Lions’ Dan Campbell Justifies Costly Play Calls In NFC Title Loss To 49ers

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Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell made a questionable play calls during Sunday night’s NFC Championship Game battle against the San Francisco 49ers — and it proved to be very costly.

In the third quarter leading the 49ers, 24-10, the Lions had an opportunity to extend their lead to 17 points. Instead, Campbell elected to attempt a 4th-and-2 conversion on San Francisco’s 28-yard line rather than take a favorable field-goal attempt.

Detroit quarterback Jared Goff failed to convert, and that was the start of a flip in momentum. The 49ers scored 24 points from that point forward, meanwhile, the Lions recorded just 34 rushing yards in the third and fourth quarters combined, allowing San Francisco to come away with a 34-31 victory.

Campbell also made the decision for Detroit to go for it on 4th-and-3 from the San Francisco 30 with 7:32 remaining and the Lions trailing by three points. Despite being in field-goal range, Campbell kept the offense on the field but Goff tossed an incomplete pass again for a turnover on downs.

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“I just felt really good about us converting and getting our momentum and not letting them play long ball,” Campbell told reporters postgame, per CBS Sports video. “They were bleeding the clock out, that’s what they do. And I wanted to get the upper hand back. It’s easy hindsight, and I get it, I get that. But I don’t regret those decisions, and it’s hard, it’s hard. Because we didn’t come through. It wasn’t able to work out. And I understand the scrutiny I’ll get. It’s part of the gig.”

Detroit’s ground game brought it just a win shy of its first franchise Super Bowl appearance, but it also ended its run. Campbell didn’t take the conservative route in the second half in which the Lions weren’t nearly as dominant in attacking the scoreboard.

Campbell acknowledged that regardless of where he stood and still stands in taking that chance, it proved to the difference-maker.

“You don’t know which play is gonna make the difference. You say that every game,” Campbell added. “… Sometimes you can only say it so much, unfortunately, and you gotta get your heart ripped out, which we did. And it’s a lesson learned. And I told those guys, ‘This may have been our only shot.’ Do I think that? No. Do I believe that? No. However, I know how hard it is to get here. I’m well aware. And it’s going to be twice as hard to get back here.”

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The Lions rode an underdog train throughout the playoffs after an elite NFC North-leading 12-5 regular-season run. Detroit overcame old friend and current Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford in the wild-card round, then outshined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round, rallying a fanbase that isn’t accustomed to success of any kind.

Usually, its wise to ride the horse that brought you to your highest point, right? Well, for the Lions, that same horse catapulted them out of the playoffs and back to the dissapointment stage until next season.

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