Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson Puts Buccaneers, NFL Playoff Teams on Notice

Aidan Hutchinson

Getty Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson talked about to reporters how he gets better at the end of seasons.

Teams that win the Super Bowl aren’t necessarily the best teams for the entire NFL season. They are the teams that improve and play their best football at the end of the season.

The Detroit Lions hope to keep improving on their way to the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history this postseason. If that’s going to happen, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson will have to be one of the team’s best players.

Hutchinson warned the rest of the playoff field that’s he’s up to the task.

“Like I told you guys, I heat up late in the season,” Hutchinson told reporters, via’s All Lions’ Christian Booher. “It’s playoff time and I’ve been waiting for my opportunity in the playoffs and just want to make the most of it every (opportunity) I get.”

That sentiment echoed a comment Hutchinson made in December.

“I feel like I’m always a guy who, as I get deeper and deeper into the season, that’s when I start to heat up a little bit,” Hutchinson said, via The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy. “I feel like this has just happened these past few years. My last year at Michigan, last year and this year. I definitely heat up later in the season.”

Hutchinson has supported those comments with his recent play. He ended the regular season with 5 sacks in the last two games.

Hutchinson then had 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss and 5 quarterback hits against the Los Angels Rams on wild-card weekend.

Aidan Hutchinson Stepping Up at the Right Time

Hutchinson has been great throughout his second NFL season. He finished the 2023 regular season ranked second in the league with 101 pressures.

But he’s been finishing those pressures with sacks more often over the past few weeks.

Including the playoffs, Hutchinson has 7 sacks in the past three contests. During that time, he also has 15 quarterback hits and 9 tackles for loss.

He’s had at least 5 quarterback hits in each of his past four games. Hutchinson also has at least a sack in four of his last six contests.

This isn’t the first time Hutchinson has risen to the occasion at the end of a season.

“During his final season at Michigan, Hutchinson turned in a three-sack performance against C.J. Stroud and Ohio State,” Pouncy wrote. “It was a performance that helped Hutchinson finish second in the Heisman Trophy race, and catapulted the Wolverines to a Big Ten title and the College Football Playoff.

“As an NFL rookie in 2022, Hutchinson turned it on late in the season, coinciding with a surge by the Lions. He ranked 16th in pressures from Week 16 on, notching 2 1/2 of his 9 1/2 sacks in that three-game span. It was the kind of run that set him up for a much-improved 2023 season.”

Lions Need More Pass Rush to Help Secondary

Including the wild-card matchup, Hutchinson has posted 13.5 sacks in 18 contests this season.

While the Lions defense featured a balanced pass rush with 18 defenders recording a sack during the regular season, only four of those players had more than 2 sacks. Hutchinson is close to reaching three times as many sacks as any of his teammates this season.

That makes Hutchinson continuing his production in the postseason paramount to Detroit’s success. The Lions haven’t received consistent pressure from any of their other defenders.

And the Lions could use more pressure with a hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers passing attack coming to Detroit for the NFC divisional round.

The Lions secondary finished 27th in passing yards allowed this season and has given up a lot of big plays recently. Against the Rams on wild-card weekend, the Lions allowed two passing touchdowns of at least 38 yards.

One way to cut down on those big plays is more pressure on the quarterback. In all likelihood, that pressure will have to come from Hutchinson.

He’s made it clear multiple times, though, that he’s just the man to deliver it.

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