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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

49ers build big lead before holding off late surge in 41-33 Week 1 win over Lions

Sep 12, 2021 at 1:29 PM--

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
SF 7 24 7 3 41
DET 0 10 7 16 33

The San Francisco 49ers started their 2021 season on Sunday with a win that was equal parts convincing and frightening, holding the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit by the score of 41-33.

The 49ers built a 41-17 fourth quarter lead before the Lions added two late scores, due in part to them recovering an onsides kick with under two minutes to play. The Lions then got the ball back with under a minute after a fumble by wide receiver Deebo Samuel, then drove deep into 49ers territory before turning the ball over on downs with less than 20 seconds remaining.

Big plays paved the way to victory for the 49ers, who averaged over eight yards per play on the day. Samuel put up a career-high 189 receiving yards and one touchdown on nine catches, while rookie Elijah Mitchell ran for 104 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown in his NFL debut. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 303 yards on 16-of-24 passing with one touchdown and zero interceptions for the 49ers, while rookie quarterback Trey Lance chipped in with a touchdown pass of his own.

The biggest downer for the 49ers on the day in addition to the late scare was the return of the injury bug, as a number of players came down with various bumps and bruises throughout the game. The most notable injuries were to running back Raheem Mostert and cornerback Jason Verrett, who both saw their games come to an early end due to knee issues.

First Half

The Lions received the opening kickoff and quickly advanced into 49ers territory on a 10-yard first-down run by running back Jamaal Williams and a 22-yard completion from quarterback Jared Goff to tight end T.J. Hockenson. But the 49ers stiffened on defense from there and forced a fourth down conversion attempt, which fell short when Williams stumbled in the backfield and was stopped at the 49ers' 36-yard line by safety Jaquiski Tartt.

Disaster nearly struck for the 49ers after that play, as a botched snap on first down between Garoppolo and center Alex Mack fell to the ground and was recovered at the 38-yard line by linebacker Jamie Collins. But Garoppolo and Mack were bailed out when the defense held the Lions to a 51-yard field goal attempt by kicker Austin Seibert, which sailed wide left.

The offense got rolling for the 49ers on their second series, starting with some chunk plays from Mostert and tight end George Kittle. Mostert ran twice for 20 yards to start the possession, then Garoppolo found Kittle for a 23-yard gain to advance the ball to the Lions' 16-yard line. Lance then entered the game for a one-yard run, then after a short run by Mitchell and a third-down conversion completion to Mohamed Sanu, Lance found wide receiver Trent Sherfield from five yards out for his first NFL touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead after a seven-play, 59-yard drive.

The Lions took over at their own 18-yard line after the kickoff, then advanced to their own 45-yard line after a 20-yard run and a seven-yard run by Williams. A roughing the passer penalty moved the Lions inside 49ers territory, but they were then thrown for a 10-yard loss on a sack from defensive tackle Kentavius Street. Goff responded with consecutive 12-yard completions to running back D'Andre Swift and Hockenson, then a seven-yard run from Swift set the Lions up at the 49ers' 19-yard line. The 49ers defense went on to force another fourth down attempt for the Lions, but this one was successful after Goff found wide receiver Tyrell Williams for a seven-yard gain to the 10. Goff and Hockenson connected again three plays later for a six-yard touchdown to cap a 13-play, 82 drive and tie the game at seven.

The 49ers quickly regained the lead on the next possession after Mitchell scored his first NFL touchdown to cap a four-play, 78-yard drive. The possession began at the Lions' 22-yard line after a kick return from cornerback Ambry Thomas, then moved into Lions territory after a short run from Mitchell was followed by completions to Samuel for 29 and eight yards. Mitchell, who was given the bulk of the carries in the absence of Mostert, took a pitch on the fourth play of the drive and ran through a gaping hole for a 38-yard score and a 14-7 lead.

The Lions took over on their own 25 after a touchback, then moved deep into 49ers territory four plays later after runs of 16 yards and 15 yards from Swift. But the 49ers held on defense from there and forced the Lions to settle for a 49-yard field goal from Seibert to trim the 49ers' lead to 14-10.

