The 49ers huge win over the Detroit Lions was keyed by a variety of big plays with Ted Ginn Jr.'s huge punt return and Delanie Walker's late touchdown catch standing out as two huge plays. Early in the game, Frank Gore had a pair of huge runs as well that keyed ten of the 49ers points. He had a 47-yard run in the first quarter that set up his eventual one yard touchdown run, and added a 55-yard run (69 with the additional horse collar penalty) that eventually led to a field goal.
Yesterday, Derek put together a breakdown of the running game as a whole. The offensive line has improved and the rushing numbers have improved as well. However, I wanted to focus in on the 47-yard rush late in the first quarter. There have been a couple of breakdowns on the run. One was done by myself for SB Nation NFL as we have begun breaking down significant plays around the NFL. A second was done later that day by Grantland. I think mine is better, but some may disagree.
I bring this up because in discussing the most important plays of the game, I like being able to focus in on some of the plays that can be overlooked in their value to the 49ers victory. We all know the big plays late, but I believe the touchdown drive at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter was as big as anything else in the grand scheme of that drive.
Two of Frank Gore's runs were particularly pivotal. The 47-yard run set up the touchdown, but before that he also put together a 14-yard run that earned the 49ers their first first down of the game. The 49ers were down 10-0 and another punt would have put the Lions in a position to take a commanding lead. The 49ers very well could have come back from a bigger deficit, but slowing the Lions momentum was key. And as is often the case, Frank Gore was at the center of it.
What I particularly liked about both runs was they showed some of the elusiveness and speed that some have said is missing. In the 14-yard run he had a wall of offensive and defensive players in front of him so he bounced the run outside and used his foot speed to hit the hole. On the 47-yard run he got through the hole and then made a quick cut to create a bad angle for a pursuing defender. He was run down before the touchdown, but he got the big gain and the 49ers went on to score a touchdown. All's well that ends well.
Neither team was wildly impressive on offense for much of this game, but that drive got the 49ers in sync and moving forward.The team has had its fair share of struggles on offense this season, but they have found a way to do just enough to take care of business. We'll hopefully see some more blowouts like the Tampa Bay game, but they have shown they can hang tough in the dogfights as well. It's one more way the team's confidence keeps them in game after game even when things get tough.