It’s already been a magical season for the Detroit Lions. With two more wins, it becomes one of the best stories the NFL has seen in recent memory.
The Lions had not won their division since 1993 before the team finally did it this season by finishing 12-5. The Lions had not won a playoff game since 1991 before they knocked off the Los Angeles Rams by one point to start their postseason run this year. After defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, Detroit is now one win away from its first Super Bowl appearances in franchise history. Its two wins away from its first championship since 1957, which predates the Super Bowl era.
All Detroit has to do to reach the Super Bowl is knock off the NFC No. 1 seed San Francisco 49ers. The Lions have a shot. Seriously. Here are three reasons why the Lions can finally punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
Jahmyr Gibbs isn’t going to give you 20 carries a game between the tackles — that’s not how he plays. What he’ll give you is a terrifying threat whenever he’s on the field. Explosiveness is the name of the game here, with the Lions transitioning Gibbs from a rusher to a receiver as needed, changing up their approach depending on what’s working.
It’s this amorphous way he approaches the game that keeps opposing defenses guessing, and makes it difficult to key in on any one way of covering him. As a running back you need a speedy linebacker to swarm him in the box, and if he splits outside you have to commit a defensive back to manage his quickness.
An offensive Swiss Army Knife, whether or not the 49ers can handle Gibbs along with the Lions other weapons will be a key to the game.
There’s a reason every team with a head coaching opening wants Ben Johnson: The man is an offensive genius. There’s nothing he does that reinvents the wheel, but week in, week out he continually finds the correct way to attack whichever defense the Lions face.
Against the Buccaneers this manifested itself with a punctuated running game where David Montgomery would pepper the middle, before Jahmyr Gibbs broke to the outside — while on passing, the team ensured no single player could be isolated, using a diverse attack that hit every level with Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, and Gibbs as a backfield receiver.
This 49ers defense is truly terrifying, but if anyone can diagnose a weakness and target it, it’s Ben Johnson.
This game, right here, is why you draft a pass rusher at the top of the board when you can.
Pressure is productive. We have seen that already from Hutchinson in these playoffs. In the Lions’ Wild Card game against the Los Angeles Rams, Matthew Stafford and company were driving late in the game with a chance to take the lead on a go-ahead field goal. But with the Rams facing a 3rd and 4 at the Detroit 34-yard line, Hutchinson crashed in off the right edge and drew a critical holding penalty, which backed up the Rams.
They punted after a third-down throw from Stafford fell incomplete, and the Lions were able to salt away the win.
Now, this is certainly a dynamic 49ers offense that Hutchinson and company will be facing on Sunday, but there is this notable stat: When pressured this season Brock Purdy has thrown six interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. That is fifth-most in the league.
Pressure is productive, and if Hutchinson can get some pressure on Sunday, that would be huge for the Lions’ chances.