The pace continued to move quickly on the next possession as the 49ers took over at their own 25 and moved 75 yards on seven plays in less than four minutes to take a 21-10 lead on a three-yard run from running back JaMycal Hasty. The 49ers got runs of 11 yards, six yards and three yards from Mitchell on the drive to go with catches of 23 yards and seven yards by Samuel and a seven-yard catch by fullback Kyle Juszczyk before the second-year back Hasty finished the job with his second NFL touchdown.

The 49ers put more distance between themselves and the Lions on the next possession, thanks to a big play on defense. The Lions began possession with just over two minutes remaining in the half, then sent the ball back in the 49ers' direction when Goff threw a pass into the arms of linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who ran in for a 39-yard pick six and a 28-10 lead.

The defense stepped up again for the 49ers on the next possession, forcing the Lions to a three-and-out with the help of a four-yard tackle for loss by defensive end Nick Bosa on first down and a sack for a six-yard loss by defensive end Dee Ford on second down. The Lions punted back to the 49ers, who took over with 44 yards remaining in the half and moved into Lions territory after safety Will Harris was flagged for a 15-yard face mask penalty during a completion to Deebo Samuel. An 18-yard completion from Garoppolo to Sherfield moved the 49ers to the Lions' 25-yard line, then kicker Robbie Gould connected from 40 yards out with three seconds remaining in the second quarter to send the 49ers into halftime with a 31-10 lead.

The 49ers held a yardage advantage of 232 to 164 at the half with an edge of 14 to 12 on first downs while the Lions held a 19:14 to 10:46 edge in time of possession. The 49ers made plenty of noise in the first half when it came to chunk plays, averaging 10.8 yards per pass and 7.6 per rush against 3.5 yards per pass and 5.2 yards per rush for the Lions.

Second Half

The 49ers began the second half with possession and kept the chunk plays coming early in their opening drive. Garoppolo and Kittle began the half with a 35-yard connection that sent the 49ers across midfield, then two runs from Mitchell and a short completion to Kittle put the 49ers inside the 30. The drive stalled two plays later after Garoppolo was called for intentional grounding, then after a two-yard run from Lance, Gould attempted a 52-yard field goal that sailed wide right to keep the score at 31-10.

The Lions took over at their own 42-yard line after the missed field goal and moved across midfield on the second play of the drive after Tartt was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The 49ers held firm on defense after the penalty, forcing the Lions to punt after four plays.

The 49ers began the following possession at their own nine-yard line and extended their lead five plays later when Garoppolo lobbed a pass that was caught on the sideline by Samuel, who then ran in for a 79-yard score. Three runs from Mitchell gave the 49ers some breathing room, then Garoppolo and Samuel connected on a 3rd-and-8 to send the 49ers up 38-10.

The Lions responded with their first touchdown of the half -- a 43-yard screen pass from Goff to Swift to cut the lead to 38-17. The drive opened at the 24-yard line and moved across midfield with the help of 12 rushing yards and 17 receiving yards from Williams, then Goff and Swift finished the drive with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Lions held the 49ers to their first punt of the game on the next series, but the 49ers got the ball back on a three-and-out that included an eight-yard sack on third down by Bosa. The 49ers took over on their own 47-yard line after the punt, then moved within field goal range in seven plays to give Gould another shot at a 52-yard field goal, which he connected on for a 41-17 lead with just under ten minutes remaining in the game.

The 49ers held the Lions to a turnover on downs on the following possession but took a hit on defense when Verrett left the game in pain with an apparent knee injury. The 49ers went three-and-out on the next series, punting the ball back to the Lions with under six minutes to play.

The Lions put together a 12-play, 86-yard drive after the punt that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run from Williams. Goff then connected with Hockenson on a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 41-25, then added another touchdown after recovering an onsides kick when he connected with wide receiver Quintez Cephus from two yards out. Goff and Cephus hooked up again for a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 41-33.

The 49ers failed to run out the clock on the next possession as Samuel lost the ball on a forced fumble by linebacker Trey Flowers on what would have been a first down gain. The Lions took over with less than a minute to play, then got 20-yard and 25-yard completions from Goff before the 49ers defense held firm at the 24-yard line. The 49ers then took a knee to seal the win.

