What are the San Francisco 49ers doing right?

Posted Oct 13, 2011

San Francisco stands out as being schematically sound and playing mistake-free football

What are the San Francisco 49ers doing right?

That is the question being thrown around right now as the team sits atop the NFC West with a 4-1 record - the only winning record within the division.

"Our matrix has just been to get better every day," said first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. "Better today than we were yesterday; better tomorrow than we were today."

Whatever Harbaugh is doing, it's working.

The 49ers have stunned the NFL through five games, ranking fourth in the NFC in rush offense and fourth in the NFC in total defense.

Most notably, however, is the way they are taking care of the football.

The San Francisco offense is third in the NFL in interceptions per pass play and the defense is fourth in the NFL in interceptions per pass play.

"I think the biggest thing is they're taking care of the football," said Head Coach Jim Schwartz. "They're plus-10 in turnover ratio. They've only thrown one itnerception - that's a big departure from where they've been in the past."

Attribute that change to Harbaugh.

The 49ers have been schematically sound on both offense and defense, which is helping them make big plays and limit offensive turnovers.

"(It's) not trying to do too much," said quarterback Alex Smith. "Really just making the plays when they are there to be made - not forcing it. Going where my reads are telling me to go."

The key to disrupting that rhythm will be twofold.

The 49ers have been able to run the ball and be conservative with the pass game because their defense has been so effective.

Currently third in the NFL in points allowed per game, it will be important for the Lions to get on the scoreboard right away.

"They're first in red zone and they're pretty good on third down and they get turnovers," said Schwartz. "So they haven't allowed a lot of points."

But neither have the Lions.

Detroit is tied for fourth in the NFL in points allowed per game, having given up 89. The 49ers have surrendered 78.

"They play extremely fast," said Smith. "That is the thing that jumps off the film right away: the entire 11 plays really fast.

"The other is that they are very well coordinated. You can tell they are coached well. They know what they are doing. (They are) playing really well and the front four is a talented group. They get after the passer and that's something we will be conscious of."