Lions’ Dan Campbell under fire over 4th-down decisions in loss to 49ers

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Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell stayed true to his strategy in the NFC Championship on Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers, and it may have cost them at least six points.

Campbell made the decision to forgo field-goal attempts in favor of trying to convert on 4th down.

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Dan Campbell vs 49ers

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell reacts prior to a game against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The first attempt came with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter with the Lions up 24-10. Detroit had a chance to go up 17 points, but the team decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 on the 49ers’ 28-yard line. Jared Goff threw a pass to Josh Reynolds, but it was incomplete.

In the fourth quarter, Detroit may have been able to tie the game with a field goal but chose to go for it on 4th-and-3. Goff fired a pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown, but it was incomplete as well.

Detroit had two opportunities to get at least six points on the board. However, their aggressiveness failed twice as the 49ers surged in the second half.

The Lions lost the game 34-31.

NFL fans ripped the decision-making on X.

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Josh Reynolds misses

Josh Reynolds, #8 of the Detroit Lions, is unable to make a catch during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“I have no doubt Dan Campbell is a great leader and inspires his team well,” former Green Bay Packers executive Andrew Brandt wrote. “But his decisions have hurt them today.”

“Dan Campbell is an absolute dumba–. They can’t blame anybody but him if they lose,” NESN’s Kendra Middleton wrote.

“I know Dan Campbell entire philosophy is to go for it but I mean….I’m stunned,” Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy wrote.

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“This momentum shift is on Dan Campbell. Kick the damn field goal,” ESPN’s Matt Barrie added.

Campbell said after the game he did not “regret” the decisions.

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

The Lions have been going for it on 4th down more often since Campbell took over as head coach. The Lions were successful 54.76% of the time on 4th down, which ranked 12th in the NFL, according to Team Rankings.

Dan Campbell looks up

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell reacts during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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However, their game plan may have cost them a trip to the Super Bowl.

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