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5 things to watch: Lions at 49ers

The Detroit Lions will have to play a lot better in all three phases if they plan to win on the road in San Francisco later today against a 49ers team also trying to avoid an 0-2 start.

Here are five things to watch out for in today's contest:


The last time 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Lions head coach Matt Patricia squared off against one another was in Super Bowl LI, when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for Atlanta and Patricia the defensive coordinator for New England.

The Falcons jumped out to a 28-3 lead in that contest only to see the Patriots come back and win 34-28.

In a conference call with reporters this week, Shanahan said because there isn't much tape on the new Lions defense under Patricia, he's gone back and watched that game and looked through his notes to try and find an edge.

"When you have limited tape you have to go back to whoever the coordinator was, where he was the coordinator last, so you can understand all the scheme stuff," Shanahan said.

"And that's what you see. It's very similar to what they've done in New England and they present a lot of challenges that are very tough to deal with."

Today's matchup pits the offensive wits of Shanahan vs. the defensive mind of Patricia.

Who will have their players in the better position to make plays?


Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford stood in front of his teammates after Monday night's 48-17 loss to the Jets and took the blame. While his four interceptions certainly played a factor in the defeat, it by no means was the only reason Detroit was on the wrong side of a lopsided score.

Still, Stafford said this week he was doing everything in his power to make sure he never has another performance like that again. Shanahan and the 49ers are expecting to get Stafford's best following Monday night's performance.

This is a Lions roster that still isn't quite good enough to overcome their quarterback not playing well, especially on the road against a 49ers team that can score points.


Two missed field goals. Two long punt returns allowed. There wasn't much special about the Lions special teams last week.

Kicker Matt Prater missed field goals of 56 and 44 yards.

Punter Sam Martin finished the game with a net punting average of 5.0 after Detroit gave up punt returns of 43, 16 and 78 yards, the latter going for a touchdown. The Lions hadn't given up a return touchdown the last two years on special teams.

Detroit's special teams were among the best in the NFL last season (sixth in Rick Gosselin's 2017 NFL special teams rankings).

That was not a good special teams showing last Monday, and they need to be better today.


The Lions talked a lot this offseason about improving their run game and playing with more balance on offense. That after finishing last in the NFL a year ago running the football.

The unveil of this revamped rushing attack, which the Lions spent a lot of resources on this offseason, produced 39 yards (2.6 average) on 15 carries. The Lions rank 32nd in the NFL in rushing after Week 1.

It's only one week, but that's an area that has to get going for this offense to play with the kind of balance they'd prefer to play with.

Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson has shown real promise throughout training camp, the preseason and even in a limited role Monday night. Will the Lions try to get the football in his hands a little more today to try and ignite the rushing attack?


This is a 49ers offense with a number of explosive weapons, from Pierre Garcon's consistency to George Kittle's playmaking ability from the tight end position.

The 49ers were a Top 10 passing team last season and Top 12 offense.

It's yet to be determined if the Lions will have the services of top pass rusher and edge setter Ziggy Ansah because of a shoulder injury. Inactives will be released 90 minutes before kickoff.

Ideally, Ansah will be able to play, and the Lions will have one of their top defenders. If not, others will have to step up, and the defense as a whole will have to play much better on the road this week if they're going to help Patricia secure his first win as Detroit's head coach.

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