Is there anyone else out there that would be looking forward to the Super Bowl more if the Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions were in it?
The gritty team sure looked like they were destined to make a trip to Las Vegas when they held a 17-point lead over the San Francisco 49ers at halftime of the NFC Championship. If the Detroit Kneecap Biters Lions could have held it together, they would have punched their ticket to the “Big Game” and had a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.
But instead, Brock Purdy and the 49ers staged a second half comeback for the ages, and against all odds, emerged victorious, which left many people blaming Motor City Dan Campbell for his aggressive coaching and risky game management.
Campbell was an easy target for criticism. Any head coach that blows a three-score lead in a big game would be. But what was strange is that Dan Campbell called that game like any other he would’ve coached throughout the season (with his hair on fire). If he wins that game, he’s called a maestro. When he loses it, he’s called a moron.
And since he lost it, every analyst and fan of football was saying that Dan Campbell should have dialed it back in order to win the game. In theory, yes, that may have helped, but the Lions not staying true to themselves could have easily lost them the game as well.
That’s what Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone touched on in his piece that he submitted to The Player’s Tribune, which is a site that gives professional athletes a platform to post written pieces about their thoughts on their respective sports.
In the story, Anzalone defended his head coach, and explained that the entire Lions team was in support of Campbell the entire way during the NFC Championship:
“We were all behind Dan on the 4th down call. Let’s get that out of the way first. If you could rewind time, we’d all do it again. A hundred times out of a hundred. The offense. The defense. Everybody. If you have been following this team’s journey for the last three years, then you know how we play football. You know the mentality that got us here.”
As you can see, though Anzalone and his team lost the game, they’d “do it again” the exact same way in a heartbeat. There was a certain grit that got the Lions to the NFC Championship after decades of toiling in mediocrity, so why abandon that playing style in one of the franchises’ biggest games?
For Anzalone and his teammates, there was no hesitation and no doubt that the Lions played the game how they wanted to play:
“It was the right decision — and I’m not talking about the right decision for analytics or talk radio or whatever. It was the right call for us, especially in that moment. When you’re in that situation, 20 games into an NFL season, it’s not like a video game. You’re not playing Madden.
You had guys out there playing with bum ankles. Guys playing with MCL sprains. Guys taking nerve injections and toradol. Guys who could barely get out of bed that morning. It’s a battle of wills at that point in the season. You’re just running on pure belief and adrenaline. I feel like if you shy away from your identity in that moment, then you’re betraying the very thing that got you there.”
That’s a hell of a quote right there, and a good indicator that Dan Campbell has really won over the group of guys in his locker room. Win or lose, through thick and thin, MCDC (Motor City Dan Campbell) is sticking to his guns…even if those weapons misfire and blow a 17-point lead.