Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell had no regrets over two failed fourth-down calls in their 34-31 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, even though he knows it will be hard to replicate their post-season run next season.
Campbell twice decided to keep the offense on the field rather than go for the field goal, and twice it backfired as the 49ers hit back from a 17-0 half-time deficit to secure a place in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.
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The Lions often went for it on fourth down in the regular season and Campbell was happy afterwards with his decision-making.
“It’s easy in hindsight,” he said “I get it but I don’t regret those decisions, and it’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 – but it just didn’t work out.”
Quarterback Jared Goff felt Campbell was right and blamed the team for not converting those fourth-down opportunities.
He said: “I love it. Keep us out there. We should convert.
“He believes in us. I don’t know what the numbers are, but we had a lot of big-time conversions this year that changed games.
“But it can change a game if you convert them, and we didn’t, and that’s part of the reason why we lost.”
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) January 29, 2024
The defeat maintained the Lions’ record of having never reached a Super Bowl and Campbell warned his players it will be difficult to achieve it next year as they will be a target for other teams.
He added: “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. I’m well aware.
“It’s going to be twice as hard to get back to this point next year than it was this year. That’s the reality.
“And if we don’t have the same hunger and the same work – which is a whole nother thing – once we get to the off-season, then we’ve got no shot of getting back here.
“I don’t care how much better we did or what we add or what we draft. It’s irrelevant. It’s going to be tough. But then our division’s going to be loaded back up.
“You’re not hiding from anybody anymore. Everybody’s going to want a piece of you, which is fine. So, it’s hard. You want to make the most of every opportunity, and we had an opportunity – and we just couldn’t close it out, and it stings.”