made nice leaping catch in traffic for 18 yards on deep crossing pattern in the second quarter. . . . Only other pass that came his way as an incomplete deep ball. . . . On a side note, Morgan missed the final exhibition game with an undisclosed illness (the team and Morgan have not revealed the nature of his condition). He and Keith Lewis, who apparently had the same condition, stayed away from the practice facility for a couple days during that time. Both men lost some weight, but it might be a slight exaggeration that Morgan lost 15 pounds. In any event, that’s what the Fox crew was told during their Saturday production meeting with the 49ers’ coaches. I’ll check in with Morgan next time I see him to clear it up.
85-Davis: Started at tight end. Played 50 snaps. Blocked into the backfield by DE Corey Smith, preventing Gore from picking up third-and-1 run at the end of the 49ers’ first drive. . . Came back with block on SS Dwight Smith downfield on Gore’s 33-yard run. (Smith thought holding should’ve been called.) . . . Dropped pass at the 2 on an O’Sullivan rollout. In Davis’ defense, he was open throughout the play and JTO could’ve gotten him the ball much sooner for an easy TD. Instead, Davis was near the sideline when the ball came his way and the ball was thrown behind him. . . . Showed his running ability when he turned a TE screen into a 17-yard pickup . . . Beat Smith deep on a play that resulted in defensive holding (it probably should’ve been a 33-yard penalty for pass interference, actually). . . Beat the defense deep but could not hold onto over-the-shoulder catch for his second drop of the day. . . . Martz is showing that he likes the idea of running Davis deep to stretch the defense and, perhaps, set up other plays underneath for his wideouts.
88-Bruce: Played 60 snaps. Ran a beautiful slant-corner to completely turn around CB Leigh Bodden on a 6-yard TD catch in the first quarter. . . . He caught just two passes for 19 yards.
89-Hill: Played entirely on special teams. He made the stop at the 16-yard line on a late-first quarter kickoff . . . Did a good job of preventing Andy Lee punt from going into the end zone to down the Lions’ 3. (It was the last play of the first half, so it wasn’t a big deal.) . . . Led the 49ers with three special-teams tackles.
22-Clements: Started at cornerback. It was a very good day in coverage. He shadowed Calvin Johnson throughout the day. Johnson had just one catch for 15 yards through three quarters. Johnson had three catches for 25 yards after the score reached 28-6. . . . Came from across the field to deliver a clean shot to take down Shaun McDonald in the open field to hold him to an 8-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
25-Brown: Matched up almost entirely against Mike Furrey in the slot. . . . Made an exceptional play to diagnose Furrey’s route and duck inside him to make the interception and get both feet inbounds in the third quarter.
26-Roman: Started at free safety. Nice coverage on underneath pattern to hold Furrey to 3-yard gain on third-and-9 from the SF 29 in the second quarter . . . Finished with two tackles. . . Had a chance to bring down Rudi Johnson for a 4-yard gain in the third quarter, but missed the tackle and Johnson ended up getting 27 yards.
27-Harris: Started at cornerback. Was simply fantastic, as he was locked up against Roy Williams all day. Williams managed just two catches for 18 yards. . . . He was credited with four tackles.
28-K.Lewis: Played special teams and got in on a little bit of defense late in the game when Goldson went out. . . . Did not make any tackles on defense, but forced a fumble from Detroit returnman Brandon Middleton, which the Lions recovered.
30-Strickland: Inactive with a left knee sprain.
31-R.Smith: The rookie was active for the first time in his career. He did not play any on defense, but made a special-teams tackle.
32-M.Lewis: Started at strong safety. Came off the right side untouched to stop Rudi Johnson for a 5-yard loss in the first quarter. It was one of his four tackles. . . His blitz at end of third quarter resulted in Kitna throwing the ball wide to Calvin Johnson for an incomplete pass. . . Had good coverage deep on Williams, giving Harris help over the top on fourth-quarter pass. . . Took poor angle on R.Johnson at 13-yard line and failed to make tackle, resulting in the Lions’ lone TD.
36-Spencer: Inactive with a left knee sprain, which could lead to season-ending ACL surgery.
38-Goldson: Continues to see a lot of action as an extra defensive back. . . Big hit on Shaun McDonald in fourth quarter on 5-yard completion. . . Had a chance at the tackle on R.Johnson on the Lions’ lone TD, but he sustained an injured shoulder while Johnson ran through the tackle attempt.
51-Spikes: Did not start, but entered the game at SILB for the second series, and saw a lot more action than starter Jeff Ulbrich. . . . Managed just two tackles, and still looks a little unsure of his role in the defense. . . . Overran a play in which R.Johnson gained 17 yards on a draw, he did catch up to Johnson to force a fumble out of bounds on the play.
52-Willis: Started at weak inside linebacker. Did not do a great job attacking the line of scrimmage. He had six tackles. All but one of his tackles was at least 5 yards downfield. . . Had screen to R.Johnson sniffed out but Raiola got him on the ground with a cut block. Willis bounced to his feet and still almost made the play on the TD play.
