Skip to main content

NOTEBOOK: Campbell talks fourth-down attempts, loss to 49ers

SANTA CLARA – The heartbreak was all over Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell's face after his team fell in the NFC Championship Game Sunday, 34-31, after letting a 17-point halftime lead slip away.

Campbell lamented the missed opportunities and some uncharacteristic play by his team in the second half, but he didn't regret two fourth-down decisions in the second half in 49ers territory Detroit didn't convert.

The first was a 4th & 2 from the San Francisco 28-yard line with seven minutes left in the third quarter with the Lions ahead 24-10 at the time. Quarterback Jared Goff couldn't convert on a pass to wide receiver Josh Reynolds and the Lions turned it over instead of trying to attempt a 46-yard field goal to push the lead back up to 17.

The second was a 4th & 3 from the 49ers' 30-yard line midway through the fourth quarter with the Lions this time trailing 27-24. Goff was flushed from the pocket and came up short on a deep throw to wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. Campbell turned down a 48-yard field goal attempt that could have slowed the momentum the 49ers had built up to that point in the second half.

"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.

"It's easy hindsight and I get it. But I don't regret those decisions and that's hard. It's hard because we didn't come through and it wasn't able to work out. I understand the scrutiny I'll get, that's part of the gig, man. It just didn't work out."

Campbell has been aggressive all season long and most of the time they've come up on the right side of a lot of those calls. Unfortunately, in the biggest game of the season it wasn't one of those times.

"I love it," Goff said after the game of the two tries on fourth down. "We have to convert."

View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers NFC Championship game at Levi's Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 28 in Santa Clara, CA.


All season the Lions have been able to counter just about every blow opponents have delivered to them. It speaks to the grit and toughness of this team.

But for some reason they couldn't find a way to answer back in the second half Sunday as they saw a 17-point lead turn into a 10 point fourth-quarter deficit.

They had some uncharacteristic mistakes including failing to convert the two fourth-down plays, drops by a number of usually reliable pass catchers, a lost fumble, and then defensively not being able to make the critical stop at a key moment to shift the momentum.

"It's hard when you lose that way," Campbell said. "You feel like you get your heart ripped out."

Lions defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson, who had two passes defended but didn't record a sack for the first time in five games, said it simply came down to them not making enough plays in the second half.

"We couldn't make enough plays to stay in it," he said. "That's kind of how these games go. We usually do, but we couldn't today."


  • Running back David Montgomery had a nice game in the loss, rushing for 93 yards on 15 carries (6.2 average) and also catching two passes for 20 yards. The Lions had 182 yards rushing as a team.
  • Second-year linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez also had a nice game having to fill in for the injured Derrick Barnes. Rodriguez had six tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception.

Related Content