Detroit Lions Vs. San Francisco 49ers Key Player Matchups

Embed from Getty Images

A Look At The Key Player Match-ups That Will Affect The Outcome Of The Detroit Lions Vs San Francisco 49ers Game. 


After the truly abysmal performance from the Detroit Lions against the New York Jets this past Monday, they have a chance at redemption against a solid 49ers squad. This past week was about to as close to a worst case scenario as any fan could invent, so I have high hopes that they will improve upon that performance (knocks on wood).

The 49ers were defeated on Sunday by the Minnesota Vikings, who were able to slow quarterback Jimmy Garappolo by providing consistent pressure (over 50% of snaps), and by forcing four turnovers. For the Detroit Lions to have an impressive performance, they will have to find a way to pressure Garoppolo while slowing down running backs Alfred Morris and Matt Breida between the tackles. With that said, below are the five match-ups that I believe will have the greatest impact on the result of this early-season NFC conference game.

Key Offensive Match-Ups for the Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions’ Guards vs San Francisco 49ers’ D-Line

Embed from Getty Images

The Detroit Lions’ offensive line did not play particularly well last week. The weakest link in the group was left guard Frank Ragnow, who made some nice plays, but often looked like a rookie. Unfortunately for Ragnow and Lions’ fans, this week he faces 2016 first round pick DeForest Buckner. Against the Minnesota Vikings, Buckner was an absolute menace, racking up two and a half sacks. While this was against a poor offensive line, he definitely passed the eye test. Ragnow is absolutely going to need a good performance if Stafford is to stay protected.

On the other side, right guard T.J. Lang suffered an injury on the last play of the game. Injuries have plagued him for the entirety of his career with the Detroit Lions, and it appears the injury bug is still infecting him. With Lang out, the next man up is free agent signing Kenny Wiggins. Wiggins struggled mightily in the preseason, and doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Against the San Francisco 49ers’ Solomon Thomas, he may his hands full.

Though Thomas hasn’t yet justified his first round selection in the 2017 NFL draft, he is young and showed improvement late last year. The combination of Ragnow and Wiggins must provide push in the rushing attack and provide protection against the interior pass rush for the Detroit Lions to win this game.

Theo Riddick and Kerryon Johnson vs San Francisco 49ers’ Linebackers

Last week Detroit Lions’ running backs Theo Riddick and Kerryon Johnson combined for eight receptions and 35 yards. This is much lower production than the Lions will need this Sunday. Against the Jets the Lions struggled in pass protection and really could have used a better check down option. With Lang out, and a tough defensive front on the other side, they will need their check-down options to take pressure off Stafford. Against the Vikings, San Francisco 49ers’ linebacker Fred Warner was very good in coverage. As a rookie, he has been phenomenal taking over for the suspended Reuben Foster in the middle linebacker role. For the Lions to be successful they will need to win this match-up.

Key Defensive Match-Ups for the Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions’ Devon Kennard vs San Francisco 49ers’ Tackle Mike McGlinchey

Embed from Getty Images

Free Agent signing Devon Kennard was one of the few bright spots in the horrid loss to the New York Jets last Monday. Working as an edge defender in Matt Patricia‘s offense, he provided consistent pressure. This week he gets to face off against rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who had a poor first showing last week against the Minnesota Vikings. He struggled while he faced off against the likes of Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, who are no slouches. We need Devon Kennard to have a strong outing, as it was against pressure that Jimmy Garoppolo was unimpressive. With how rough our coverage was last week, a strong pass rush will be necessary in forcing bad, or ill-advised throws.

Detroit Lions’ Nevin Lawson vs San Francisco 49ers’ Dante Pettis

I included Lawson in last weeks’ match-up preview, and as it turns out, he got torn to shreds by an underrated Jets’ receiving corp. This week his match-up will not get easier. Though he is a rookie, second round draft pick Dante Pettis is a talented player. He is great in space and is a sneaky good route runner as well. He catches in traffic really well, which tends to give Nevin Lawson a fit due to his sub-par ball skills. Nevin Lawson is great at sticking to a receiver through their cuts, but he rarely plays the ball effectively. We will need him to step up his game so that Garoppolo will have to pick on someone else.

George Kittle vs Detroit Lions’ Safeties

That someone else will probably be Detroit Lions’ safeties Glover Quin and Quandre Diggs. San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle was Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target last week, racking up 90 yards on five receptions. He would have had an even bigger day if not for a dropped pass deep in the end zone. He is a superb athlete, running the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds at the combine, and has really come into his own with Garoppolo at quarterback. The top options to cover him are Quandre Diggs, who may be too small (Kittle is 6’4) and Glover Quin, who seemed a step slow throughout the preseason. Shutting him down would take away the 49ers’ security blanket and would put a massive wrench in their offensive scheme.

If the Detroit Lions can win each of these five match-ups, they will have a very good chance at pulling out a win on Sunday.

Like this? Please click here and support our site via Patreon!

More From The Detroit Lions Podcast