Detroit Lions' Dan Campbell on failed fourth down conversions: 'I don't regret those decisions'

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Detroit Lions passed on two long field goals for fourth down attempts they failed to convert in Sunday's 34-31 NFC championship game loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but Lions coach Dan Campbell said he doesn't regret either of those decisions.

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

The Lions raced to a 24-7 halftime lead and appeared to be on their way to their first ever Super Bowl before the 49ers rallied for 27 straight points in the second half.

Lions coach Dan Campbell takes the field before the NFC championship game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.
Lions coach Dan Campbell takes the field before the NFC championship game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.

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The 49ers opened the third quarter with a long field goal drive, then scored two touchdowns in a 2-minute, 15-second span later in the period after the Lions failed to convert a fourth-and-2 from the San Francisco 28-yard line.

Nick Bosa beat Taylor Decker to pressure Jared Goff on the play, and Goff threw incomplete to Josh Reynolds after he stepped up in the pocket to avoid a sack.

"We didn’t connect," Goff said. "I’ll throw a better ball next time."

You can watch Campbell's answer below:

The 49ers led, 27-24, midway through the fourth quarter when Campbell again eschewed a long field goal, this one from 48 yards, to try and convert on fourth-and-3.

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Goff was flushed from the pocket by pressure up the middle by Arik Armstead and fluttered an incompletion to Amon-Ra St. Brown as he rolled to his right.

The 49ers followed with a seven-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to clinch the game.

Goff said he doesn't believe the Lions' failed conversion attempts flipped momentum San Francisco's way — "I loved them. We got to convert," he said — and he defended Campbell's aggressive approach Sunday.

"He believes in us," Goff said. "I don’t know what the numbers are but we had a lot of big-time conversions this year that changed games and I don’t know what we were today. I know we had the two we didn’t convert (and were 1-for-3 overall). It can change a game if you convert them and we didn’t. And that’s part of the reason why we lost."

Campbell has been one of the NFL's most aggressive coaches in fourth-down situations since he took over as Lions coach in 2021, and those decisions helped fuel the Lions' rise to contention and this year's run to the NFC title game.

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The Lions set an NFL record for fourth down attempts (41) in 2021 and are 65 of 123 overall (52.8%) in Campbell's three seasons as coach. They converted a fake punt that keyed an early-season win over the Kansas City Chiefs and went 3 for 5 on fourth downs in this year's playoffs.

Campbell said he passed on the would-be game-tying field goal on his second conversion attempt Sunday to try and get momentum back on the Lions' side.

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

Instead, the Lions failed, and they're headed home for the season.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Dan Campbell: Scrutiny for Detroit Lions' 4th downs 'part of the gig'