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Dan Campbell shouldn’t face criticism for playing starters

If you thought the Lions were going to sit their starters in the season finale, you’re probably new to watching the Detroit Lions play football under Dan Campbell.

Sitting players was never going to happen.

Even if the Lions were the number one seed, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we saw the starters on the field. It’s just not how Campbell and the Lions are built. Any chance they can compete and win a football game, they’re going to do that. It’s that simple.

No matter what I say, Campbell will face criticism for playing his starters against the Vikings. That includes playing tight end Sam LaPorta on Sunday. The criticism will be even louder now that LaPorta injured his knee and is probably out for the opening week of the playoffs.

Regardless, it was a lose-lose situation for Campbell and the Lions.

If they rested their starters and both the Eagles and Cowboys lost their games, the Lions would have been ridiculed. People would have been bashing the Lions for sitting their starters and not attempting to secure the two-seed.

Or they do what they did. They play their starters and take the risk of players getting injured. Regardless, injuries are going to happen with or without the starters in the game. That’s how football works.

Specifically on Sam LaPorta, the Lions have been only using two tight ends for the last several weeks due to injuries. Those two tight ends have been LaPorta and James Mitchell. Being down to just two players there is why we’ve been seeing more and more of Dan Skipper in the Lions offense.

All that said, playing starters is what just about every team in the playoffs did. Take a look at the 49ers. They were playing Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel against the Rams. The 49ers had nothing to play for and fortunately for them, neither player got hurt. But if you look at the Philadelphia Eagles, they had plenty to play for by winning the NFC East and clinching the two-seed in the NFC.

Unfortunately, their defensive back Sydney Brown suffered a torn ACL. He’s a week removed from a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown. Additionally, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts suffered an injury to his throwing hand and he could be limited in the playoffs.

Injuries happen. The timing for Sam LaPorta was unfortunate. We have no idea the intentions that Dan Campbell and the coaching staff had for their players. The Lions were minutes away from halftime and maybe they were planning on sitting Sam LaPorta, Amon-Ra St. Brown and other starters in the second half. It would have been surprising but again, we don’t know what the plan was going to be other than go out, win and put the pressure on the rest of the NFC.

For now, the Lions move onto the NFL playoffs with 12 wins for the first time since 1991. Meanwhile, they’ve got a division championship banner hanging in the rafters for the first time since 1993. For their first home playoff game in 30 years, they will welcome a former Detroit Lion. That player is quarterback Matthew Stafford and his Los Angeles Rams.

 

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire