Detroit — At halftime, the message to the Detroit Lions' defense was clear: Wake up.
There was also an expletive involved.
"There was a little bit more verbiage, but yeah, that's all it was," Lions defensive end Darryl Tapp said. "We understand what we can be and we've just got to continue to stay true to that each and every week, each and every play."
Defensive end Devin Taylor said he didn't think the defense was necessarily asleep.
"They said wake up, but I don't really think we were asleep," he said. "We just needed to kind of get ourselves going."
Tapp and linebacker Josh Bynes sacked San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert late in the second quarter, forcing him to fumble at the 1-yard-line. The Lions scored on the following play.
"Honestly, we don't think about it," Tapp said of the fumble being the turning point for the defense, which shut out the 49ers in the second half. "We, as a defense, we kind of focus on one play at a time. If we can take care of one play at a time and everybody is focused on technique and fundamentals, we know things will take care of themselves. We don't want to get too far ahead."
Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who made his impact on the game with a fake punt in the first quarter, said the Lions did exactly that. They got too far ahead of themselves.
"In the second half, we slowed down, slowed the game down, took it one play at a time and it worked out," Abdul-Quddus said.
Taylor said a lack of focus was the problem in the first half, when the Lions were peppered by big plays both on the ground and in the air.
"I think in the first half we were just kind of scattered," he said. "We never really were communicating properly and things like that."
Tapp said San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley, a Pro Bowler and Central Michigan alum, was key to the 49ers breaking free on those big plays.
"He was controlling the game in the first half, by himself," Tapp said.
Early in the third quarter, Taylor made back-to-back plays that resulted in losses. He first wrapped 49ers running back DuJuan Taylor up for a loss of 2 yards, and then sacked Gabbert for a loss of 12, forcing a third-and-24 at the San Francisco 24-yard-line.
The 49ers did not convert the first down.
"We needed something to get our momentum back going again," Taylor said of his back-to-back negative-yard plays. "I just played technique like coach was telling me to do, and made a play. I kind of, I won't say put the nail in the coffin, but just kind of put our momentum to the point where we cruised through at the end."
Pro Bowl defensive end Ziggy Ansah said the Lions offense helped the defense recharge.
"The offense is doing great," he said. "They drive the ball. I think they had 36 minutes (actually 36:30) of possession. That gives the defense time to take a break and come back with a lot of energy, stop them and give the offense back the ball."
Al Willman is a freelance writer