Dan Campbell on failed fourth-down conversions in Lions loss: ‘I don’t regret those decisions’

The Detroit Lions rode the trademarked bravado of Dan Campbell’s decision-making to 14 total wins this season, winning the franchise’s first playoff game in three-plus decades and coming two quarters away from clinching a Super Bowl berth in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

But the final two quarters of their season fell apart at the seams, with the biggest nail in the postseason run’s coffin coming on a failed fourth-down conversion with 7:32 to play.

“I just felt really good about us converting and getting our momentum and not letting them play long ball,” Campbell said after the game. “They were bleeding the clock out, that’s what they do, and I wanted to get the upper hand back.”

Trailing 27-24 at the time, Detroit picked up seven yards on third-and-10 to move the ball to the San Francisco 49ers’ 30-yard line. Campbell opted to keep kicker Michael Badgley on the sideline and go for the first down, a play call he has made in similar instances dozens of times since arriving in Motown in 2021.

But never on this scale.

Jared Goff’s pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown fell short, marking the team’s second failed conversion of the half and stoking the flames of San Francisco’s ferocious second-half comeback. The first failed conversion led to a 49ers touchdown to cut the Lions’ lead from 24-10 to 24-17.

A few minutes after the second failed conversion, San Francisco was plowing into the end zone once again, this time pulling away with a 10-point advantage and capping a 27-0 run to dash Detroit’s season.

“It’s easy in hindsight,” Campbell said about the scrutiny he has faced about the decision. “But I don’t regret those decisions.”

That scrutiny is just “part of the gig,” he later added.

Questions about why Campbell didn’t just kick the field goal and tie up the game to stop the bleeding abounded before his season even ended. Those questions only grew louder as Detroit’s last-minute onside kick recovery failed and the clock ticked down on the Lions’ season of destiny, largely fueled by the gutsy calls that both got them here and did them in.

“That’s one of the reason’s why they were here,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said about Campbell’s calls after the game. “You win a lot of games making some of those decisions and then you make some decisions and you lose them.

“(It) doesn’t surprise me because he’s made a lot of those decisions throughout the year that won them a lot of games also.”

Required reading

(Photo: Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images)

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