The Detroit Lions treated Richard Sherman like he was back to his old self.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford on Sunday rarely looked to the right side of the field, where Sherman was patrolling, instead opting to take advantage of the youthful cornerback on the other side.
It worked, sort of.
Ahkello Witherspoon was on the wrong end of a focused Stafford, who led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to drop a 17-point deficit to just three. The 49ers hung on for their first win, 30-27, but did so after taking Witherspoon out of the game because the Lions were having success each time they targeted the second-year corner.
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“Each person’s different. I can’t speak for how he’s going to respond,” Sherman said of Witherspoon. “But, I believe in him ... and I think he believes in himself.”
The 49ers will need Witherspoon to be effective if offenses aren’t going to test Sherman, who said he would have made two or three interceptions Sunday had Stafford gone his way more often. The coaching staff inserted Jimmie Ward in place of Witherspoon due to his struggles.
After two games with his new team, Sherman, the three-time All-Pro, believes he’s back to the top of his game after tearing an Achilles last November with the Seattle Seahawks. So far, Sherman has yielded just one reception when directly targeted.
“I think the way Richard has been playing in these two games, I think it’s pretty smart of them to not go at him that much,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.
“I’m always at that level,” Sherman said. “If you think I’m not at that level, then you’re just not watching the tape. I think it’s more rumors. ... If you look at my numbers, I’ve led the league in every category since I’ve got here.”
The Lions threw to Sherman’s side just twice, including a bubble screen to the right early in the game and a late incompletion to receiver Kenny Golladay that skimmed the ground and was ruled incomplete following a review.
Otherwise, the vast majority of Stafford’s 347 yards went to the left side of the field, including a first-half touchdown to Golladay in which Witherspoon was fooled by play action and a fourth-quarter touchdown when Witherspoon was beaten over the middle by Marvin Jones Jr. for a five-yard score.
Sherman said his level of pride hasn’t changed.
“I got a ton of pride,” he said. “I go out there every play, I don’t let anybody catch a ball on me. I don’t care, regardless of where I’m coming from or what injury I’m coming back from, I’ll let you guys write those stories. I don’t play like that. I play every play like it’s my last and I play every play to keep my man from catching the ball.”
Person plays through foot injury — Right guard Mike Person was back in the starting lineup Sunday despite not returning to practice until late in the week. He was carted to the locker room last week at Minnesota, but returned to give the offensive line a boost after it struggled in his absence.
“The guy is a warrior,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “It’s little things like that that you love to see and you love to have guys like that.”
Had Person not returned, the 49ers would have been forced to play undrafted rookie Najee Toran, who was elevated from the practice squad this week. Person threw a key block on Matt Breida’s crucial 66-yard touchdown run, while the offense amassed 190 yards on the ground in total.
The Lions got six sacks on Garoppolo, including three times in the red zone, though many were a result of Garoppolo holding on to the ball.
“I’ve got to get the ball out faster, though,” Garoppolo said. “Help those guys out, make it easy, get our offense in to more of a rhythm and just take what they’re giving me. I thought the offensive line played great today.”
Tartt sidelined with shoulder injury — Safety Jaquiski Tartt left the game on Detroit’s final possession Sunday after taking a hit to the right shoulder. He told The Bee afterward he initially sustained the injury in last week’s loss to the Vikings and was limited throughout the week.
The 49ers inserted Antone Exum Jr. to replace Tartt. But they consider Ward at safety after a full week of practice if Tartt can’t go next week in Kansas City.
49ers open to adding Josh Gordon — ESPN reported Sunday the 49ers were on Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon’s initial list of preferred destinations. Cleveland is reportedly saying goodbye to Gordon on Monday and testing the trade market to see if they can get anything in return for the promising wideout.
Shanahan coached Gordon with Cleveland in 2014, when Gordon appeared in five games after starting the year with a 10-game suspension. He led the NFL with 1,646 yards the previous campaign.
“I’m content with our whole team,” Shanahan said when asked about adding Gordon. “I love our whole team and the guys that we have. I always feel, since camp ended and we got our 53 (-man roster), we can win with the people we have.
“... But, my same answer (as) always, we will look into every situation to always try to upgrade our team no matter what the case is, but to answer your question, am I happy with what we have, of course I am.”