It's no more important than any other week, but both Detroit and San Francisco have stressed the importance of winning the turnover battle heading into this week's Sunday night game at Candlestick Park.
For the 49ers, that means continuing what they've been doing. For Detroit -- and QB Matthew Stafford,specifically -- it means shaking off last week's performance and playing more like the team which ranked fourth in the NFL in turnover margin (plus-11) a year ago.
The Lions overcame three first-half interceptions from Stafford to escape with a 27-23 victory against St. Louis in the season opener. Coach Jim Schwartz doesn't expect to contend against the 49ers if the Lions continue to trend in that direction.
“Last week, we were minus-three in turnovers and we came out with a win. That's incredibly hard to do. You can't make a living on being minus in the turnover category and win games,” Schwartz said. “I don't think it's any coincidence the 49ers went 13-3 last year and also led the NFL in turnover margin. Those two go hand in hand and for us to play well, we're going to have to protect the ball on offense.”
San Francisco finished the year with a plus-28 turnover margin, which is tied for second-best in the NFL since 1970. The 49ers say the astounding margin is a product of prioritizing ball security and takeaways every day in practice.
“There's a lot of different statistics, and they all have different correlations to winning, and the turnover battle is the No.1,” 49ers QB Alex Smith said. “In the history of the NFL, it's the strongest correlation to winning and losing. We understand that.”
When the new coaching staff arrived last year, it instituted “Takeaway Thursdays” for the defense to stress the importance turnovers play each week.
“We try to get as many turnovers as we can, see where we end up and go into the game with that type of mindset,” said LB NaVorro Bowman of the Thursday practices. “If we practice it, it'll show up in the games.”
In the 49ers' 30-22 win against Green Bay, Bowman recorded his first career interception and QB Alex Smith broke Steve Young's franchise record with his 185th-straight regular-season pass without an interception.
Last year, the offense tied the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season (10) and has not turned the ball over in the last 26 quarters, a franchise record.
Just how are those numbers possible?
“Got to have a really smart quarterback to do it and Alex Smith is a definitely a smart quarterback,” Schwartz said.
Stafford reflects on former Georgia teammate Dobbs: 49ers TE/DL Demarcus Dobbs and Stafford were college teammates for three years at Georgia, where Dobbs was strictly a defensive player.
“He's always been a really good athlete so nothing really surprises me about Dobbs,” Stafford said. “He's a good buddy, he's a really good player and I'm really glad he found his niche there.”
Jacobs, Ginn don't practice: RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) and WR Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday. Both players missed the season opener and their status for Sunday's game remains unclear.
Injury report: LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder) was limited and P Andy Lee (hand) was a full participant.
WR Johnson headlines Lions injury report: Detroit WR Calvin Johnson (foot) was held out of practice Wednesday, but the severity of the injury is unknown. Others held out of practice include: S Louis Delmas (knee), CB Bill Bentley (concussion), LB Travis Lewis (quad) and DE Lawrence Jackson (calf). DT Corey Williams (knee) and CB Chris Houston (ankle) were partial participants.
Role playing: First-round pick WR A.J. Jenkins wore No. 81 in practice and is being asked to mimic Johnson. Other scout-team assignments include: Darcel McBath (Bill Bentley), Trenton Robinson (John Wendling), Garrett Celek (Brandon Pettigrew), Michael Thomas (Erik Coleman), Michael Wilhoite (Doug Hogue) and Nathan Palmer (Titus Young).
Schwartz ready to move past Harbaugh handshake: Schwartz deflected questions about his relationship with Jim Harbaugh and the postgame handshake that followed last year's game in Detroit.
“We've all moved on from that,” Schwartz said. “We've addressed that enough. The focus is on the 49ers. Anything that happened last year, in the game or anything else, doesn't have any bearing on this game. It's how the 11 guys on the field at any particular time execute.”