Why coaching gives the Detroit Lions a big advantage over

Why coaching gives the Detroit Lions a big advantage over the San Francisco 49ers – Pride Of Detroit

The Detroit Lions travel to San Francisco for a chance at the Super Bowl against the 49ers. Since the Lions are more than touchdown underdogs, they need to exploit every bit of leverage they have over the NFC's top seed. The 49ers have a complete squad and have been favorites to reach the Super Bowl for almost the entire season.

On paper, the Lions only have small advantages here and there. Their rushing attack has a chance to succeed against a 49ers front that is much better at rushing the passer than defending the run. Aidan Hutchinson is also a huge mismatch against 49ers right tackle Colton McKivitz.

But Detroit's biggest advantage may be coaching.

On the surface, Dan Campbell vs. Kyle Shanahan resembles a duel between David and Goliath. Shanahan is considered one of the smartest offensive minds in football, capable of creating schemes and mismatches that turn defensive coordinators' heads. Meanwhile, those who don't know Campbell see him as an archaic, old-school figure who values ​​emotions over intelligence.

However, when it comes to matchday management, it is Shanahan who is stuck in the Stone Age, while Campbell is the modern genius.

Analytics site Sumer Sports has developed a stat called “Win ​​Probability Added Over Expected”., which measures the value of in-game decisions made by coaches. It takes into account things like using timeouts, fourth-down and two-point conversion decisions, and avoiding delays in plays.

Of the four coaches remaining in the playoffs, Campbell is at the top of the pack in the win percentage he has added to the Lions this year. Shanahan, on the other hand, is the worst of them all – and he doesn't come particularly close.

Image courtesy of Sumer Sports

Campbell posted a winning percentage of 93.1% above expectations, while Shanahan is the only remaining coach to post a negative number.

Unsurprisingly, Campbell's biggest strength in game-day decision-making is his aggressiveness in the fourth period. Only the Carolina Panthers attempted more fourth-down conversions (48) than the Lions (40) in 2023, and Detroit's 52.5% conversion rate is just above average. The 49ers, on the other hand, have attempted just 13 fourth downs – the fewest in the NFL.

The playoffs were a perfect example of why Campbell's aggressiveness helped Detroit get to this moment. Against both the Rams and Buccaneers, the Lions went all out on fourth-and-goal and converted – turning a three-point opportunity into seven points.

In the late season, these seemingly small decisions could mean the difference between advancing and a golf reservation. So don't overlook Detroit's significant advantage.

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