Goff finished with 338 yards on 38 of 57 passing with three touchdowns and one interception. Williams ran for 54 yards and one touchdown on nine carries while also chipping in eight catches for 56 yards. Hockenson led the way receving-wise for the Lions with eight catches for 97 yards and one touchdown.

The 49ers will be on the road again next Sunday against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, FOX). The Eagles started off their 2021 season with a 32-6 win over the Atlanta Falcons earlier today.

SF Team Stats DET
442 Total Yards 430
311 Passing Yards 314
131 Rushing Yards 116
12.3 Avg Yards per Pass 5.9
4.7 Avg Yards per Run 4.8
2 Fumbles Lost 0
0 Int Thrown 1
1 Sacks Allowed 3
26:32 Time of Pos 33:28
7 Penalties 5

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Jimmy Garoppolo 17/25 314 1 0
Trey Lance 1/1 5 1 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Eli Mitchell 19 104 5.5 1
Raheem Mostert 2 20 10 0
JaMycal Hasty 1 3 3 1
Trey Lance 3 2 0.7 0
Jimmy Garoppolo 3 2 0.7 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Deebo Samuel 9 12 189 1
George Kittle 4 5 78 0
Trent Sherfield 2 3 23 1
JaMycal Hasty 1 1 15 0
Mohamed Sanu 1 1 7 0
Kyle Juszczyk 1 1 7 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Deebo Samuel 1 1
Jimmy Garoppolo 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Robbie Gould 2 3 52 5
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 2 38 2 43
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Ambry Thomas 70 17.5 0 19
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Brandon Aiyuk 1 7 0 7
Mohamed Sanu 1 11 0 11
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Fred Warner 8-3 0 0 0
Jaquiski Tartt 5-2 0 0 0
Azeez Al-Shaair 4-3 0 0 0
Jimmie Ward 4-2 0 0 0
Dre Greenlaw 4-2 0 1 0
Nick Bosa 4-0 1 0 0
Jason Verrett 3-2 0 0 0
Samson Ebukam 2-2 0 0 0
Dontae Johnson 2-1 0 0 0
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles 2-1 0 0 0
K'Waun Williams 2-1 0 0 0
Deommodore Lenoir 2-1 0 0 0
Ambry Thomas 2-0 0 0 0
Kentavius Street 1-2 1 0 0
Marcell Harris 1-1 0 0 0
Tavon Wilson 1-0 0 0 0
Arden Key 1-0 0 0 0
Arik Armstead 1-0 0 0 0
Dee Ford 1-0 1 0 0

Lions Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Jared Goff 38/57 338 3 1
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Jamaal Williams 9 54 6 1
D'Andre Swift 11 39 3.5 0
Jared Goff 3 14 4.7 0
Kalif Raymond 1 9 9 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
T.J. Hockenson 8 10 97 1
D'Andre Swift 8 11 65 1
Jamaal Williams 8 9 56 0
Kalif Raymond 3 4 50 0
Amon-Ra St. Brown 2 4 23 0
Trinity Benson 3 6 19 0
Tyrell Williams 2 3 14 0
Quintez Cephus 3 7 12 1
Darren Fells 1 1 2 0
Jason Cabinda 0 1 0 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Austin Seibert 1 2 49 2
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Jack Fox 3 50.7 1 57
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Godwin Igwebuike 55 13.8 0 27
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Tracy Walker III 7-0 1 0 0
Will Harris 4-3 0 0 0
Trey Flowers 4-0 0 0 1
Jamie Collins 3-2 0 0 0
Michael Brockers 3-2 0 0 0
Jeff Okudah 3-1 0 0 0
Kevin Strong 3-0 0 0 0
Alim McNeill 2-2 0 0 0
Alex Anzalone 2-1 0 0 0
Jerry Jacobs 2-0 0 0 0
Anthony Pittman 1-1 0 0 0
AJ Parker 1-1 0 0 0
Jason Cabinda 1-1 0 0 0
Derrick Barnes 1-1 0 0 0
Amani Oruwariye 1-0 0 0 0
Godwin Igwebuike 1-0 0 0 0

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