SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith isn't throwing interceptions. Running backs and receivers aren't losing fumbles. And the 49ers are riding a historic streak of 26 consecutive quarters without a turnover in regular-season action.
But that's only half the turnover battle.
The 49ers defense deserves credit, too. Thursdays mean extra practice in creating turnovers. Hence the team-dubbed nickname: "Takeaway Thursdays."
"It's an emphasis on the field and in the classroom," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.
Fangio's ball-hawking defenders have played a "tremendous role" in how the 49ers offense is protecting the ball, according to offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
During the offense's franchise-record stretch of no turnovers, the 49ers defense has produced eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries over those 61/2 games.
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman came through with his first career interception to help seal Sunday's 30-22 win at Green Bay.
"I was hoping it would come," Fangio said of that game's only turnover. "Every play is an opportunity, and we certainly needed it there, and we got it."
"Not too many balls come my way, but whenever they do, I try to catch them," Bowman added. "We work on that every single day. It's working for us, and we just want to keep it going."
The 49ers ranked first in the league last season with a plus-28 turnover differential, including 39 takeaways. Alex Smith had only five
Overlooked in that turnover-battle success has been the defensive exploits. On Sunday night, Fangio's takeaway-minded pupils set their sights on the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford, who had three passes intercepted in a 27-23 win Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
The Lions, to their credit, ranked fourth in turnover differential last season: 34 takeaways, 23 turnovers.
"Last week we were minus-3 in turnovers and came out with a win. That's incredibly hard to do," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "You can't make a living being 'minus' in the turnover category and win games.
"I don't think it's any coincidence the 49ers went 13-3 last year and also led the NFL in turnover margin."
The 49ers' "Takeaway Thursdays" is a weekly routine stretching back to last season, with obvious success.
"We get in a rhythm in practice and it transfers over to Sundays," linebacker Aldon Smith said.
What is the defense's best tally on Takeaway Thursday?
"Man, we've probably had eight or nine (takeaways) in the course of a three-hour practice," Bowman said. "The coaches do a great job of setting
Wait, eight or nine turnovers against the 49ers' ball-hogging offense?
"Oh, I think he's exaggerating," Alex Smith responded. " ... But no question, yeah, we're conscious of trying to get takeaways (by the 49ers defense), and on offense obviously protecting the football."
Roman invoked one of the 49ers' favorite mottos -- "iron sharpens iron" -- in how the 49ers' defensive efforts have translated to better ball security among their offensive teammates. Specifically, Roman praised linebacker Patrick Willis' ability to strip the ball and how the defensive backs "are always attacking the football."
Added Roman: "Anybody who handles the football recognizes they have the collective fate of the team in their hands."
That goes not only for the 49ers offense but also a takeaway-happy defense.