SAN FRANCISCO — Detroit is known for its pass-happy offense, with young Matthew Stafford pulling the trigger and Calvin Johnson making the most outrageous catches. The 49ers are known for their impenetrable rushing defense.
Add it up, and no one expected the Lions to pay even token attention to establishing the run. But they did. They ran the ball a healthy 26 times for 82 yards. The Lions handed off a lot on first down, and especially on the first plays of drives.
“They had to come out and try,” 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. “Especially after Green Bay came out last week and ran the ball nine times (is a loss to San Francisco). They knew that if got into just a throwing-fest, it wouldn’t have been a good thing for ’em. So they had to at least try to run the football. I don’t know how well they did.”
One reason Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan may have called so many runs is that the 49ers went with nickel pass coverage most of the night, removing one linebacker from the equation.
“They did a pretty good job of it, and our guys did a pretty good job of getting them shut down,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And we didn’t let any good runs get out.”
The Lions’ longest rush was 11 yards on a quarterback draw by Stafford.
TAKE ’EM OFF THE BOARD
Drayton Florence presented Harbaugh with a classic coach’s dilemma with 42 seconds left before halftime. The Lions player ran into David Akers after the kicker had converted a 35-yard field goal, giving Harbaugh the choice of keeping the points — which put the Niners up 10-6 — or taking the automatic first down and prolonging the drive.
Harbaugh took the yardage, and Frank Gore scored from a yard out three plays later, after Detroit’s Jacob Lacey was flagged for pass interference against Randy Moss in the end zone.