The San Francisco 49ers couldn’t sustain their hot start to Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, as a jumpy defense and a sputtering offense handed the team their third consecutive loss heading into the season finale.
After scoring 17 first-half points, the 49ers offense came to a screeching halt in the Motor City, going on to gain just 52 yards on 20 plays throughout the rest of the game before falling with a final score of 32-17.
The defense would offer no help to the increasingly stagnant offense either, as missed tackles and a twitchy defensive line would allow the Lions to run away with what was a tight contest early on.
Although there was nothing particularly encouraging about any aspect of the 49ers play on Sunday, the biggest stain on San Francisco’s play continues to be the disappearing act of the offense.
After an impressive start that saw the unit notch their first touchdown on an opening drive all season, the unit slowly regressed into obscurity en-route to the team’s 11th loss of the year.
The Lions had no such problems of their own, as their play trended in the other direction to snag a win from an NFC opponent.
QB Matt Stafford moved the ball efficiently against the 49ers, completing 29-of-37 attempts for 301-yards and two touchdowns on the day. T.J Jones and Calvin Johnson hauled in the pair of scores, while Joique Bell added another on the ground.
Gabbert turned in another questionable performance for San Francisco, as the fifth-year veteran was productive early on, before failing to move his team forward later in the game. He completed 22-of-33 attempts for 225-yards and two touchdowns.
The starting receiving core of the 49ers — Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith — turned in the only touchdown’s for San Francisco throughout the day, with K Phil Dawson adding the only other points with a 40-yard field goal.
The 49ers used a mix of new and old to break open Sunday’s scoring in Detroit, as the veteran receiver Boldin and the newly claimed Harris set career high’s to catapult San Francisco to an early lead.
Not looking to waste any time in getting him involved, Gabbert looked to Boldin on the game’s opening play, connecting with the veteran for his 1000th reception of his illustrious career.
San Francisco then looked to their new weapon in Harris, who looked strong and explosive while taking four carries for 44 yards in his first series of action as a 49er to move his new team down the field.
TE Vance McDonald would then recover from last week’s fiasco to deliver the 49ers something that has eluded them all season long — an opening drive touchdown — to put San Francisco in an early 7-0 lead.
Detroit would respond with their own scoring drive, riding the back of an impressive 46-yard kickoff return from rookie Ameer Abdullah to set up a 36-yard field goal from Matt Prater to eat into San Francisco’s lead.
Poor special teams play from the 49ers would continue to cost the team, as Detroit would capitalize on converting a fake punt attempt on 4th and 1 to give Stafford and the Lions offense new life.
Stafford would make good use of his second chance, leading his team down the field before connecting with T.J Jones in the end zone for his first career touchdown on a 29-yard post route.
But as they did in the opening drive, San Francisco would look to the reestablish the run game to open up avenues for the team’s big playmakers to find the end zone.
Riding the heels of a career high 74-yards from Harris, Gabbert would do just that, as the fifth-year quarterback found a slanting Torrey Smith across the middle of the Detroit end zone for a 16-yard score to retake the lead at 14-10.
The 49ers would be unable to complete a clean first-half of play however, as Gabbert would lose control of the football on a third-down sack near his own end zone, leading to a prompt one-yard rushing touchdown from Detroit RB Joique Bell to put the Lions back ahead with a 17-14 lead.
Following a rare miss, the 49ers would notch things up at 17-all as Dawson would be true on his second consecutive attempt.
But a lapse in coverage would allow Detroit to run four plays for 65-yards before Prater would convert his second attempt of the day from 38-yards out to give his team a 3-point lead at the half.
Prater would continue to get work out of the half, as Abdullah and WR Calvin Johnson would move the Lions into his range. Prater would stay perfect on the day after splitting the uprights for a 37-yard field goal.
While Detroit continued to look more comfortable moving the ball against the 49ers defensive unit, Gabbert and the offense looked to have pump the brakes after their hot start to the game.
After failing to capitalize on 30 free yards of offense that was gifted to them by way of Detroit penalties, the 49ers offense came to a screeching halt in the second half.
The unit ran just 52 yards on 20 plays, good for four first-downs, while sinking any chance of making a comeback effort on the road.
With the 49ers floundering on both sides of the ball, the Lions pounced on their chance to secure their sixth win of the season, as the nail was effectively hammered in the 49ers coffin with a one-yard touchdown reception to Calvin Johnson later in the fourth quarter.
Detroit would go on to score one more field goal before the whistle sounded on the 49ers third-straight lackluster appearance.
The 49ers will look to head into the offseason on a winning note, as they take on the division rival St. Louis Rams on the road next Sunday.