For as long as I can remember, the Detroit Lions have been the punchline of the NFL. I was a toddler when the greatest RB of all time Barry Sanders was making everyone in the NFL miss. Jared Goff said, "We're not here by accident" in his press conference yesterday. I agree with Jared, because this has been the best Lions team I can remember. Just seeing the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship game doesn't even feel real.
The 49ers have had the exact opposite history. The Niners were the dynasty of the 1980's and won with two different QBs. Sure, they haven't won a Super Bowl since Steve Young destroyed the Chargers in the 1994 season, but Detroit hadn't won a playoff game since around the same time.
Funny how things work out in football and life. The Niners are going to start the greatest "Mr. Irrelevant" of all-time, Brock Purdy, after they traded a boatload of draft picks to move up and draft Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick just a few of years ago. The Lions made an equally crazy move when they traded their true No. 1 QB (Matthew Stafford) for another No. 1 QB(Jared Goff). The billing for this game feels like a movie, Mr. Irrelevant vs. #1 overall. Yet, No.1 overall is actually underdog.
History aside, because right now in the playoffs, history doesn't matter, here's why the Detroit Lions are going to punch their ticket to Super Bowl 58.
The Niners have not looked dominant recently
Ever since the loss to the Ravens, the Niners have looked beatable. It affected them so much that they came out flat against the Commanders in the first half and only pulled away in the fourth quarter. If it wasn't for a missed field goal and Christian McCaffrey doing MVP things, they would've been the first No. 1 to lose to a No. 7 ever. The dominance that was there in November is not there right now. The Niners won the game against the Packers after the Packers beat them for 58 of out of 60 minutes of that game. Good teams find a way to win when they have no business winning, but still.
Kyle Shanahan's history
Kyle Shanahan is turning into this generation's Marty Schottenheimer. He's amazing in the regular season but finds the most crazy way to lose in the playoffs. Especially when he has no business in losing the game. I'm sorry Falcons fans, but "28-3" will haunt that fanbase for decades to come. As a Chiefs fan since 1997, I have had a smaller sense of that pain. Also, as a Chiefs fan, I've been on the winning side of a Kyle Shanahan collapse. The Niners had the Chiefs beat in Super Bowl 54. I'm not sure if that was a collapse or just Mahomes being Mahomes, but the results were the same.
Many people are going with the Niners next week. They're the better team on paper. They have no business losing this game. The Lions have no advantage other than more heart to win. They have the passion and the fight. I love Dan Campbell's passion. His emotion is a breath of fresh air to the analytical stone face that is a traditional coach. I think this game will come down to the wire and Detroit will come through with the game on the line this week at least. It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Rey Del Rio / Stringer
Bettmann / Contributor