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Dan Campbell Dan Gambles away the Season
Fans+of+both+the+49ers+and+Lions+sit+inside+Levi+Stadium+on+Jan.+28%2C+waiting+for+the+game+to+start.
Lion Park
Fans of both the 49ers and Lions sit inside Levi Stadium on Jan. 28, waiting for the game to start.

Dan Campbell has Dan Campbell’d himself, along with the entire city of Detroit, out of their first and likely only trip to a Superbowl. 

We’ve all been to the casino and sat next to the guy at the blackjack table who makes incessantly hitting on 18 his personality. Life gets lucky sometimes and this guy wins but, we all know by the end of the night he’ll be in the parking lot broke and confused.

 The Dan Campbell experience has worked so well that it frankly ended up costing them a trip to Vegas. Since the beginning of Campbell’s tenure in Detroit, his pedal-to-the-floor game plan has been received tremendously. 

Campbell is in contention for the Coach of the Year award this season yet unfortunately the style of football we once commended is what we now must critique. 

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The Detroit Lions should have outright won this game, calling it a sell-job is an understatement, yet how did we get here? 

The 49ers looked egregiously subpar for the first 30 minutes of this game. The Lion’s first drive saw an electric 42-yard touchdown run via an end-around from future superstar Jameson Williams. The Lions would get in again by way of a trademark one-yard goal-line rush from David Montgomery, 14-nada after the first 15 minutes. 

Brock Purdy didn’t look great to start this game but it was enough to get the offense into the green zone, capping off the drive with a one-yard CMC touchdown. The 49er’s front seven, rather the defense as a whole, couldn’t stop a nosebleed. 

David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs controlled the entire first half with the ground game, a sentiment that would be echoed after a 15-yard Gibbs touchdown. Purdy would respond with a three-and-out that would give the home-town kid, Jared Goff, the football back with four minutes left to go in the half. 

If the 49er’s first-half defense was protecting the front lines, America would be doomed. The Berkeley product would march down the field, converting three long third downs to get the Lions to the San Francisco (Santa Clara) five-yard line. 

The Lions would muff the entire green zone possession by leaving Campbell with a decision to either kick the field goal or go for it on fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line. This is the beginning of Campbell’s questionable decision-making; why not go for it from the two, like you have all year, to potentially put the game out of reach? 

The Lions put up over 150 yards on the ground in the first half yet didn’t think they could get two more. 24-7 after 30 minutes. 

I wish Antonio Brown was on the 49ers as I’d love to hear what Kyle Shanahan had to say at halftime, the second half versus the first half was night and day. 

Up until this point, I felt like a schmuck with a keyboard for giving Purdy 1,000 words last week. This would change…but unfortunately, I am still a schmuck with a keyboard. 

Both sides of the football for SF came out on fire: Jauan Jennings would make an absurd one-handed grab on third down to keep the drive alive ending with three points from rookie kicker, Jake Moody.

 The most pivotal moment in the game would come on Detroit’s first drive of the second half. Goff and company faced a fourth-and-two scenario that saw Lion’s wide receiver, Josh Reynolds, drop an objectively catchable pass. 

I’d like to pause and highlight something here; following the dropped pass from Reynolds, the broadcast would cut to a shot of Reynolds seemingly laughing off the dropped fourth down pass. This is where the Dan Campbell effect comes into question. 

The Detroit Lions have had such a drastic turnaround in the last two years that, coming into the NFC Championship, they had reached the precipice of their confidence. 

They genuinely believed they had no chance of losing this game which nearly came to fruition. This is where the problem is born. The “underdog” mindset that the Detroit Lions have played with for the last two seasons faded. 

Detroit seemingly did not care about mistakes in crucial moments of the game which was the product of Campbell’s ability to lead a team. Campbell was too good of a coach to the point where it hurt them. 

