DETROIT -– The league’s worst offense showed some signs of life for a while Sunday at Ford Field.
But after a rare surge of power in the first half, the 49ers’ lapsed back in their old ways -– or even worse -- in a 32-17 loss to the Detroit Lions in the penultimate game of the NFL regular season.
The 49ers fell to 4-11 with only next Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams at Levi’s Stadium standing between them and the offseason. The Lions improved to 6-9 with their fifth victory in their past seven games.
While Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers got off to a quick start, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford finished strong.
Stafford completed 29 of 37 passes for 301 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against a 49ers’ defense that featured a rotation of cornerbacks.
The 49ers rolled up 265 yards of total offense. But, then, the 49ers’ offense completely dried up in the second half. The 49ers finished with just 322 yards of total offense.
The 49ers, who came into the game with just 18 points scored in the first quarter this season, got into the end zone for the first time in the opening 15 minutes for the first time since the final game of last season.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert engineered an 11-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with his one-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald.
Jarryd Hayne, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, carried three times for 15 yards on the drive. And newly signed running back DuJuan Harris tore off a 22-yard run.
The drive was prolonged when cornerback Nevin Lawson was called for pass interference against Torrey Smith in the end zone to set up a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
The 49ers got a strong performance from DuJuan Harris, whom the 49ers signed off the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad on Tuesday. Harris, who previously appeared in 26 games with three different teams since 2011, had a career-best performance with 73 yards on 11 rushing attempts. He had 74 yards rushing at halftime.
Harris’ previous best came in the final regular-season game of 2012 when he gained 70 yards rushing for Green Bay against Minnesota.
Hayne got his most playing time and gained 27 yards on nine rushing attempts.
Gabbert hit his second touchdown pass of the first half, a 16-yard pass to Smith in the second quarter. Gabbert has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all seven of his starts since taking over for Colin Kaeperick, but he had not put together a multi-TD game since his first start on Nov. 8 against Atlanta.
Gabbert completed 22 of 33 pass attempts for 225 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had 154 yards passing in the first half.
Boldin’s milestone: The 49ers did not waste any time getting the ball into Anquan Boldin’s hands. On the 49ers’ first play of the game, Gabbert hit Boldin for an easy pitch and catch that netted 5 yards.
The reception was the 1,000th of Boldin’s career, as he became the fifth-fastest to reach that mark in NFL history. It was Boldin’s 185th career game. The four players who have reached that milestone in fewer games are Marvin Harrison (167 games), Andre Johnson (168), Jerry Rice (181) and Larry Fitzgerald (182).
Boldin’s first career reception, while playing for the Arizona Cardinals, also came at Detroit. His first reception was Sept. 7, 2003.
Boldin finished with five catches for 27 yards.
Stuck in neutral: The 49ers were flagged six times in the first half for neutral zone infractions or offsides. Three of the penalties came on the Lions’ final drive of the first half when they took over at their own 20-yard line with :35 remaining in the second quarter.
Rookie Arik Armstead was identified twice for neutral-zone in fractions. (The second penalty appeared to be on Tony Jerod-Eddie.) And Aaron Lynch’s offside penalty helped set up kicker Matt Prater’s 38-yard field goal on the final play of the half to give the Lions a 20-17 lead.
The 49ers’ other neutral-zone penalties in the first half were called on Ahmad Brooks, Gerald Hodges and Jimmie Ward.
The 49ers became the first team with six offside/neutral zone penalties in the first half since the Houston Oilers in 1993, according to the Associated Press. The 49ers had just seven of those penalties in the entire 2014 season.
The 49ers’ problems did not end there. Outside linebacker Eli Harold provided the Lions with a first down in the fourth quarter when he jumped offside, too.
This ‘n’ that: Second-year player Dontae Johnson got his first start of the season, as he took over at right cornerback for Kenneth Acker. Johnson was tested early, and helped hold the Lions to a field goal on the opening drive when he broke up Stafford’s pass to Calvin Johnson in the end zone. Early in the second quarter, Johnson was in coverage on Stafford’s 29-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones . . . Right tackle Trent Brown made his first career start with Alex Boone (knee) and Marcus Martin (concussion) out of action. Erik Pears, who started the first 14 games at right tackle, shifted to right guard. . . Late in the first quarter, the Lions converted a fourth-and-1 situation out of punt formation when Isa Abdul-Quddus.took a direct snap and plowed forward for 4 yards. That play keyed the drive that was capped with Jones’ touchdown catch. . . . Gabbert got off to a good start, but made a big mistake when he was sacked and fumbled in the second quarter. Center Daniel Kilgore got beaten on the play, and Josh Bynes recovered at the 49ers’ 1-yard line. Joique Bell scored on a 1-yard run on the next play to give the Lions a 17-14 lead. . . The 49ers had a chance to tie the game on their next possession, but Phil Dawson’s 45-yard attempt was wide left. It was Dawson’s third miss of the season, but the first one that was not blocked. . . . Dawson made a 40-yarder at the end of the 49ers’ next series to send the game into halftime tied at 17-17. . . Defensive lineman Quinton Dial was announced as questionable to return to action in the fourth quarter with a back injury. He remained seated on the bench for most of the final eight minutes.