Four downs: Lions take advantage of 49ers' jumpy D-line
First down: Lions center Travis Swanson thought the 49ers defense looked “antsy” on film.
If Sunday’s game was any indication, he was completely right.
San Francisco had seven offside penalties in the Lions’ 32-17 win Sunday at Ford Field, jumping across the line of scrimmage throughout the course of the game.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Swanson said. “Any time you can get a free 5 yards, you’ll take it. I thought we did a really good job with our cadence. We mixed it up today.”
The Lions decided to alter their snap rhythm Sunday after what they saw on film, and Swanson said he was thankful to see the results. Right guard Larry Warford called all the penalties “easy yardage.”
Of course, when something happens that much, the other team tries to find an explanation. Even though 49ers coach Jim Tomsula called the volume of fouls “inexcusable,” he noted that Swanson might’ve been doing something extra to draw the 49ers early.
“You have to watch the ball, and I know the ball was moving around,” he said. “And there are things there, and I’m not going to get into all that.”
Second down: For the second time this season, Lions safety Isa Abdul-Quddus converted a first down with his feet.
And just like last time, Abdul-Quddus’ run came on a well-timed and well-executed fake punt.
“I’m trying to convince (offensive coordinator) Jim Bob (Cooter) that I could get some carries,” Abdul-Quddus said.
In Week 6 against the Bears, Abdul-Quddus ran for 30 yards along the left sideline after calling the fake punt based on personnel, putting all the pressure on himself to convert.
On Sunday, he said the coaches suggested the possibility, but again it depended on the 49ers’ personnel. On fourth-and-1 on what would’ve been the Lions’ first punt late in the first quarter, Abdul-Quddus took the direct snap and ran to his right and gained 4 yards.
After the first down, the Lions marched to a touchdown as TJ Jones’ a 29-yard catch gave them a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
“Sometimes you just see an opportunity to get our offense the ball back again, so you just take it,” Abdul-Quddus said.
Third down: The Lions had yet another stunning personnel issue early in the game as coach Jim Caldwell had to call timeout when the defense had just 10 players on the field.
The team has had similar issues this year on special teams, but the error happening on a first-and-goal at the 1 is simply inexcusable, though Caldwell declined to explain why the Lions had a player missing.
“Because we did,” he said.
Outside of that short response, though, Caldwell was a good sport while discussing burning an early timeout in the first quarter. Caldwell sprinted to the end zone to call the timeout.
“It was about 4.2. Did you clock it?” he said, jokingly.
“When it’s down at that end of the field, you’ve got to find a way to get there in a timely fashion.”
Fourth down: San Francisco running back DuJuan Harris has spent time with eight different teams or practice squads since 2011, so he’s not exactly an All-Pro.
But, the Lions made him look like one early in the game as he ran for 74 yards on nine carries in the first half, including gains of 25 and 22 yards.
Fortunately for the Lions, after the 49ers ran for 122 yards in the first half, they simply stopped running it, which took Harris out of the game. With the Lions leading the entire second half, the 49ers ran just three times and lost a yard.
“We didn’t feel like they could beat us throwing the ball,” Lions safety Glover Quin said. “So, once we got the run stopped, it was kind of right where we wanted to be.”
And, according to 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, the Lions stopping the run forced Harris off the field because he’s been with the team less than a week after San Francisco signed him off Baltimore’s practice squad.
“Teaching the pass protections to a running back in a week is a big deal,” Tomsula said.
Before Sunday, Harris’ biggest game came in 2012 with the Packers when he had 14 carries for 70 yards against the Vikings.