The San Francisco 49ers have the better defense in the matchup with the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship game. No one would dispute that; San Francisco finished third in points per game and seventh in yards per play in the regular season, while Detroit finished 23rd and 28th, respectively, in those metrics.
Yet there’s one area where the Lions defense is the superior one. And it’s a very important one entering the matchup to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Per NFL Inside Edge, the Lions’ pass defense in crunch time has been excellent. Yes, really. From Inside Edge’s game matchup preview,
The Lions have allowed a passer rating of just 47.8 in close and late situations since the 2022 season — best in NFL.
The key for the Lions will be to get the game into a close game deep into Sunday’s contest in San Francisco. Along with the Lions pass defense stepping up in the clutch, that’s not where 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy succeeds.
Brock Purdy (SF) has a just 75.5 passer rating in late and close games since the 2022 season — 10th-worst of Qualified Quarterbacks.
The Lions defense rose to the occasion in last week’s win over the Buccaneers in this exact situation, with Derrick Barnes picking off Baker Mayfield to seal the game. The analytical statistics say they can do it again, too.