Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs (26) celebrates with running back David Montgomery (5) after scoring a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Grounded in run-first approach, Lions, 49ers embrace throwback ID

Universal bewilderment from loud media voices met the signing of free agent David Montgomery, and even more exclamatory doubts and darts followed when the Detroit Lions used their first-round pick in the 2023 draft to select Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell’s reaction each time was identical: You must have no clue who we are. But even Gibbs admitted he was “shocked” to be selected 12th in the draft.

Foresight not withstanding, general manager Brad Holmes and Campbell appear to have earned their sagacious stickers. Gibbs was one of four Lions with 10 touchdowns this season with 11, and 1,261 yards from scrimmage. Second-round rookie tight end Sam LaPorta had a record-setting season, too, perhaps sending rooms of armchair draftniks back to their grading charts from April.

“I’m just going to bring it back to Brad Holmes. It’s a hell of a job by him once again. He took a lot of criticism for those picks. But they look like they are OK. I’m glad we got them,” Campbell said.

Campbell also knows what his team has to do Sunday to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game in Santa Clara, Calif.

“You’ve got to stop the run because if you don’t, they’ll rush for 250 (yards) on you and then they won’t even worry about passing,” he said.

Not that top-seeded San Francisco isn’t capable of passing. It led the NFL in yards per pass play (8.93) and pass plays of 20 yards or more with 75. Worry too much about All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and you get burned by Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk.

Campbell does believe that by stopping McCaffrey, who rushed for 1,459 yards and scored 14 touchdowns while contributing 67 receptions and seven more touchdowns, the 49ers are like any other team that becomes one-dimensional: Their margin for error diminishes.

Midseason losses to Cleveland, Minnesota and Cincinnati exposed that weakness. McCaffrey managed only 43, 45 and 54 yards in those games. Quarterback Brock Purdy tossed five interceptions and was sacked a half-dozen times.

Purdy noted Wednesday that he benefits from a good running game and the element of deception. He’s extremely good in those circumstances, and the 49ers were very committed to the running game. They were third in the NFL with 140.5 rushing yards per game — Detroit was fifth at 135.9.

Purdy led a last-ditch drive in the divisional round that eliminated Green Bay 24-21. He converted first downs with his legs and arm on a 69-yard drive that culminated with McCaffrey’s 6-yard touchdown run with 1:07 remaining.

That happened despite the loss of Samuel, who left last week’s game in the first half with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. Samuel, who didn’t practice on Wednesday, caught seven touchdown passes and ran for five more scores while accounting for 1,117 yards from scrimmage.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was tight-lipped when asked about Samuel’s availability for Sunday, saying only, “He feels better.”

Third-seeded Detroit is playing in its first NFC title game in 32 seasons. Campbell looked around his news conference on Wednesday and noticed a lot of unfamiliar faces, ready to chronicle every word and facial tic from the coach of perhaps the league’s most appealing story.

“Most of the time I come in here, there’s about 20 of you,” he said. “Now there’s a whole packed room, people I don’t even recognize. That’s what our players are dealing with; it’s all the extra attention outside of the norm. They’re getting pulled from every area.”

Winning does that. The Lions keep winning games and reaching uncharted territory. Last week’s 31-23 decision over Tampa Bay saw them snap a 17-17 tie with two touchdowns following long drives in the fourth quarter.

Detroit played a clean game with no turnovers and just three penalties for 17 yards. With Jared Goff throwing for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and Gibbs rolling up 114 yards from scrimmage, the Lions are proving they know exactly who they are.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Former Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon (1), Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George (27) and NFL Hall of Famer Robert Brazile watch warmups before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Titans to wear Oilers throwbacks for two games

The Tennessee Titans will pay homage to their roots and wear Houston Oilers throwback uniforms for two home games in 2023.

The franchise was known as the Houston Oilers from 1960-1996 before moving to Tennessee. They kept the Oilers uniforms for 1997-98 while playing home games in Memphis and Nashville before fully rebranding to the Tennessee Titans in 1999.

The uniforms were revealed Sunday night.

“It allows us to honor as many players as we can, because it covers so much time,” Titans vice president and executive creative director Surf Melendez told the team website. “It also represented our transition to Tennessee, because we wore these uniforms in Tennessee as well.”

The two home games to feature the throwbacks have yet to be finalized.

The Titans were interested in wearing the throwbacks for a “Monday Night Football” road game at the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 11 but have not received approval from the league, ESPN reported.

Tennessee is following a league-wide trend of introducing throwbacks into the uniform rotation in the wake of the NFL rolling back its “one-shell rule” last year. The Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks are among the team who have unveiled throwback uniform plans in recent weeks.

“Can’t wait to see our old uniforms on the field again!” Oilers legend and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon wrote on social media. “Best looking outfit in football. Go Titans.”

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) takes the field before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FirstEnergy Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Browns unveil white alternate helmets

The Cleveland Browns will wear a white helmet in three games this upcoming season, the team announced Tuesday.

The Browns sported an all-white helmet when the franchise debuted in 1946 and carried that look into 1950. They switched to the more familiar orange shell in 1951.

Cleveland will debut its “new” look against the host Pittsburgh Steelers in a “Monday Night Football” game on Sept. 18. The Browns also will wear their throwback helmets versus the visiting San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 15 and against the New York Jets in their home regular-season finale on Dec. 28.

“We’re super fired up and really excited to have this opportunity to wear an alternate helmet,” said JW Johnson, Browns executive vice president and partner JW Johnson said. “We decided to go with the white helmet for a couple reasons — it harkens back to our past, and a lot of our greatest players wore white helmets. We also heard from our fans that it was the direction they wanted. We always want to continue having great fan interaction and deliver for them as much as we possibly can.”

–Field Level Media

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - June 05, 2023 - Wide Receiver Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a production shoot for the Buccaneers’ creamsicle uniform release. Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs bringing back ‘creamsicle’ uniforms in Week 6

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will wear their throwback “Creamsicle” uniforms in a Week 6 game against the visiting Detroit Lions, the team announced Wednesday.

It will be the first time in more than a decade that the Buccaneers have worn the light-orange jerseys and helmets featuring the “Bucco Bruce” logo.

The Bucs donned the uniforms starting with their inaugural season in 1976 through 1996, then brought them back once per season from 2009-12.

“Our fans have waited a decade to see our players back in these classic Creamsicle jerseys, and we are excited to celebrate our rich legacy when we debut these one-of-a-kind uniforms on Oct. 15th against the Detroit Lions,” said Buccaneers chief operating officer Brian Ford. “As we begin this new era of Buccaneers football, we aim to honor those who have played a vital role in our Club’s journey while also appealing to a new generation of fans who will drive our future success.”

–Field Level Media