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Four Downs: Who Needs to Step Up in 49ers Home Opener against the Lions?

Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down four pressing topics in the San Francisco 49ers first home game of the 2018 regular season against the Detroit Lions.

Here's an outlook on the 49ers Week 2 matchup in our weekly "Four Downs" series.

First Down: Who will score the season's first touchdown at Levi's® Stadium?

Joe Fann: Alfred Morris

Morris could be looking for a little redemption after last week's fumble on the goal line. We will find out if he's still Kyle Shanahan's preferred choice near the goal line or if those duties will go to Matt Breida. Still, the Lions allowed Isaiah Crowell to rumble for 102 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries. One of his scores went for 62 yards. Bilal Powell chipped in with 60 yards on 12 carries. Morris and Breida should be able to find running room on Sunday.

Keiana Martin: George Kittle

It’s safe to assume Kittle is a favorite target of Jimmy Garoppolo. The second-year tight end led the team in targets (nine), receptions (five), and yards (90) in Sunday’s loss to a Minnesota Vikings defense that was stout against tight ends last season. With Marquise Goodwin’s status uncertain for Sunday, I expect Kyle Shanahan to get creative and get Kittle involved in the red zone.

Second Down: Who will grab the 49ers first takeaway at home in 2018?

Joe Fann: Ahkello Witherspoon

Keiana and I are on the same page here. Matthew Stafford, while one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, has never been shy about taking chances. He's had his fair share of multiple interception performances, including last Monday night when he threw four against the New York Jets. I think the 49ers will be able to get consistent pressure against Stafford which will force the quarterback into a few poor decisions. Witherspoon is my pick to grab an interception.

Keiana Martin: Richard Sherman

Playing all 71 defensive snaps on Sunday against the Vikings, Sherman allowed just one catch on three targets in a successful debut as a member of the 49ers. Now heading into Levi’s® Stadium, he’ll face a Lions offense that threw five interceptions, including a pick-six last week against the Jets. The veteran will be tested against Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., and will certainly be eyeing the opportunity for a big play in front of the 49ers home crowd.

Third Down: Which member of the 49ers needs to step up in Week 2?

Joe Fann: Cassius Marsh

This isn't an indictment of Marsh's performance in Week 1. In fact, Marsh got initial pressure on at least one of DeForest Buckner's sacks against the Minnesota Vikings. But I know that Marsh won't want to go two weeks without getting a sack of his own. His motor will be running throughout Sunday's contest in an effort to keep Stafford uncomfortable. Establishing a consistent pass rush will be paramount so that Stafford doesn't have all day to find Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay.

Keiana Martin: Elijah Lee

Lee will have his hands full on Sunday in his first career start. With Brock Coyle (concussion/neck) on Injured Reserve and Malcolm Smith (hamstring) unlikely to play in Week 2, Robert Saleh said the 49ers would look to Lee to get the start at WILL linebacker. He held himself well in his 10 snaps against the Vikings where he made three tackles and recorded a third down stop against Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. The 49ers will need Lee to replicate that performance over the course of a full game in what will be a huge opportunity for the second-year linebacker.

Fourth Down: Bold Prediction

Joe Fann: Dante Pettis tops 100 yards and scores another touchdown

Even if Marquise Goodwin (quad) is able to play, he's likely going to be limited. That means Pettis' role will be sizeable regardless. After Goodwin, Pettis is the 49ers next best wide receiver at taking the top off of a defense. His big play ability makes it so that he won't need many receptions to top the century mark. I think he'll add a long touchdown (30-plus yards) against the Lions as well.

Keiana Martin: San Francisco scores a touchdown on its opening drive

Last week, the 49ers made four trips to the red zone with just one resulting in a touchdown. The offense settled for field goals on two of those drives with the other resulting in a costly fumble on the goal line. The 49ers have scored just one opening drive touchdown over their last 20 contests. The Lions defense finished in the bottom five of the NFL against the pass last season. I foresee San Francisco starting off hot against a Lions defense that gave up four touchdowns versus the Jets offense last week.

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