James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down the Lions’ Week 1 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers:
LIONS’ O-LINE VS. 49ERS’ D-LINE
This battle of the trenches will feature what was expected to be each team’s strongest position group this season. The Lions have a solid line led by Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow, but will be without left tackle Taylor Decker due to injury. The 49ers’ front figures to be one of the stoutest in the league with the return of pass rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, who were both injured last season.
Much of the spotlight will be on Lions rookie Penei Sewell and how he handles himself against the likes of Arik Armstead and Bosa in his debut. Sewell, the No. 7 overall pick who is expected to make a transition from left to right tackle, had his ups and downs and struggled in pass protection in the preseason.
But with Decker sidelined for the opener with a hand/finger injury, the challenge gets even more difficult against a ferocious San Francisco pass rush that can wreak havoc, generate negative plays and make life miserable for Detroit’s Jared Goff-led offense.
49ers to watch
► Nick Bosa, DE: After a nearly year-long wait, the star edge rusher makes his return after going out with a torn ACL in Week 2 last season. Bosa will look to build on his 2019 success when he won Defensive Rookie of the Year after tallying an astounding 102 quarterback pressures in the regular season and playoffs, per Pro Football Focus, with 13 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits. He didn’t appear in any preseason games, so the Lions will be the first team to see if he’s back to his old self.
► George Kittle, TE: The two-time Pro Bowler was limited to eight games last season because of injuries but once again should be one of San Francisco’s top offensive options after racking up back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2018-19. He’s one of the best at his position, given his size and strength make him a mismatch for most defenders and he also anchors the run game with his blocking.
► Trey Lance, QB: Jimmy Garoppolo will get the start under center, but there’s a chance San Francisco will also mix in the No. 3 overall pick. Lance chipped a bone in a finger on his throwing hand during the preseason and that could limit how much he’s used as a change-of-pace option. He completed 19 of 41 passes in three preseason games but didn’t show off his dangerous running ability.
Facts and figures
► Since being acquired from New England in 2017, Garoppolo is 22-8 as San Francisco’s starting quarterback in the regular season. Over that span, he’s completed 67.5% of his passes for 7,352 yards, 46 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. The 49ers are 7-27 with other quarterbacks under coach Kyle Shanahan since 2017.
► The Lions allowed 30-plus points in each of their final six games in 2020, which is the worst streak in franchise history. Over that span, opponents averaged 38.7 points and 457 yards of total offense (329 passing, 128 rushing) per game.
► Dating back to 1996, the Lions have lost 10 of the past 11 meetings against the 49ers by an average margin of 10.2 points. Detroit’s lone win during that stretch came in 2015, a 32-17 victory at home. The last time the teams met was in 2018, which resulted in a 30-27 win for the 49ers.
49ers at Lions
► Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
► TV/radio: Fox/97.1
► Records: 49ers 0-0; Lions 0-0
► Line: 49ers by 8.5