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The Detroit Lions are in the NFC championship game for the first time in more than 30 years, on the cusp of the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. They’ll have to go through the NFC’s top-seeded San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon from The Bay to do so.
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What to know
It all comes down to this for the Detroit Lions and their historic season. In a season full of firsts and “first time since” milestones, the Lions are one victory away from playing in their first Super Bowl. And they get to do it against the 49ers, who aren’t just the big boss at the end of the tunnel, but a team that brings even more storylines to the forefront. Dan Campbell and Jared Goff’s first game with the Lions was against the 49ers. And Detroit last road playoff win? It came against the 49ers in San Francisco way back in 1957, which was also the last time the Lions were NFL champions.
Matchup to watch: Lions OL vs 49ers DL
It’s as simple as that this week. And highlighting just two names would be a disservice to the matchup ahead in the trenches.
Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker were at their best against the blitz-happy Bucs last week, allowing only one pressure and no hits between them across every offensive snap. And they’ll face perhaps the deepest test they’ve seen all year in the 49ers, who have Nick Bosa and Chase Young on the outside, with Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw and Javon Hargrave on the inside.
Frank Ragnow is expected to play despite dealing with knee, ankle, shoulder and back issues. But Jonah Jackson will miss this weekend’s game after suffering a knee injury in last week’s win. Kayode Awosika is expected to see the start in his absence, while rookie Colby Sorsdal seems like the other name to watch in that situation. Awosika allowed five pressures in relief in the divisional round.
“(Lions offensive line) coach (Hank) Fraley and I were just talking about this a little while ago, what you see on tape from them a year ago, schematically, doesn’t necessarily show up as a great way to attack them this year,” offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. “And that’s really due to the personnel. They are much stronger in the interior, in my opinion.
“They’re playing really well. The edge guys, I think we all know about those guys with Bosa and Chase Young, but this is a very, very fast, aggressive, physical group across the board that we’re really looking forward to the challenge here this week.”