The Detroit Lions are in rare air for them, reaching their second NFC Championship Game ever. The conference title game is old hat for the San Francisco 49ers, as they're now in it for the fourth time in the last five years and the 19th time ever.
It's safe to say no one is overlooking the Lions at this point, least of all the 49ers and head coach Kyle Shanahan (h/t to the Detroit News).
"You can see why they're here. "Just a really good team," Shanahan said on Monday. "Their defense runs around, hits, plays with a lot of energy…and then their offense is as good as it gets. They’ve got a great O-line, a great quarterback, two great running backs, great tight end and a bunch of good wideouts that play the right way, and a hell of a scheme. Pretty obvious to see why they’ve been so good this year."
The sportsbooks aren't respecting the Lions, with the 49ers being tabbed as a 7-point favorite as the week gets going. That could be a bit of bulletin board material for Lions' players, generated by being tabbed such a massive underdog.
Lions defensive back Brian Branch issues warning to the 49ers
Speaking to reporters after the Divisional Round win over the Buccaneers, via John Maakaron of SI.com, Branch issued a warning to the 49ers.
"San Fran is a really good team but I feel like, shoot, we're a really good team too," Brian Branch told reporters. "If we're clicking there's gonna be a rude awakening."
History is just that to this Lions' team, with the franchise's past futility irrelevant to now. Branch did admit to being spoiled by the success of his rookie season though.
"It means a lot. Shoot, for it to be my first year, I guess I'm spoiled in a way. But I feel like I'm blessed," said Branch. "We put in a lot of hard work in the offseason, we went through a lot of ups and downs, but we stayed with each other and just kept it pushing."
A warning to the 49ers ahead of the NFC Championship Game was not really necessary. But Branch doing it is a reflection of a confidence bunch of players in Detroit, which is something new too.