Where the Lions might have a big edge over the 49ers

Where the Lions might have a big edge over the 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers will play the Detroit Lions at the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night. The 49ers are hoping to make it to the Super Bowl for the very first time in 2019 by beating the Lions.

On offense, both teams are very strong. The 49ers averaged 398.4 yards (2nd in NFL) as well as 28.9 points (3rd in NFL) per game, while the Lions averaged 394.8 yards (3rd in NFL) and 27.1 points (5th in NFL) per game.

Both teams have also been successful on the ground and in the air, with top-five marks within both categories when it comes to yards. What gives the Lions a big advantage over the 49ers on Sunday if they have one of the best rush defenses in the league?

Both teams have top-five rushing defenses. The 49ers allow 214.2 yards of passing per game, which is 14th in the NFL, and the Lions allow 247.4 passing yards per game, which is 27th in the league.

In my earlier post this week, I said that the 49ers’ best weapon against the Lions is their passing game, since they have better players overall.

Their answer is their run game, which is led by the offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and carried out by what is probably the best offensive line in the league. David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, their two running backs, are blocked for by the line.

Montgomery, a 225-kilogram bruiser back, has carried the ball the most for Detroit. He is a downhill runner who can get yards after contact, which was good for third in the NFL this season but exceeded expectations.

His teammate, Jahmyr Gibbs, was picked in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He has been a huge surprise in the Lions’ offense, being used as a change-of-pace runner and receiver.

Well, San Francisco won’t have defensive end Clelin Ferrell on the field. Ferrell started all 17 regular-season events for the 49ers before getting hurt against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 18 and missing the rest of the season.

Ferrell is mostly a backup, but as a defensive lineman, he was one of the best at stopping runs on the team, especially at the edge. This season, Gibbs moved around more and averaged 5.2 yards per carry, with 2.5 coming after contact. This was good for second in the NFL.

Also, Arik Armstead isn’t fully healthy for the 49ers. He just played against the Green Bay Packers the previous weekend after sitting the last five games with injuries to his foot and knee.

Because of these two things, San Francisco had a hard time stopping Aaron Jones on the outer edge last weekend. One of Jones’s runs went for 53 yards because of bad tackling and containment.

Jones only gained 3.2 yards every carry on his other 17 carries, but most of them were on the outside, where Chase Young, the edge rusher, had trouble keeping Jones in check.

At home, the San Francisco 49ers’ defense is better than the Detroit Lions’. They will play for the NFC Championship. No one would argue with that.

During the regular season, San Francisco ranked third in points a game and eighth in yards per play, while Detroit ranked 23rd and 28th in those categories.

But there is one area whereby the Lions’ defense is better. And the game to see who will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl is a very important one.

To win on Sunday in San Francisco, the Lions will need to keep the game close for a long time. The Lions’ pass defense steps up in crunch time, but that’s not where 49ers quarterback Joe Purdy does well.

On Wednesday, Samuel was only supposed to do conditioning as well as physical therapy at the 49ers’ workout facility. On Thursday afternoon, he was supposed to practice but be limited.