On Sunday, the Detroit Lions lost an absolute heartbreaker to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, 34-31.
Although the Lions dominated the first half, taking a 24-7 lead at halftime, the 49ers took advantage of some costly mistakes by Detroit in the second half, along with some questionable coaching decisions, ultimately resulting in a 49ers victory.
In the second half of the game, Lions head coach Dan Campbell decided to go for it on fourth down on three separate occasions while his team was in field goal range. The Lions failed to convert all three times.
Looking back now, if the Lions had just made two of those field goals they would’ve been heading to the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Campbell even admitted in the postgame press conference that this may have been their only shot to make it to the big dance:
The full Dan Campbell quote here is important, before bits go viral:
"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. It'll be twice as hard to get back to this point," he said. pic.twitter.com/uUYAvOdV1T
However, Campbell’s aggressive play calling ultimately resulted in them going home.
Many have questioned Campbell’s decisionmaking in the second half of the game, wondering why he didn’t take the points on three separate occasions.
And even Tom Brady was pretty critical of Campbell’s second half decisions on his Let’s Go!podcast.
Jim Gray initially said on the show:
“I think [Dan Campbell] really didn’t do very well at all with situational football… not kicking two field goals.
One to tie the game, one to go ahead by 17 points. And then at the end burning the time out. … He’s the guy responsible, in my opinion, for putting them in peril.”
That’s when Brady responded:
“Well, the whole team’s responsible. I’ll say it’s ultimately a team sport and the coach makes these decisions and you gotta go execute. My opinion differed on all those plays, too.
I definitely thought the handoff there late in the game, that was the one that I didn’t understand because unless you saw some incredible look to walk the ball in, you just can’t take the chance that you’re gonna be stopped short and keep the clock running, ’cause you just can’t get the ball back. That was the one that I just said, I don’t know what they’re doing.
I thought it was just a flat out error. And then the other ones are judgment calls. They’ve been aggressive all year. Obviously when you’re aggressive and it doesn’t work, it comes back to bite you and it came back to bite ’em yesterday. Again, I would’ve taken the points.”
“I’ve been in those situations. I look at them and say, ‘Okay, this is the opportunity to continue to keep the pressure on the 49ers to make great plays’ and you’re in a great position.”
Needless to say, I’m sure there are a lot of things Campbell wishes he could go back on.