The 49ers offense came out with a heavy ground and pound attack in the first half. On 20 carries, San Francisco racked up 122 yards from the backfield, but that was the end of the line for the units production. In the second half, the 49ers failed to score any points whatsoever, and were -1 yards on three carries.
After the game, quarterback Blaine Gabbert acknowledged how much it effected the outcome of the game for the 49ers. Despite a shuffled offensive line playing in front of him, Gabbert have San Francisco his best efforts in the loss, but the inexperienced corps of running backs behind him never seemed to get on the same page completely.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Gabbert said.
Indeed it was, but San Francisco wanted to come out and make an immediate statement. The 49ers offense got things started early, scoring a touchdown in the opening frame of the contest—an 11-play, 80-yard drive equaled the first time San Francisco scored a first quarter touchdown all season. For total, San Francisco put 265 first-half yards in the box score, an opposite of what has been a start-slow, finish-strong trend Gabbert also spoke about during the postgame. He talked about the need for San Francisco to put together an entire 60 minutes of football on the field.
“We started fast and put some points on the board and had a good first half,” Gabbert said. “And we have to find a way to come out and execute better in the second half. It’s plain and simple. We’ve been starting slow and finishing strong, and it was just the opposite today. We have to find a way to put a complete game together and execute at a higher level.”
Gabbert finished the game with two touchdown passes —on the opening drive, he found tight end Vance McDonald for a one-yard strike, and another 16-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in the second quarter — and no interceptions. While at the one yard line, he fumbled the ball, setting things up for a quick Lions score.
Joe Staley, playing without fellow offensive lineman Alex Boone for the remainder of the season, said they started exactly how they wanted, but Detroit’s adjustments throughout the game were something the 49ers were never able to fully contain, despite being prepared. The most obvious of those changes, was Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin moving Detroit’s safety closer to the line of scrimmage.
“On the first drive, we had a good tempo and we were running the ball with success,” Staley said. “Just everything we wanted to do was there.
“They were doing some stuff that we were anticipating,” Staley said. “We were ready for it. We just didn’t take advantage.”
The most telling statistic of the game for San Francisco’s offense was time of possession. It’s simple science, in order to score, you must possess the ball. During the second half, the 49ers offense had less than 7 ½ minutes of possession. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who became just the 13th NFL player to record 1,000 catches in a career, shared words similar to those of Gabbert’s. He thought San Francisco could retain the offensive momentum they went into the locker room with. Boldin recorded five catches for 27 yards in the first half, and was shut out in the second.
“I thought we’d come back out in the second half and the second half would be the same thing,” Boldin said. “We moved the ball well in the first half. Second half, I don’t know. I don’t know what happened.”
Freshly signed running back DuJuan Harris stormed out of the gate for San Francisco, collecting 74 yards on nine first-half rushing attempts. But as mentioned previously, he followed that up with a second half performance of minus-1 yards on two rushing attempts.
David Barclay is a 49ers Insider for byteclay.com. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @DJamesIII