Chance for a rare 49ers decisive victory

Since the 2004 season, the 49ers have played 67 games. They’ve won 19 games during that time. But here’s an amazing fact: The 49ers have won only two games by more than a touchdown.

Since the 2004 season, the 49ers have played 67 games. They’ve won 19 games during that time. But here’s an amazing fact: The 49ers have won only two games by more than a touchdown.

Can you believe that? Only twice did they have enough breathing room in the closing minutes of the game to feel a little secure with a victory. (For the record, both of those games were in 2006: against the Raiders, 34-20, and at Seattle, 24-14.)

This is one opponent the 49ers should be able to handle without sweating it out to the end. The Lions are not good. They fell behind 21-0 to the Falcons and Packers. Sure, they rallied in those games, but they have been outscored 82-46.

The 49ers need this victory. They need to put the Lions away early. Because after this, things get a lot more difficult.

The team’s next six games are: at New Orleans, vs. New England, vs. Philadephia, at N.Y. Giants, vs. a presumably more healthy Seattle team, and then at Arizona.

If the 49ers don’t completely cough this one away, it should be a victory — an easy victory.

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Here are the matchups to watch in this game:

Niners CBs vs. Lions WRs: This one just isn’t Nate Clements and Walt Harris vs. Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams, though that’s a big part of it. Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey are also threats, and the 49ers will be without their No. 3 cornerback, Shawntae Spencer. That means Donald Strickland, coming off a knee injury, will play a huge role (assuming he’s fit enough to play). Second-year player Tarell Brown might also see some important action when the Lions go with four wideouts.

DE Parys Haralson vs. RT George Foster: See that above matchup? Things will be a lot simpler if the 49ers are able to apply some heat to QB Jon Kitna. Haralson is probably the 49ers’ best pass-rusher. He’ll be on the field on third downs. He had two sacks in the opener, and was held in check last week. Foster is not a great pass protector. He was blamed for 11.75 sacks last season, and he’s already been tagged with 2.5 sacks this year. Haralson needs to use his speed to get past Foster.

DE/OLB Justin Smith vs. LT Jeff Backus: And the same goes on this side. On first and second downs, Smith will generally be lined up on the right side against Backus. Frankly, Backus was not very good in pass protection last season, averaging nearly a sack yielded per game. He has struggled again this season. Smith can’t just save his pass-rush contributions for third downs when he moves to defensive tackle. He has to take advantage of Backus’ shortcomings on early downs, too.

NT Aubrayo Franklin vs. C Dominic Raiola: Franklin can do a lot better job of holding the point. He’s up against a 295-pound eighth-year player. If Raiola can handle Franklin by himself, that’s going to leave one of the Lions’ guards available to venture downfield and make blocks on Takeo Spikes or Jeff Ulbrich. This is one matchup to watch throughout this game.

LB Patrick Willis vs. RB Kevin Smith: Willis’ tackle numbers are down from a year ago, but that’s understandable. The 49ers need him to make more big plays, such as the interception return for a touchdown against the Seahawks. Smith, a rookie from Central Florida, has not taken many big hits, yet. He’s carried just 26 times for 88 yards. Willis has to make sure that those numbers remain low. The Lions are going to want to get some yards from Smith, as the 49ers’ run defense has been a weak spot in the team’s defense.

Pass protection vs. the Lions defensive front: The 49ers struggled with crowd noise and a very aggressive Seahawks front-seven last week. This is a game in which they should be able to keep QB J.T. O’Sullivan clean. It starts with LT Joe Staley vs. RDE Dewayne White, who has recorded the Lions’ only two sacks this season. DT Cory Redding is questionable with an ankle injury. If he does not play, that’ll be a piece of good news for RG Tony Wragge. The 49ers need to be able to keep the pocket clean for O’Sullivan, and they’ll face a lot more difficult tests down the road. No excuses for hits on the QB this week.

FB Zak Keasey vs. LB Ernie Sims: Keasey has done a pretty good job as a blocker in front of Frank Gore. His play will be a key in this one, as he figures to have the chance to meet up with Sims in the hole a few times. Sims is the Lions’ leading tackler and is probably their best defensive player. Keasey is generally on the field for about half of the team’s offensive snaps, and a large portion of the team’s run plays.

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From today’s Press Democrat, the 49ers are not expecting good news about CB Shawntae Spencer’s knee.

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