The vital drop would lead to another Detroit miscue, leading to a 49ers touchdown. The second play of the touchdown drive was a 51-yard attempt to Brandon Aiyuk that almost objectively should have been intercepted, a hypothetical interception that would have dug the 49ers an even larger hole. 

In a play straight out of “Madden NFL,” the 51-yard throw would hit Lion’s defensive back, Kindle Vildor on the teeth, just to bounce up and land in Brandon Aiyuk’s hands four yards short of the endzone. 

Two plays later, Aiyuk would catch a six-yard touchdown pass from Purdy, the once 17-point lead was now seven. The theme of Detroit miscues continued to flourish as Jahmyr Gibbs would christen Detroit’s pivotal drive by fumbling on the very first play, giving Purdy and company the ball back along with a chance to tie it up. 

This is where Mr. Irrelevant would start to wake up. 

In his short tenure, we have seen Purdy use his legs very little. However, in the spirit of Mac Dre, Purdy was feeling himself. A 21-yard scramble would set up Christian McCaffrey finding the end zone for the second time in the game, the score was tied. 

Another pivotal Josh Reynolds drop would give Purdy the ball back and a 24-24 score, in a game where he was once down three scores.

 This drive would cement Purdy’s status in the NFL and bury any “system quarterback” or ‘game manager’ sentiments. 

Purdy would lead a 65-yard drive ending with a field goal from Moody, completing the 17-point comeback. Detroit would get the ball back, down three points with nine minutes left in the game, cue Campbell. 

Faced with a fourth-and-three situation, down three, Campbell would elect to go for it rather than take the almost guaranteed points by way of a chip shot field goal to tie the game. I can immediately acknowledge any subjectively hypocritical nature in my earlier questioning of Campbell electing to kick the field goal rather than go for it, however, context is important. 

If the Lions had decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the two and managed to score, they would have been up 21 points making Purdy’s task even taller. Instead, they kicked the field goal and went up 17 points. 

Pushing the envelope when leading the game is something Campbell has been accredited for, but as any gambling enthusiast would know, you can’t hit on 18. 

Electing to keep the offense on the field rather than tying the game late in the fourth quarter is what cost Detroit this game. 

Kyle Shanahan had managed to completely shift the momentum from the very first play of the second half, Levi’s Stadium was alive by this point. The 49ers would not look back from this moment with the dagger being a 21-yard rush from Purdy, later capping off the drive with an Elijah Mitchell touchdown. 

Detroit had officially blown a 17-point lead in under two-quarters of football. 

Did Campbell instill so much confidence in this team to the point they got comfortable and complacent? Think back to Josh Reynolds laughing on the sideline after dropping the vital fourth-down pass. 

The Lions were up 14 and had controlled the game at this point, who cares about a fourth down drop, right? Wrong, the San Francisco 49ers are too good of a team to take your foot off the pedal against. 

Detroit thought it was over and Vegas was on the horizon, CJ Gardner Johnson was waving goodbye to the fans before the first half even ended. Campbell had instilled so much confidence in this team that they genuinely thought the 49ers would simply roll over and accept defeat. 

Football is four quarters for a reason. The NFL playoffs have seen several storied comebacks that all share a theme, the team with the lead grew complacent — and arrogance kills. 

The Detroit Lions lost sight of their “us vs. the world” mindset due to the tremendous coaching of Dan Campbell up until this game, and a false sense of ego would lead to their demise. 

Dan Campbell has seemingly ‘Dan Gambled’ away the best season in Detroit Lions Football yet, a season that would have not been possible without Campbell rolling the dice in the first place: a paradoxical ending to the Lions season. 

The San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs from Allegiant Stadium on February 11 for Super Bowl 58.

The night closes with a 49er win against the Lions, making them the NFC Champions. (Lion Park)

 

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About the Contributor
Lion Park, Opinion Editor
Lion's interest in journalism lies in the phrase "show, don't tell". As creative as words can be in drawing a mental image, Lion believes photography shows what true reality is. Through La Voz, he hopes to spread conviction within his readers' hearts.

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