Bruising Lions barrel through 49ers to first-half lead in NFC Championship Game

By Larry Holder, Colton Pouncy and David Lombardi

The Athletic has live coverage of Lions vs. 49ers in the NFC Championship game.

The Detroit Lions are certainly acting like they’ve been there before jumping out to a 24-7 lead over the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium. The winner will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas in two weeks.

If the Lions hang on, they’d make their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, and Detroit seems well on its way.

The Lions used a dose of complementary football to give themselves some heavy momentum midway through the second quarter. First, linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez picked off an errant pass from the Niners’ Brock Purdy. Then Detroit extended its lead to 21-7 when Jahmyr Gibbs dodged defenders en route to a 15-yard touchdown run less than six minutes left in the half.

The Gibbs touchdown maintained a consistent theme with Detroit’s offense marching through the San Francisco defense with little resistance. And the Lions kept that going until the end of the half when they added a Michael Badgley 21-yard field goal with seven seconds left.


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Detroit’s offense went into its bag of tricks in the opening drive when wideout Jameson Williams took an end around through numerous 49ers defenders for a 42-yard rushing touchdown. Then the Lions simply plowed through the 49ers in their next drive with David Montgomery capping it off with a 1-yard TD plunge.

San Francisco’s typically potent offense couldn’t keep pace in the first 30 minutes. The Lions had more rushing yards (148) than the 49ers had total yards (131) as Detroit tallied 280 total yards.

Purdy went 7-of-15 passing for 93 yards with no touchdowns and one interception resulting in a 39.0 passer rating.

The Niners’ Christian McCaffrey cut the deficit to 14-7 early in the second quarter. McCaffrey followed up a physical 28-yard reception two plays later with a 2-yard TD run. San Francisco let three points slip away on a 48-yard missed field goal by Nick Moody on the opening drive.


Best Lions half this season

That was the best half of football the Lions have played all season. Nothing comes close when you factor in the stage and what we’ve seen on the field. Detroit’s offense is having its way with this 49ers rush defense. The Lions have rushed for 148 yards, at 7.0 yards per carry.

That was the game plan going into this one knowing their backs and offensive line could have success against a San Francisco defense that has struggled to defend the run of late. On the other side, Detroit’s defense has pressured Purdy in key spots, forcing him into bad throws. This group has largely gotten off the field when needed. As a result, the Detroit Lions are 30 minutes away from their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Let’s see if they can close it out. — Colton Pouncy, Lions beat writer

Niners tasting own medicine

Perhaps the most comparable playoff rushing performance to what the Lions have done against the 49ers in the first half: San Francisco’s explosion against the Green Bay Packers in the 2019 NFC Championship Game. The 49ers racked up 285 rushing yards on 6.8 yards per carry in that game. Detroit has 148 yards on 7.0 yards per carry in the first half today.

Have we ever seen a team been administered a dose of its own medicine in the NFC title game the way the Lions have punished the 49ers in the first half today? — David Lombardi, 49ers beat writer

Required reading

(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

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