49ers 20, Lions 6
A week after getting knocked out of playoff contention, the San
Francisco 49ers started slowly against Detroit.
They put it together in the second half to move one step closer
to their only big goal left – avoiding a seventh straight losing
Frank Gore scored on a 1-yard run and topped the 1,000-yard mark
for the fourth straight year, and the 49ers took advantage of six
turnovers to beat the Lions 20-6 on Sunday.
Alex Smith threw a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis and the Niners
(7-8) scored both their touchdowns in the third quarter to close
out the home season with a victory. San Francisco needs to win at
St. Louis next week to finish at .500.
“I think it’s a matter of pride,” Smith said. “It’s what
we’re playing for right now. We haven’t finished better than 7-9
since I’ve been here. It’s something we’re all playing for.”
Drew Stanton struggled in his first career start for the Lions
(2-13), throwing for just 130 yards and three interceptions before
being pulled for Daunte Culpepper midway through the fourth
Detroit lost its fifth straight game and 20th in a row on the
road, failing to score a touchdown.
“Last week we said the true measure of a quarterback is his
ability to move the team and put points on the board, and we didn’t
get that done today,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We didn’t score
touchdowns, we didn’t move the team, we didn’t get third-down
conversions and we turned the ball over too much. It doesn’t matter
how Drew performed, the offense didn’t perform well and ultimately
that’s the quarterback’s responsibility.”
Stanton replaced Culpepper last week as the Lions search for a
quarterback with rookie starter Matthew Stafford sidelined for the
rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Schwartz wouldn’t say
who will start against Chicago next week.
San Francisco didn’t fare much better until getting a pair of
touchdowns in the third quarter to pull away. The first came when
Smith rolled out on third-and-goal from the 2 and flipped a pass to
Davis just before crossing the line of scrimmage.
Smith could have easily run it in but instead got the ball to
Davis for his 12th touchdown catch of the season, one shy of
Antonio Gates’ record for tight ends.
On the next drive, Smith found a wide-open Gore on fourth-and-1.
Gore scampered to the 6 on a 48-yard gain. Two plays later, he
dived in from the 1 to make it 20-3.
San Francisco coach Mike Singletary thought the sluggish start
could be attributed to the holiday week or the fact that the Niners
had been eliminated, but was pleased with the way his team
“The bottom line is we came out in the second half and picked
it up and got going and began to execute and created some things,”
Gore ran for 71 yards on 28 carries. He has 1,013 yards rushing,
becoming the first Niners player to reach 1,000 four times in a
“It means a lot,” Gore said. “It was an up-and down season. I
missed a couple games. It was tough, a tough year. It was a
blessing. I have to give it all to my O-line. They did a great
Smith went 20 for 31 for 230 yards and his career-high 17th
touchdown pass of the season as he tries to solidify his hold on
the starting quarterback position heading into next season.
The Lions moved the ball well on their first drive, going 76
yards in 15 plays to set up a 27-yard field goal by Jason Hanson.
Detroit had only three more first downs the rest of the half,
losing two fumbles and throwing an interception to give San
Francisco good field position for much of the half.
“It’s his first start. We have to build our chemistry with
him,” receiver Calvin Johnson said of Stanton. “It’s going to be
tough for a young quarterback coming out his first time but there’s
plays that a lot of people left out there on the field. You can’t
have that stuff. We were able to hang in the first half but in the
second half it was kind of the same old story. We stalled there a
little bit and couldn’t get anything going.”
The Lions didn’t score again until Hanson kicked another field
goal late in the fourth quarter after Culpepper came in and the
game had long been decided.
The Niners could not capitalize with points off any of those
miscues, each of which gave San Francisco the ball near midfield.
Gore was stuffed on fourth-and-1 after Stanton fumbled, the 49ers
had to punt after a fumble by Johnson and Grady Jackson blocked a
28-yard field goal attempt by Ricky Schmitt in the closing seconds
of the half.
Schmitt, signed this week to replace injured Joe Nedney, make a
pair of field goals earlier in the half to give San Francisco a 6-3
NOTES: Lions LB Larry Foote missed the game with a foot injury,
ending his streak of 94 straight starts. … Niners LT Joe Staley
left with a bruised knee early in the second half. … The blocked
kick was the 24th by the Lions since the start of the 2001 season,
most in the NFL.