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October 17, 2011
Breaking down the 49ers' game-winning drive

Sunday's game was like a good heavyweight fight. (No, this will not be about Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh). The bout went back and forth throughout. There were six lead changes altogether. But late in the fourth quarter, the 49ers delivered a blow from which the Lions would not recover - an eight-play drive that led to Delanie Walker's game-winning touchdown catch. Here's the breakdown:


The drive begins with a Lions punt with 5:43 left. Ted Ginn fields it at his own 25 yard line. The return is designed to go to the right, and that's where Ginn initially heads. But after a few steps, he breaks it back to his left, picks up blocks from Reggie Smith and Tavares Gooden and scoots up the sideline for a 40-yard gain. He's eventually knocked out of bounds by the Detroit punter at the Lions 35. It's the best field position the 49ers have had to this point.

1st&10, DET 35. The 49ers like to overload their right side, and most of their late-game runs go right. Kendall Hunter gets a handoff right and immediately gets a block by fullback Bruce Miller, who seals off the defensive end. Hunter also gets a block by Anthony Davis, and he makes his cut upfield. The Lions safety has a clear shot at Hunter at the line of scrimmage but whiffs. Hunter gains nine yards.

2nd&1, DET 26. Handoff to Frank Gore over right guard Chilo Rachal, who has replaced starter Adam Snyder, who is out with a shoulder stinger. Left guard Mike Iupati pulls on the play and Isaac Sopoaga is in the backfield as a fullback. That's about 1,000 pounds, all of it concentrated at defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who to his credit makes the tackle but not before Gore picks up a yard and the first down.

1st&10, DET 25, 4:09 remaining. Hunter is back in the game, this time in a single backfield formation. He goes left this time and doesn't encounter a Lion defender until safety Louis Delmas submarines him nine yards downfield. Hunter gets great blocks from tackles Davis and Joe Staley, and from center Jonathan Godwin. The trio takes out all three Detroit linebackers.

2nd&1, DET 16. Sopoaga is back in the backfield. Gore goes right and Rachal does a nice job of turning Suh to the inside. Gore goes through that hole and down to the 7-yard line. At this point, it seems as if the 49ers will be able to steamroll their way into the end zone, eating up the clock along the way.

1st&goal, DET 7, 2:58 remaining. Sopoaga and Miller are in the backfield with Gore. They go right again but this time the Lions know what's coming and overload that side. Gore is hit two yards in front of the line of scrimmage and driven back by lineman Corey Williams for a three yard loss.

2nd&goal, DET 10, 2:15 remaining. The 49ers go with three wide receivers for the first time this drive. Both tight ends, Walker and Vernon Davis, are split wide of the formation as well. Michael Crabtree goes in motion to Alex Smith's left. The offensive line lets the Lions penetrate and Smith fires a quick screen to Crabtree. He darts inside but cornerback Eric Wright makes a good ankle tackle after a four-yard gain. The two-minute warning stops the clock.

3rd&goal, DET 6, 2:00 remaining. The Lions rush six. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson, rushing from Smith's left, is unblocked, and he crashes into Smith as he lets go of the ball. The pass is intended to Kyle Williams - his only target of the day - and falls incomplete. The best option may have been Vernon Davis, who was one-on-one with a linebacker up the middle.

4th&goal, DET 6, 1:56 remaining. The Ford Field crowd, which had been raucous whenever the 49ers had the ball during the game, takes it up a few notches on this play. Ginn is lined up to Smith's left. Walker is lined up wide of Crabtree on the far right of the formation. At the snap, Crabtree heads to the back corner of the end zone and Walker crosses underneath him. Walker said later that when he broke the huddle and saw the Lions' defensive formation, he knew the ball was coming to him. Smith puts the ball in Walker's chest just as Delmas is closing in. Walker crashes into the end zone as his right knee hits the ground. After a tense review, the touchdown is upheld. Six of Smith's eight touchdown passes this season have been to tight ends - three to Walker and three to Davis. This is the biggest.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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