For the first time in five weeks, Lions coach Jim Schwartz wasn’t answering questions about a lack of run production in his post-game press conference.
For the first four weeks of the season it’s been “we’re close” and “we’re on the right track” and “we still have confidence in it.”
Monday, against the Bears, everything finally came together in the run game, as the Lions racked up 181 yards (163 by starting running back Jahvid Best ) on the ground.
It was something the Lions certainly needed to jump start with the 49ers coming into Ford Field on Sunday. The 49ers have allowed the second fewest points in the league (15.6 per game) and come in ranked fifth against the run (76.4 yards per game).
The 49ers defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past 27 games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
“We got a lot of confidence last week running the ball really well,” said Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. “We had some big plays in the running game, so that’s something that we’re capable of. We knew we were capable of it; we just needed it to happen.
“(The 49ers) are really good at stopping the run, top five in the NFL at it, but we’re still going to try and run the ball and hopefully we’ll get some big plays out of it.”
The Lions (5-0) had gotten away with being a one-dimensional offense in their first four victories. It was only a matter of time, though, before defenses stopped respecting the threat of the run altogether and really came after Stafford and the passing attack.
Monday proved to teams that the Lions’ run game can be a weapon, not just something used from time-to-time to keep a defense honest.
“I’d like to see more consistency but to see Jahvid shoot through the middle of the line of scrimmage and take off for 88 yards is pretty cool,” said Lions left tackle Jeff Backus. “The fun thing about our offense is that we can score, like that, whether it’s throwing the ball or running the ball and you’re never really out of a game when you can do that.”
Schwartz said Wednesday that the 49ers could pose the best linebacking corps the Lions will play all season.
“Patrick Willis is good, but he’s not the only one,” Schwartz said. “NaVorro Bowman looks a lot like Lance Briggs, who we faced last week. He’s very active and very fast. Aldon Smith is a rookie, and even though he isn’t starting, he has 3.5 sacks and is leading their team. Ahmad Brooks is a size mismatch in a lot of ways. They have good players at all their positions and they’re deep.”
Schwartz knows that the best way to neutralize an aggressive 3-4 linebacking corps is to establish the run, which will and set up the play action pass and hopefully slow the 49ers’ defense down some.
That’s why Monday night’s display on the ground was so important for the Lions. The 49ers have to respect the run now.
Stafford said he expects to see a lot of zone coverage with man techniques in the middle, making completions hard to come by. He said the one thing that would make things easier for everyone is if the Lions can establish a run game and turn it into a weapon.
62nd regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 34-26-1. The 49ers have won 12 of the last 13 games, including the last seven straight. The 49ers defeated the Lions 19-13 in 2006 in their only other trip to Ford Field. The teams are 1-1 in playoff matchups.
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