Lucky for Detroit, the common thread among the three teams that beat the 49ers in the regular season last year did so using those same tools.
The Cowboys (Week 2), Ravens (Week 12) and Cardinals (Week 14) used either big plays over the top of the defense, or in the case of the Ravens, a relentless pass rush to harass quarterback Alex Smith and beat the 49ers.
For the Cowboys and Cardinals it was big plays in the passing game.
Cowboys’ receiver Miles Austin and tight end Jason Witten each had over 100-yards receiving against the 49ers as the Cowboys hit for completions of 77, 53, 33 and 25 yards in the game. Austin had three touchdowns in the Cowboys' 27-24 victory.
“Well, they made some plays that gave them some field position chunks or scores,” Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of the teams that beat the 49ers last season. “That’s hard to do against them because they’re very stingy against the run; there weren’t a lot of plays being made against the run, but they made some plays in the passing game.”
The Lions have similarly skilled players as the Cowboys at both the receiver (
The Cardinals scored on 60- and 53-yard touchdown passes from quarterback John Skelton to Early Doucet and Larry Fitzgerald, respectively, in their 21-19 win.
“Whether a guy caught a ball that was challenged and broke a tackle and scored, you’re going to have to earn your place against this group,” Linehan said. “They don’t give you much. You know, you’re going to have to beat them. They don’t beat themselves and so I think that’s what the teams that did beat them last year did.”
The Ravens, in their Week 12 win over the 49ers, used a merciless pass rush to sack Smith nine times. The Ravens didn't do much offensively, but the 49ers were held to just 170 total yards and were 2-of-12 on third down as the Ravens won that game 16-6.
As they proved on their way to the NFC Championship game last year, there aren’t many kinks in the 49ers’ armor, but they were susceptible to a couple things the Lions just happen to do well.
Let’s also not forget it took a fourth down conversion for the 49ers to give the Lions their first loss of the season last year in Week 6.