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Lions’ Brian Branch Issues Warning to 49ers: ‘A Rude Awakening’

Getty Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Brian Branch fired a strong message to the San Francisco 49ers on January 22.

The Detroit Lions opened as a touchdown underdog against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. But apparently that isn’t going to make even Detroit’s youngest players shy of the big moment.

Lions rookie cornerback Brian Branch paid respect to the 49ers while speaking to reporters on January 22 about the matchup. But Branch also suggested that the NFC championship is an opportunity for the Lions to show how good they are.

“San Fran is a really good team, but I feel like, shoot, we’re a really good team too,” Branch told the media, via SI.com’s All Lions’ John Maakaron. “If we’re clicking, there’s gonna be a rude awakening.”

The Lions will visit the 49ers in their first NFC championship game in 32 years on January 28. Kickoff will be at 6:30 pm ET.

How Detroit Lions Match Up With San Francisco 49ers

It will only be natural if the the Lions-49ers matchup takes on a David vs. Goliath type storyline.

San Francisco has been one of the darling teams in the NFC since the early 1980s. On January 22, the 49ers will make their 19th appearance in the conference championship game. That’s three more conference championship game appearances than any other team in NFL history.

Since 2010 alone, the 49ers have played in the NFC championship seven times.

The Lions will be making their second conference championship game appearance. That’s tied for the second-fewest in league history. The only team with fewer appearances is the Houston Texans, who came into the NFL in 2002.

But looking at the statistics of the two teams, things appear to be a little more even. Both the 49ers and Lions finished the season 12-5. Each team also finished in the top 5 in offensive yards and points scored.

The Lions could even have the edge over the 49ers in some areas. Detroit quarterback Jared Goff has played incredibly this postseason and has already won an NFC championship with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018.

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy played well during key moments in the 49ers’ divisional matchup, but his play wasn’t overwhelming. He also hasn’t won a conference championship game.

Purdy completed 59% of his passes for 252 yards with a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. Goff has posted a 74.3% completion percentage with 564 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in two postseason games this year.

Lions Path to Upset Against 49ers

There likely isn’t a path to a Detroit road upset against San Francisco without Goff outplaying Purdy. Goff has been the key to Detroit’s offense the entire season, which has carried the team to 14 victories including the playoffs.

The Lions will likely have to stay dedicated to the running game against a stout 49ers front too. San Francisco finished third in rushing yards allowed during 2023 but were only 14th in yards allowed per carry.

Packers running back Aaron Jones rushed for 108 yards against the 49ers on January 20. Those rushing yards were a big key to Green Bay nearly beating San Francisco in the divisional round.

Defensively, the Lions will have their hands full with San Francisco’s playmakers even if wide receiver Deebo Samuel is less than 100%. Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, along with tight end George Kittle, will be a unique challenge for a Detroit secondary that struggled to cover Puka Nacua and Mike Evans the last two weeks.

The Lions defense was ranked in the top three in rushing yards allowed and yards per carry yielded. But the Lions didn’t face running back Christian McCaffrey, the league’s likely Offensive Player of the Year, during the regular season.

The 49ers are a tough matchup for any team in the league. But as Branch argued, so are the Lions.

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Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Brian Branch fired a strong message to the San Francisco 49ers on January 22.