53-Ulbrich: Started at strong inside linebacker, but played just two Lions possessions in the entire game. Did not play on defense in the second half. Credited with one tackle . . . Did a really nice job of taking on block from fullback Jerome Felton and still helping out to stop R.Johnson for just a 2-yard gain.
54-Green: Showed his relentless in starting off on the right side and chasing Kitna all the way across the field in the third quarter to get his second sack of the game. . . . He can owe his first sack to Justin Smith for making Kitna leave the pocket and attempt to run . . . As always, entered the game at right end in passing situations.
90-Sopoaga: Started at left defensive tackle and played a very strong game. . . . Got good penetration to help stop Johnson for no gain on second and 9 in the second quarter . . . Tossed aside rookie RT Gosder Cherilus to stop R.Johnson for 1-yard loss in third quarter. . . . Also got good push up the middle in pass-rush situations.
91-McDonald: Started at right defensive end. . . Forced Lions to punt on first series when he pushed RG Stephen Peterman back into QB Jon Kitna as he was throwing for an incomplete pass . . . Finished with two tackles. . . . Saw a lot of action as DE on base downs and DT in passing situations, where he attracted a fair amount of double-team blocks.
92-Franklin: Started at nose tackle. He played about 20 snaps, as the 49ers spent all 18 plays of the fourth quarter with their pass-rushers on the field.) While he did not get blown off the ball, he also did not attract many double-team blocks — six, by my count. He did a real nice job on one double-team to hold his ground, leading to Sopoaga and Willis coming to stop R.Johnsonfor no gain. On many of the other plays, Lions C Dominic Raiola seemed to have sole responsibility for him. That enabled Franklin to make three tackles – not bad for a nose tackle.
93-Fields: Saw about seven snaps throughout the game, when Franklin was getting a rest. Like Franklin, did not see double-team blocks. He did a nice job of sliding off a block to help stop R.Johnson for a 2-yard gain in the first quarter.
94-J.Smith: Started game at left outside linebacker, but again was all over the place. The 49ers had 55 defensive snaps, and we counted only three plays in which Smith was not on the field. He played LOLB, RDE, RDT, LDT, ROLB, LDE and even saw a play at ILB. . . . Lined up at RDT, moved across the face of Raiola and executed nice spin move to record the sack and forced a fumble near goal line in the first quarter . . . He got pressure on Kitna in the end zone on the previous play to rush an incomplete pass . . . Got great pressure inside, chasing Kitna from the pocket on a third-down play in the second quarter that resulted in Green’s first sack. . . Made an incredibly athletic move, rushing from RDE. LT Jeff Backus blocked him low, Smith went to the ground, bounced up and retreated to make a one-handed interception of a screen pass intended for R.Johnson late in the game. . . . His motor never stops, and the stat sheet (four tackles) really doesn’t do him justice.
95-Banta-Cain: Inactive, and figures to remain in street clothes on game days as long as Parys Haralson and Green continue to do what they’re doing. Those two have combined for five sacks in three games.
96-Balmer: Saw about 10 snaps on defense. . . . Credited with tackle of R.Johnson for a 2-yard gain in the first quarter. He was lined up at LDT in a 4-3 alignment on that play . . . Had two tackles. . . . Effort is not an issue. He does not stand around and watch when a play is run to the other side of the field. He gets after it. . . . But he gets controlled at the line of scrimmage a bit too easily.
98-Haralson: Came in on passing situations and got good pressure on Kitna on a third-down incomplete pass late in the first quarter . . . Called for personal foul at the end of Brown’s interception. . . Blew past Cherilus with a speed move to sack Kitna, knocking him out of the game with less than two minutes to play . . .
99-Lawson: Returned to starting role, beginning the game at right outside linebacker. . . Had one assisted tackle and one pass defensed. . . . Almost had an interception off TE Michael Gaines’ hands. . . Saw some action in the second half as a pass-rusher, but did not get any pressure on the QB. . . . He lined up at ILB late in the game, and missed a tackle near the line of scrimmage that resulted in R.Johnon’s 9-yard gain.
4-Lee: He planted three of his four punts inside the Detroit 20. . . On the one where he could really let if fly, Lee didn’t get good hang-time. His 47-yard punt was returned 8 yards. . . . Finished with a net 35.0 for the day.
6-Nedney: Did not hit the ball cleanly on 43-yard FG attempt in the third quarter, missing it badly to the right. It wasn’t even close. . . . The Lions’ averaging starting point was their own 27 on six kickoffs. . . . Made a 25-yard FG.
20-Rossum: Got into the game for one offensive snap, and showed nice body control to get into the end zone at the left pylon for a 1-yard TD run on fourth down. He made a really good play to first avoid a Lions LB at around the 8 before turning it on and making that last dive into the end zone. . . Averaged 12.7 yards on three punt returns; and had a 23.7 average on three K.O. returns.
86-Jennings: His snap on 43-yard FG attempt might have been a tad-bit high (by a matter of inches). . . . Otherwise, it was just another day in which the 49ers did not have to worry about him doing his job.
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