The 49ers defense features two of the best interior linebackers in the game in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, not to mention Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson.
“It’s all about winning personal matchups,” tight end Tony Scheffler said of the message that’s reverberated around the tight end room this week. “They obviously have a great defense from top to bottom, particularly the linebackers. It’s definitely something we’ve watched a lot of film on and we know in our room that we have to win one-on-one battles.”
The 49ers are an excellent defense upfront against the run and play a lot of two-deep with their safeties. The Lions might find their early opportunities in one-on-one matchups with Pettigrew and Scheffler and those linebackers.
“Pettigrew, he’s a big guy,” said 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis in a conference call this week. “Running routs pretty well, catching the ball pretty good as well. Scheffler is a good tight end as well. I mean, they have some good tight ends.
“When we have an opportunity to cover them then we’re going to have to be at our best doing it, which again, you know, all that comes from just preparing this weekend and practicing, just when it comes time to do it we get the job done.”
Pettigrew was targeted 14 times in the Lions’ 25-19 loss. Of those 14 targets, 12 were within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage and the Lions only completed eight of them for 42 yards. One of them was a 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but the Lions are hoping for a little better percentage this time around.
“We won a couple, not as many as we’d like last year, but Brandon is a guy that we feel very comfortable utilizing when we’re getting those matchups and it’s a tough matchup,” said Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. “It’s going to be a fun one to watch between him and those backers. We’re going to win some and we’re probably going to lose some but we’ve got to stick with it for four quarters.”
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said his tight ends are going to have to work for everything they get Sunday night.
“It’s not going to be one of those times where you have free access or an easy time with it,” he said. “We’re going to have to go to work and we’re going to have to earn everything and create our shots.”