Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

The Detroit Lions will have one primary defensive focus against the 49ers’ explosive offense in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

In speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Lions coach Dan Campbell used three words to sum up Detroit’s defensive approach against the 49ers.

“Stop the run. You’ve got to stop the run,” Campbell said. “Because if you don’t they’ll rush for 250 (yards) on you and they won’t even worry about passing. Everything has to start there, and yes they are (the most explosive offense). [Kyle] Shanahan does an unbelievable job, he’s going to work one side and make you overreact and then he counters off of it and then he plays passes off of it and works the middle of the field.

“You’ve got your hands full in both regards and [Brock] Purdy does a hell of a job. They throw a lot of daggers middle of the field and he does a hell of a job with touch, timing, rhythm. But we have to stop this run game, it just has to start there. As much as you can you have to try and make this team one-dimensional and that’s not easy to do.”

The 49ers scored the third-most points (491) in the NFL this season and tied with the Miami Dolphins for the most touchdowns (61) scored. San Francisco also averaged the second-most yards per game (398.4) behind Miami (401.3).

All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey played a huge role in the 49ers’ offensive success this season, recording 272 carries for 1,459 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground with 67 receptions for 564 yards and seven touchdowns through the air.

As daunting as the 49ers’ offense is, Campbell and the Lions are focused on neutralizing San Francisco’s star-studded roster on both sides of the ball and are prepared for the ultimate test against one of, if not the most balanced NFL teams.

“I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for coach Shanahan and what he’s done out there,” Campbell added. “I think he’s an outstanding coach and certainly, as an offensive coordinator, he’s tops. Coach [Steve] Wilks, ton of respect. Anytime we face him and his defenses they’re a pain in the rear.

“Nothing’s changed here, these guys, they’re aggressive. It’s a bully mentality. They have an identity, an attitude, sound schemes. They’re going to test your boundaries, they’re going to find weaknesses and just try to pepper you on those. So this is a heck of a matchup for us. Outstanding playmakers both sides of the ball. John Lynch has done a hell of a job, he and Kyle both building that roster. This will be an outstanding test for us, but it’s one we’re ready for.”

The Lions certainly will have their hands full attempting to stop the 49ers’ explosive offense, and containing McCaffrey will be paramount if Detroit hopes to punch its ticket to Super Bowl LVIII with a win on Sunday.

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