A matchup in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers and edge rushers Nick Bosa and Chase Young might keep most offensive coordinators up at night.
But not Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. He has arguably one of the best tackle duos in the NFL in All-Pro right tackle Penei Sewell and left tackle Taylor Decker.
"I'm not saying that we're not worried about the edges, because we are, we certainly are," Johnson said Thursday. "But it helps you sleep a little bit better at night knowing that some of their best players are going against some of your best players as well."
Sewell will be mostly tasked with trying to keep Bosa away from Detroit quarterback Jared Goff and off running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery. It's an all-star matchup between Bosa, who has 10.5 sacks and 26 quarterback hits on the year (per Pro Football Focus), against Sewell, who has allowed one sack all season and was graded as the top tackle in the NFL by PFF, ahead of No. 2 ranked Trent Williams.
"He's very strong, very athletic and also very technically sound," Sewell said of the matchup with Bosa Sunday. "He kind of has it all it terms of an edge rusher and pass rusher. It's going to be a big battle."
Sunday will kind of be a full-circle moment for Sewell, who also faced the 49ers and Bosa in his first career NFL game in 2021. He was playing left tackle then with Decker injured to begin the year. Sewell was credited with allowing two hits, four hurries and six total pressures.
It's a completely different Sewell Bosa and the 49ers are facing this time around. He's grown into arguably the most athletic and talented tackle in the game today and is still getting better at only 23 years old.
"There's so much that he's capable of and he's still growing," Johnson said of Sewell. "That's the crazy thing, he's still learning, he's still growing."
Sewell, who was named a captain for the first time this season, has faced plenty of good edge rushers this season and has turned them all away. Players like Maxx Crosby, Danielle Hunter (twice), Micah Parsons, Rashan Gary, Brian Burns and others. On top of the one sack allowed (to the Saints' Zack Baun) he's allowed Goff to be hit just six times all season on 752 pass block reps.
"I think the ability's always been there. It's been refining technique," Johnson said of Sewell's progression over the years. "I think he's excellent with both pass-pro and the run game. I don't know if there's a better combination of the two at the tackle position in the league right now.
"But really, where I've seen the most growth is the leadership factor. You see guys looking to him now. He is a tone-setter for us here on offense. And really, I would say him for the offensive line and then (Amon-Ra) St. Brown at the skill positions. Those two guys with how they play, fearless, aggressive mentality, they're not going to back down to anything. Really, those two guys are what we're all about on offense."
The Lions hit the road for the first time in nearly a month Sunday when they take on the 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. The Lions are 6-3 on the road this season and 10-4 away from Ford Field dating back to November of last season.
"I think that's big. Look, if you want to be competitive in the playoffs, you want to have a chance to really go all the way, you have to be a good road team," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Thursday. "I believe that because you're not always going to get the one seed. That's the cream of the crop. That's the one.
"But man, if you can win on the road, that means you can handle adversity, you can handle the ebbs and flows of a game, you don't crack, you handle pressure well. And so, I think that's something that we've talked about here, the way we practice, the way we do things, the way camp is, all of that. And I think it serves you well. When you're able to play a certain way on the road and handle a certain amount of pressure, that travels anyway."
GIVE AND TAKE
The Lions have had success blitzing with their defensive backs to supplement their pass rush. We saw it give the Buccaneers all sorts of problems last week with Ifeatu Melifonwu and Brian Branch combining for three sacks.
The flip side is being caught in the blitz and it leading to big plays.
"I'm willing to give up something to get something," Campbell said. "And sometimes you've got to – things may happen, but that's OK because it'll pay dividends by the time you hit the fourth quarter and I think that's what we're doing."
"I think (defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) AG's done a hell of a job of mixing things up. We've got enough coverage versus pressure there. We're starting to figure out some of our better pressure players, guys that can do that on the perimeter. And I think you see our confidence going up."