DETROIT - OCTOBER 16: Patrick Willis #52, NaVorro Bowman #53 and Justin Smith #94 of the San Francisco 49ers tackle Jahvid Best #44 of the Detroit Lions during the second quarter of the NFL game at Ford Field on October 16, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The 49ers defeated the Lions 25-19. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
While I grow comfortable surrounding the idea of the 2012 San Francisco 49ers, I often find myself trying to keep from getting too confident. I am comfortable with this team, but still want to see some more before I can declare most anything with significant confidence.
One thing though that seems to have carried over from last year is the 49ers strong rush defense. The Packers are not a team that is strong in the running game, but the Packers effort on the ground was almost comical. Aaron Rodgers managed to gain some yards, but Cedric Benson struggled for 18 yards on nine carries. Benson's longest run was four yards and he just never could get anything going.
Fooch: Kevin Smith had some decent numbers last week against the Rams. Given the 49ers strong rush defense, do you think the Lions still try to fully establish the run, or do you see them focusing on the passing game from the get-go?
POD: Based on how they've built their offense, the Lions always focus on the passing game first. Rather than trying to run the ball to set up the pass, they pass the ball and hope that it will open things up for the running game. Against the Rams, that actually happened. St. Louis provided a lot of room for Kevin Smith to run, and he did a pretty good job of taking advantage of it. The Lions certainly may go into the 49ers game with the idea that they will try to stay balanced early on, but I doubt they will have a whole lot of success on the ground. If the Lions are to win on Sunday, it will be because of what Stafford and company do through the air. The Lions' run offense just isn't good enough to match up with a team like the 49ers, and it's really more of a complement to the passing game than anything.
Marshawn Lynch was the only running back to find sustained success last season, as he had a fairly solid game in the Seahawks Week 16 loss to the 49ers. Kevin Smith is a solid running back, but I'm not sure he can bring the needed physicality to find success.
More importantly, as Sean pointed out, it is entirely possible the Lions look to more or less abandon the run beyond some courtesy rushes. The Packers did rush the ball, but it really struck me as more of a courtesy than anything else. Will this be the end result for the Lions as well?
This is one area of the game where I don't think it is getting ahead of ourselves to think success is expected. This rush defense has the kind of athleticism that allows for great success considering they can operate from passing defenses and still shut down the run. Do you see any reason not to be comfortable with the 49ers rush defense? Anybody open to playing some devil's advocate?