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49ers-Lions highlights: Seven plays that defined San Francisco's win

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49ers-Lions highlights: Seven plays that defined San Francisco's win

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 then everyone saw the yellow flag on the field.


Running wild

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.


Costly mistake

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.


Lost opportunity

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.

49ers' Kendrick Bourne, NFL stars not fans of league's escrow proposal

49ers' Kendrick Bourne, NFL stars not fans of league's escrow proposal

With each passing day, the concerns over the coronavirus grow.

For the sports world, that means uncertainty. Will the games be played as scheduled? Will there be fans in the stands? What will revenue look like?

On Tuesday, the NFL reportedly made a financial proposal to the Players Association, and it didn't sit well with the latter group.

NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported, citing sources, that the NFLPA told its board of representatives that the league is proposing to put 35 percent of players' 2020 salary into an escrow account.

Pelissero relayed a response from an NFLPA executive Don Davis.

As you can imagine, the idea of not getting their full salaries didn't sit well with the players, including 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.

Raiders right tackle Trent Brown weighed in.

Several other NFL stars, including newly minted $503 million-man Patrick Mahomes, shared the same reaction.

The NFL reportedly wants to cut the preseason from four games to two games, and the NFLPA later voted that no preseason games be played.

It's clear the two sides have a lot to work out before training camps open later this month.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' George Kittle voted top NFL tight end over Chiefs' Travis Kelce

49ers' George Kittle voted top NFL tight end over Chiefs' Travis Kelce

Who's the best tight end in the NFL?

While many feel strongly on the subject, there really are only two acceptable answers. You can bicker back and forth as to who is superior between 49ers tight end George Kittle and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, but they're clearly in a tier unto themselves.

If you're partial to the intricacies of route-running, Kelce might be your choice. If you like a bruiser who contributes in all aspects of the offense, Kittle surely is your guy.

If there is a separation between the two, it's by hairs. Don't take my word for it. More than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players recently voted on the top 10 players at 11 different positions for the upcoming 2020 season, and the top two tight ends were separated by the slimmest margin of any position group.

To the delight of 49ers fans, and the ire of those of the Chiefs, Kittle came out on top. Just barely.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

After the first round of votes, ESPN's Jeremey Fowler reported Kittle and Kelce sat at a dead-even split. Additional voting and follow-up calls were required, which ultimately tilted the result in Kittle's favor.

Just like Kelce, Kittle was ranked as high as No. 1 at the position, but no lower than No. 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski was the only other player to receive a first-place vote, but last I checked it's 2020 and not 2015.

"Consecutive 1,000-yard seasons make Kittle a top contender, but his blocking and intensity helped earn him nearly half the first-place votes," Fowler wrote. "Where Kittle beats everyone is at the line of scrimmage and with the ball in his hands, as he forced a league-high 20 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus."

The voters were full of compliments for Kelce, but Kittle's mentality, leadership and scheme flexibility proved to be the tie-breakers.

"Be on the field, and see how he elevates the play of everyone in the offense. It's tangible," one NFC coordinator said. "He lifts everyone up."

"The passion on tape is unmatched," an AFC executive explained. "He's got that dog in him. More competitive than Kelce."

"Unreal passion, energy, toughness, blocking," said another executive.

[RELATED: Mahomes contract could put pressure on 49ers signing Kittle]

Kittle might have won the vote, but last time he and Kelce were on the same field, the Chiefs tight end got the better of him, both in the box score and in the Lombardi Trophy department. Of course, if Kittle isn't called for that questionable-at-best offensive pass interference penalty, it might be a completely different story.

In any case, there's no shame in Kelce being ranked below Kittle, nor would there be if it was the other way around. They're both extremely special players, and it's not a coincidence that their teams arguably are the two best in the NFL.