We can turn the page to the NFC Championship. The Detroit Lions were the most consistent team in the conference after the San Francisco 49ers during the regular season, so it’s only fitting that these two teams represent the NFC with a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
Lions’ head coach Dan Campbell took the podium and praised Kyle Shanahan for being a “top” offensive mind in the NFL. When asked where Detroit will focus their attention on this week, Campbell interrupted the reporter before they could finish their question:
“Stop the run. You gotta stop the run. Because if you don’t, they’ll rush for 250 on you, and they won’t even worry about passing. Everything has to start there.
Shanahan does an unbelievable job. He’s going to work one side, and make you overreact. Then he’s going to counter off that and play-pass off of it and works the middle of the field.
Look, you’ve got your hands full in both regards. [Brock] Purdy does a hell of a job. They throw a lot of daggers in the middle of the field, and he does a hell of a job with touch, timing, and rhythm.
But we have to stop this run game. It has to start there. As much as you can, you have to make this team one-dimensional. And that’s not easy to do.”
He hadn’t gotten far enough into prep against the ‘Lions' defense then, but I asked Shanahan on Monday if he felt like Detroit’s defense was better than their numbers would suggest. Kyle was convinced that was the case for Green Bay’s defense, and he was proved correct. Here was his answer:
“I’ll see more as the week goes, but I would assume so. We’re just getting into them right now. So, I’m not far enough along with them, but I mean, they look like a top defense. Numbers don’t always show it, but when you watch it from afar, you can tell they’re running around making plays.
You’re familiar with a number of their players that we played in the past or coming out of college. Anytime you tie that type of deal with a really good offense like they have, then the defense is always much better in that case, even if the numbers don’t show it. So, that’s what we’ll work on all week here. I won’t be surprised if we end up feeling that same way.”
Then, today, here’s Campbell talking about his defense and what they do well:
“We’re disruptive. We’re aggressive. And we hit. That, to me, has to be what we’re about. Those are the principles. We may get hit on a couple of things. I know, for me, I’m willing to give up something to get something. Things may happen, but that’s OK because it’ll pay dividends by the time it hits the fourth quarter. I think that’s what we’re doing.
It’s a salty group. They play hard. They’re pretty sound. And we’re competitive. I think AG [defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn] has done a hell of a job of mixing things up. We’ve got enough coverage versus pressure. We’re starting to figure out some of our better pressure players. I think you can see our confidence going up. It’s really going up over the past six weeks.
We’re on the uptick right now. We got two takeaways the other day, which is huge. That’s gotta continue for us.”
You don’t often hear a coach come out and say that he’s OK with allowing plays, knowing that he’ll eventually have a turnover to make up for it.
The Lions ranked ninth in interceptions per drive during the regular season, so last week wasn’t an anomaly. But on the flip side, they allowed the seventh-most points and touchdowns per drive.