Lions-49ers matchups: Part 1

The 49ers play the Detroit Lions Sunday night at Candlestick Park. In the meantime, I’ll break down one key matchup per day.

The 49ers run offense vs. the Lions run defense

Upon first glance, this matchup seems completely one-sided in the 49ers’ favor. Last season when these two teams played, the 49ers averaged 7 yards a carry. For the entire 2011 season, the Lions gave up an average of 5 yards a carry – only the Raiders gave up more.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Frank Gore rushed for 141 yards on 15 carries in the game against the Lions last season. 102 of those yards came on two long carries which were sprung by “wham” blocks, for which the Lions were completely unprepared. In case you don’t remember, they let defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh penetrate the backfield unblocked, and then tight end Delanie Walker slammed him from the side. Suh, who thought he was home free, never saw it coming, and it took him out of the play.

Take away those two long runs and Gore averaged 3 yards per carry against the Lions. Kendall Hunter was actually more consistently effective, gaining 4.1 yards per carry.

Now the Lions believe they can stop the power runs and the whams blocks. They held Steven Jackson to 2.5 yards per carry last week, and they shut down the Rams’ “wham” play. “I don’t think they got a yard on it,” Jim Schwartz told the Detroit Free Press.

Finally, the Lions’ leading Week 1 tackler, strong side linebacker Justin Durant, didn’t play against the 49ers last season. He missed the game with a concussion.

The 49ers still have the edge in this matchup, but it’s closer than you think.

Advantage: 49ers

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