49ers excel at protecting the football

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- The San Francisco 49ers have improved in just about every facet of the offense this season. But there is one area where they didn't really need to get much better.

The 49ers are protecting the football better than anybody in the NFL, and their turnover-free play is reaching historic proportions.

San Francisco hasn't committed a turnover in six consecutive regular-season games dating to last season, the second-longest streak in NFL history. The 49ers can match the league record set by the 2010 New England Patriots on Sunday night when they face the Detroit Lions.

Leading the way is quarterback Alex Smith, who hasn't thrown an interception in a franchise-record 185 consecutive regular-season passes. Smith threw just five picks last season -- the fewest in the league for a regular starter -- as San Francisco committed a NFL-low 10 turnovers.