SANTA CLARA -- The San Francisco 49ers opened their home schedule with a bang Sunday, outlasting the Detroit Lions for a 30-27 victory at Levi’s Stadium.
While it wasn’t always pretty -- Jimmy Garoppolo, for example, took untimely sacks and nearly blew the game by throwing a fourth-quarter interception that was called back on a defensive penalty -- the 49ers made just enough plays and overcame some mistakes to walk away winners.
Let’s examine the seven plays that ultimately swung the game the 49ers’ way and sent the Lions home 0-2.
Saved by the whistle
Jimmy G’s biggest mistake came with 2:24 left in the game, but a defensive holding call on Quandre Diggs erased a Tracy Walker interception and 37-yard return that would’ve given the Lions the ball at the 49ers’ 7.
Our Ray Ratto tweeted what everyone was thinking when Walker picked off the pass …
And now the kick in the head.— Ray Ratto (@RattoIndy) September 16, 2018
… and then everyone saw the yellow flag on the field.
Before the pass, defensive holding. And, wow, Jimmy G lucked out on that one.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) September 16, 2018
And then there's the holding penalty that negates the 49ers' doom, because Lions.— Ray Ratto (@RattoIndy) September 16, 2018
Matt Breida opened the game with a 28-yard scamper, and that was just the beginning. The 49ers’ speedy running back tried to put the game away late in the third quarter when he busted out a 20-yard gain, followed by a 66-yard touchdown run to cap a three-play, 97-yard drive.
The 66-yard run gave Breida his first career 100-yard game and was the longest play of his two-year NFL career. He finished the game with 138 yards on 11 carries -- as the 49ers used him on stretch plays, including on his TD -- and added 21 yards on three receptions.
Coming out hot
D.J. Reed Jr. took the second-half kickoff to the house for a 101-yard touchdown, but this time, a penalty didn’t go the 49ers’ way. The rookie grabbed a Lions defender’s facemask as he muscled into the end zone, and the call placed the ball at the Detroit 26.
Garoppolo picked up Reed four plays later, when he hit tight end Garrett Celek on an 11-yard TD pass that gave the 49ers a 20-10 lead.
So no harm on that foul, as Reed’s return got the 49ers off to a great start following a disappointing finish to the first half.
Longest drive contest
On the kickoff after the Lions’ first score, Mark Nzeocha was called for an illegal block above the waist, backing the 49ers up to their own 12. Garoppolo and the offense responded by chewing 5:38 off the clock on a 13-play, 88-yard drive topped by a 4-yard TD pass to Kendrick Bourne in the left flat.
It was Bourne’s first NFL touchdown, which always is cause for celebration.
The Lions seemed to lose focus in the middle of the second quarter. After holding the 49ers on third-and-2 and forcing a punt, the wheels came off Detroit’s bus.
Return man Jamal Agnew started the sequence by forgetting to fair-catch the punt and then being blasted by San Francisco special-teamer Raheem Mostert.
Three plays later, 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee hit Matthew Stafford on third-and-3 and forced a fumble, which Cassius Marsh recovered for San Francisco at the Detroit 16.
The Lions held the 49ers to a field goal, but the series was a complete disaster for Detroit.
Wrap it up
The 49ers had the Lions pinned on third-and-7 at their own 34 on Detroit’s second drive, when Stafford hit Theo Riddick out of the backfield on a swing pass. Lee was there for the stop, but he let Riddick wiggle free for a 10-yard gain and a first down.
The Lions scored four plays later on a 30-yard TD pass to Kenny Golladay.
Leading 30-13 in the fourth quarter, the 49ers forced the Lions into a third-and-17 situation after a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on LeGarrette Blount that resulted in the running back being ejected.
But Stafford scrambled on the third-down play and found a wide-open Golden Tate down the left sideline. Tate cut back to the middle of the field before finally being tackled at the 49ers’ 10 after a gain of 67 yards, setting up a Marvin Jones TD two plays later.
The play gave Detroit momentum, as the team also scored a touchdown on its next offensive possession to cut San Francisco’s lead to 30-27 and make it a game late. Luckily, the 49ers’ defense held, and the officials saw the defensive hold that negated Garoppolo’s late pick.