SF-DET Grades: Theo Riddick breaks Lions' franchise record
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Lions’ 32-17 victory over the 49ers:
San Francisco 49ers
– With the midseason departure of Vernon Davis to greener pastures, Vance McDonald has seen considerably more action, logging 40 plus snaps in four of his last five games, compared with a high of 36 snaps during the first eight weeks. He ran just 28 pass routes against the Lions, but picked up five catches for 61 yards, both highs for San Francisco on Sunday. Forty of his 61 yards came after the catch, something you don’t often see out of the tight end position and while he hasn’t displayed this form much this year, it’s a small bright spot on what’s been a rather disappointing season.
– With his third consecutive game graded at +5.0 or above and his ninth straight positive mark, it’s time to start viewing Ian Williams as one of the best run plugging nose tackles in the league. His five defensive stops were the most on either team, and while he makes his hay stopping the run, Williams added a couple of hurries for good measure. He was the chief culprit in handing Larry Warford one of his worst games this season, and is quickly becoming one of the best players that nobody talks about.
– There was little reason to expect Blaine Gabbert to be anything but an unmitigated disaster this season, yet he’s acquitted himself so far even if he hasn’t exactly taken the league by storm. He played well enough (-0.3) against the Lions, avoiding interceptions while making a few plays, notably a well-placed downfield throw to Bruce Ellington midway through the second quarter, though he did fumble while being sacked on the previous drive. It’s unlikely that San Francisco views Gabbert as their long-term answer under center, but it will be interesting to see if they think he’s shown enough to hold down the fort next year should the team part ways with Colin Kaepernick and be unable to find a suitable replacement in free agency or the draft.
NT Ian Williams (+5.0)
TE Vance McDonald (+4.1)
LT Joe Staley (+2.2)
DE Quinton Dial (+2.0)
DT Mike Purcell (+1.9)
– He didn’t add any sacks to his impressive total, but Ziggy Ansah was the team’s most productive pass rusher, his two hits and four hurries accounting for one third of the Lions’ total pressure. Earning pressure against four different 49er linemen, Ansah’s versatility was on display as Detroit moved him inside at times as a stand-up linebacker while also sending him on numerous stunts. He now has 30 combined hits and sacks, a total topped by only four players at any position. Despite a 2015 season that saw Detroit regress as a whole, Ansah looks like a top-end player entering the prime of his career.
– This was another down game for Larry Warford, who despite having a stellar rookie season and a solid follow-up sophomore campaign has struggled at times in his third season. Strong as a pass protector (only one pressure allowed, though it was negated by a penalty), Warford got beaten up by the interior duo of Ian Williams and Mike Purcell, giving up multiple tackles near the line of scrimmage while also drawing a holding penalty. As a third-round pick back in 2013, the young guard has already outperformed his draft status, but this downward trend in his play has to be concerning for both Warford and the Lions, especially since he’ll be due for a new contract after the 2016 season.
– With 63 receiving yards on Sunday, Theo Riddick became the single-season leader in receiving yards by a running back for the Lions, and what a fitting game to do so. Riddick caught seven passes and forced seven missed tackles on those receptions, consistently juking 49er defenders to the ground once he got the ball in space. Remarkably, Riddick did his damage despite running just 20 pass routes and was targeted on 40% of the pass routes he ran.
HB Theo Riddick (+4.1)
DT Haloti Ngata (+3.8)
LB Josh Bynes (+2.3)
DE Ezekiel Ansah (+2.2)
LB Tahir Whitehead (+2.1)