Lions bracing for 49ers' aggressive pre- and post-snap motions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The 49ers offense has a lot of moving parts and that’s something commanding the attention of Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia prior to the team’s matchup Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

It starts with the personnel. The 49ers mixed and matched at an extraordinary rate in the team’s opener, using 35 different combinations on 66 offensive snaps. From there, coach Kyle Shanahan and offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins like to employ a number of pre-snap shifts and motions to disguise intent.

“That’s the whole point right there,” Patricia said. “So, try to make it look a thousand different looks and directions and adjustments and changes.”

To further add to confusion, Patricia said the 49ers like to play with increased tempo. In 2017, the team averaged 25.58 per snap, according to Football Outsiders, the fastest in the league. 

And once the ball is snapped, the 49ers incorporate plenty of misdirection, creating backside options away from the ball, something the defensive must be on high alert for throughout the game because of the big-play potential.

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“It’s really critical,” Patricia said. “It’s one of the hardest things they do and that’s what makes it so difficult. Kyle does an outstanding job of using those different pieces in ways that, we call it, eye-control or misdirection type plays where it kind of gets you distracted looking at one way and then all of a sudden someone goes by you in the opposite direction and it’s usually a schemed-up play or a schemed-up situation type of play and it’s just too late.”

One of the best defensive plays the Lions made in their season-opening loss against the New York Jets came on the those backside plays. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold rolled to his right on the first play of the game, before throwing across the field to running back Bilal Powell on a wheel route out of the backfield.

Had the defense been undisciplined and followed the ball, it’s the kind of play that results in a massive gain and possibly a touchdown. Instead, cornerback Quandre Diggs stayed home in his underneath zone on the backside and was able undercut Darold’s throw for a pick-six.

Lions at 49ers

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Sunday, Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco

TV/radio: Fox/760

Records: Both teams are 0-1

Line: 49ers by 6