The best power the Lions’ possessed was how they mirror coach Dan Campbell on the sector. Aggressive, no nonsense, singularly targeted and unbelievably united.
Within the second half of the NFC Championship sport that every one fell aside.
How the Lions gave up 27 unanswered factors, and the character of their collapse will probably be some extent of research this entire week — and in Detroit the topic of dialog for years. We watched in actual time as soccer proved how fickle it may be, the place one play can flip momentum on its head and propel a staff to victory the place it appeared beforehand unattainable. Brandon Aiyuk’s 51-yard catch, careening off Kindle Vildor was the spark that received the Niners going, however for my cash the actual defining play got here two performs earlier.
With 7:03 left within the third quarter, and the Lions up by 14, Josh Reynolds dropped a 4th down go brief left that he actually, actually ought to have grabbed. Jared Goff was beneath strain and put the ball the place it wanted to be, and the completion would have seemingly led to a Lions’ landing the best way the offense was shifting the ball as a complete.
Gamers drop passes. It occurs. Nevertheless it was Reynolds’ response after the drop that gave me pause. There was no fist pounding, no frustration, no anger or hearth — as a substitute the digital camera minimize to the sideline the place Reynolds was seen laughing about his hand place being improper with the remainder of the receiving group.
There’s some logic in simply shifting on from a nasty play, to “be a goldfish,” as Ted Lasso taught us — however there’s additionally worth in having that fireplace and frustration, particularly once you’re attempting to place away a staff within the second half, and particularly when that staff is the 49ers and it means going to the Tremendous Bowl.
This was a Lions staff that simply stopped taking the sport as severely because it wanted to be, and this occurred within the first half as properly.
The 49ers went on to attain because of Aiyuk’s heroics. The Lions then fumbled, and San Francisco scored once more. One other drive, one other brief go to Reynolds — one other drop. This time the rating was 24-24. It’s unattainable to know if the end result would have been any totally different had Reynolds taken the primary drop extra severely, however he didn’t have the gravitas wanted after that second. By the point the panic button was being smashed it was too late. The protection was gassed, the offense was out of rhythm, the end result felt inevitable.
The fourth down name …
We are able to’t focus on the collapse with out the choice by Dan Campbell to go for it on fourth down for the second key time within the shut of the sport. The primary we’ve mentioned, when Reynolds dropped the go whereas Detroit was up by 14 — the second with 7:32 left within the sport.
At that second the selection was both between a 48-yard discipline objective with a kicker the staff solely had on the roster since December, and didn’t have numerous belief in — or go along with the date they introduced, leaning on their greatest gamers. For what it’s price, analytics present that this was a coin toss choice, with the narrowest edge in the direction of going for it.
Right here’s why I hate that call, no matter what the numbers say: If we had been to take a look at this second in isolation then completely, you go for it. The difficulty is that the receiving corps on the time weren’t delivering. There have been a number of dropped passes from a wide range of receivers, the ball had been coughed up by Gibbs to the place a run a 4th and three was out of the query, and the 49ers had been bracketing Amon-Ra St. Brown, figuring out he was the one dependable goal the Lions had in the meanwhile.
At that second a staff want a solution to step again, take a deep breath, and reset. The one solution to obtain that is with some factors, and when the mud settled three factors was all that was wanted to ship the sport to additional time.
We’re left with a mess of points that every one come again to the identical key challenge: The Lions misplaced themselves and stopped enjoying their model of significant, massive boy soccer that dominated the primary half of the sport. They performed at key positions like they felt the NFC Championship was within the bag, and the 49ers made them pay for it.
Winner: Brock Purdy
There’s going to be a lot Brock Purdy discourse over the subsequent two weeks that it’s going to be sickening — however brass tacks, he deserves his flowers.
We now have this tendency to function in extremes. In the case of the Niners quarterback he both must be labeled as utter trash or the best quarterback within the NFL. The reality, as in most issues, is that he’s someplace within the center. Purdy can each exist as the most effective quarterback the 49ers have had since Colin Kaepernick, and in addition not be in the identical stratosphere are Patrick Mahomes — and that’s okay.
What we noticed within the NFC Championship is an extension of every little thing he’s completed this season. Purdy executes the Kyle Shanahan sport plan, and when the chips are down he’s capable of finding methods to make massive performs. That manifested itself within the shut of the sport by Purdy realizing the Lions had been underwater attempting to overload him with strain, however there have been gaps within the middle of the sector for him to step up and run.
It takes great guts to improvise that approach when it hasn’t been within the playing cards for a lot of the season — and when it mattered most he took over the sport.
Brock Purdy is totally deserving of being a beginning quarterback within the Tremendous Bowl.
Winner: The Chiefs proving us all improper
I used to be extremely vital when Travis Kelce and co. trotted out the “everybody doubted us” line after profitable Tremendous Bowl LVII. It was extraordinarily overwrought, and got here after nearly all of the media anticipated the Chiefs to be an amazing staff, however acknowledged they took a small step again offensively.
This 12 months they’ve greater than earned the suitable to preen.
Kansas Metropolis normal supervisor Brett Veach and all the Chiefs’ entrance workplace deserves a degree of reward past something they’ve completed prior to now. This staff realized it wasn’t in a spot to remain the course with its overwhelming offensive method, as a substitute morphing right into a defensive staff — inherently understanding that Patrick Mahomes and Kelce had been adequate to place factors on the board.
There have been loads of instances this season that it didn’t at all times work, however the Chiefs performed the most effective soccer when it mattered probably the most. This staff inherently understands what it takes to win within the playoffs, and Andy Reid is a grasp at preserving his staff targeted on the duty at hand. At no level this playoffs did the Chiefs really feel like that they had any objective apart from making it again to the Tremendous Bowl. It’s a trait hardly ever seen, and infrequently solely achieved by the likes of Invoice Belichick and the Patriots.
The win over the Ravens within the AFC Championship typified how far the Chiefs have are available a 12 months. Previously if we stated: “The Chiefs will rating 17 factors, and get out-gained on offense” the logical thought is that they misplaced the sport. At no level have we been conditioned to consider this staff can win beneath these situations, however the Chiefs had been masterful and bending, however by no means breaking — and naturally it helps when L’Jarius Snead makes the play of his profession to punch the ball away from Zay Flowers on the objective line.
If Baltimore stood an opportunity they wanted Lamar Jackson’s supporting forged, who lastly supported him this 12 months, to make an affect. The Chiefs erased that chance. They deserve all this.
Loser: Lamar Jackson
One other 12 months, extra missed alternatives. To be clear: Lamar Jackson isn’t a loser within the conventional sense, however he’s the unlucky bearer of this crown due to what the Ravens did towards the Chiefs.
Jackson but once more struggled to make it to the Tremendous Bowl as a result of the staff round him regressed on the worst potential time. Zay Flowers was the one participant who stepped as much as carry out in his supporting forged, which compelled Jackson to return to enjoying hero ball.
Let’s be actual, he was the most effective participant on the Ravens offense. He at all times is. Jackson was removed from good, however this staff won’t ever, ever recover from the hump till they discover extra dependable gamers who could make performs when the staff wants them to.
It’s one other offseason of questions and missed alternatives in Baltimore, and that’s a disgrace.