Skip to main content

KEY QUESTIONS: What's next for Lions after loss to 49ers?

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell spoke to the media Monday a day after his team's heartbreaking 34-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

Campbell said he was proud of the way his football team took a big step forward this year and knows falling one game short of the Super Bowl has opened his team's eyes and should be a motivator to come back stronger in 2024.

Here are all the key questions from Campbell's last presser of the season:

What went wrong in the second half Sunday?

Just about everything, according to Campbell.

After building a 17-point halftime lead the Lions gave up 27 unanswered at one point in the second half. Campbell said to lose a lead like that there needs to be about 12 things that go wrong in the second 30 minutes of that football game.

"This is what you hear about all the time – catastrophes," he said. "We did all 12 of those wrong in all three phases."

Detroit's been so good all year as three units able to make up for the other's deficiencies, but Sunday in the second half it was all three phases playing poorly together. It's something that hasn't happened a lot this season, and to do it against an experienced opponent like the 49ers is the reason Lions players were cleaning out their lockers Monday.

Campbell said one thing his players will learn from Sunday is that every play is so critical throughout the course of a football game, and you never know when it's going to make the difference in the game. Next time they find themselves in that moment he thinks they'll be able to dig themselves out having gone through this.

Now that GM Brad Holmes and Campbell have built the core of this team, what's next?

Campbell said it's still about talent acquisition and adding competition. That will never change for them, but he also talked about continuing to add like-minded individuals to the core they have.

"The whole point was to create a core that had certain standards," he said. "Obviously, they have to be good players, and we have that, but they have to be a certain way. There has to be a certain mindset and certain identity and we have that in our core, and we have to add pieces that are likeminded."

Campbell said there's no level of talent worth bringing in that isn't about what he and the locker room are about. He said they have to start over in the spring and have the same urgency they did this season and can't let complacency set in because they made the NFC Championship, or they'll become just an average football team.

What is the plan at offensive coordinator if Ben Johnson leaves for one of the two remaining open heading coaching spots in Washington or Seattle?

Johnson is certainly worthy of a head coaching job after the heights he's taken Detroit's offense to over the last two seasons.

"He's a critical piece for us," Campbell said.

Campbell also said he isn't worried about it just yet. He joked that he needed to get at least two hours of sleep after an early morning arrival back in Detroit from San Francisco Monday and then a full day of exit interviews and the business of closing out a season.

"Then I'll begin, but I'm not going to rush," he said. "I promise you that. I'm not in some mad rush. I'm going to make sure it's right."

How do the Lions maintain this level of success moving forward?

"Consistency," Campbell said.

Stay true to what you believe in, be physical, and when it comes time to start over, start over. I thought an interesting response to this question was Campbell saying that a coach can't get too attached to a player because of the past success they had with them. He said that's hard to do and sometimes a coach has to take a step back and make sure the player is still producing and capable of playing at a high level and taking emotions out of the equation.

What will Campbell remember most about this particular group?

NFL rosters turn over about 33 percent on average and there's likely to be changes to this coaching staff too.

"Just how resilient they were," he said. "Their ability to overcome. To go into a harsh environment and win big games and not get panicked. Just to see where they really came as a group, man. Watch them lean on each other and how strong that bond got in there is important. It is a special group."

Related Content