Dan Campbell still has not forgiven himself for trying a 54-yard field goal late in a September loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and the Detroit Lions coach said Wednesday he will regret that decision for the rest of his life.
"Look, it burns me," Campbell said. "Of course it burns me. That’ll be there till the day I die. I mean, that’s not going to go away."
The Lions blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead in a Sept. 25 loss to the Vikings that still looms large over their playoff chances.
At 5-7, the Lions can afford at most one more loss and likely need to win their remaining five games to earn one of the NFC's three wild card spots. The Vikings (10-2) can clinch the NFC North with a win Sunday when the two teams meet in the rematch at Ford Field.
"There’s little things that’ll always (eat at me)," Campbell said. "That’s the way I am. And they’re not going to pull me down but there’s things that I’ll never forget because that to me is, that’s — I let my players down. And it’s hard enough to have success and to win in this league without your coach doing something that pulls you back and I felt like that was one of those."
The Lions built two double-digit leads in their September game against the Vikings by converting four fourth downs in the first three quarters, but the usually-aggressive Campbell got conservative with the game on the line.
After failing to pick up a fourth-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter, Campbell sent Austin Seibert out for a 54-yard field goal try on fourth-and-4 from the Minnesota 36-yard line with the Lions leading, 24-21, and 1:14 on the clock.
Seibert missed his kick wide right, the Vikings started their next possession at their own 44-yard line and Kirk Cousins threw the game-winning touchdown pass to KJ Osborn three plays later to give Minnesota its first lead of the day.
Campbell said in his postgame news conference he regretted his decision to try the field goal and felt "like I cost our team" a chance to win.
The Lions went on to lose their next four games and still are digging out of their 1-6 start.
The Vikings won six in a row after beating the Lions, all by one score, and have the second-best record in the NFL.
"This is a winning team," Campbell said Monday. "They find ways to win, that’s what they do. And those are the hard teams because they’ve done it against multiple opponents, different ways. Special teams, offense, defense, they’re finding ways to win."
The Lions have found their own winning formula over the past month, getting balanced play on offense, improved play on defense and reliable play in the kicking game to win four of their past five games.
Looking back, Campbell said the Lions might have needed the adversity they encountered in Minnesota and throughout their sluggish start to get where they are now.
"I mean, it is what it is and it happened for a reason," he said. "And honestly, I think that us losing five in a row is why we’re where we’re at right now. So that’s kind of how I look at it, maybe we needed this to happen to get to where we’re at right now at this point."
And despite his regrets, Campbell said he does believe that Vikings game changed him as a coach.
“I think I’m the same guy," he said. "I don’t feel like I’ve grown, I think I’m doing everything the same. I made a decision that game and here we are."
Next up: Vikings
Matchup: Lions (5-7) vs. Minnesota (10-2).
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday; Ford Field, Detroit.
TV/radio: Fox; WXYT-FM (97.1).
Line: Lions by 2½.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Dan Campbell: Missed FG vs. Vikings will burn me 'till the day I die'