Robbie Gould Says Detroit Lions HC Dan Campbell Screwed Up in NFC Championship Game
The Detroit Lions, under the leadership of head coach Dan Campbell, embraced a daring and aggressive approach throughout the 2023 NFL season. This strategy led to a commendable 12 victories and a journey to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1991, marking a significant achievement for a franchise often associated with struggles. The Lions' strategy, characterized by their league-leading 34% fourth-down attempt rate—a record for the 21st century—was a testament to their audacity. However, this approach would ultimately falter in the face of adversity during their pivotal matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
Campbell's Bold Calls
In the heat of the NFC Championship Game, with a 17-point lead at halftime, the Lions saw their fortunes reverse. Several critical decisions by Campbell became the focal point of discussion, especially when the Lions' aggressive tactics, which had served them well throughout the season, seemed to backfire spectacularly.
The game's turning point came midway through the third quarter when the Lions, facing a 4th-and-2 on the 49ers' 28-yard line, chose aggression over caution. The decision to forego a field goal attempt for a chance to extend their lead led to an incomplete pass from Jared Goff to Josh Reynolds, giving the 49ers the opportunity to eventually take the lead. A similar scenario unfolded on the Lions' next possession, where another fourth-down attempt failed, missing a crucial opportunity to score.
Dan Campbell Stands By His Decision
Following the game, Campbell made it clear that he does not regret the decisions he made.
“It's easy hindsight. I get it. I get that, but I don't regret those decisions, and it's hard,” Campbell said. “It's hard because we didn't come through, and it wasn't able to work out, but I don't. And I understand the scrutiny I'll get — that's part of the gig — but it just didn't work out.”
Robbie Gould's Perspective
Robbie Gould, a retired kicker and former rival, provided a critical assessment of Campbell's decisions during an appearance on FanSided's Stacking The Box. Gould, drawing from his extensive experience, questioned the decision-making process, suggesting that opting for field goals in those instances could have presented a different outcome for the Lions.
To me, Dan Campbell should have kicked both of those field goals,” Gould said. “Even if you miss 'em, there's a little bit of a different vibe when a kicker misses it versus the offense not making it, right? So, I think, you know, had they kicked one of the two, Detroit probably is sitting here enjoying Super Bowl week, instead of doing what I'm doing with you guys and enjoying it from the couch.”
TL;DR (too long didn't read)
- Dan Campbell's aggressive fourth-down strategy, a hallmark of the Lions' season, did not work out in the NFC Championship Game loss.
- Robbie Gould criticized the decision to forego field goal attempts, suggesting they could have altered the game's outcome.
- Missed opportunities on fourth down had a significant psychological impact, differing from the potential impact of missed field goals.
The Bottom Line
Campbell's penchant for boldness brought the Lions to remarkable heights during the 2023 season, culminating in a memorable NFC Championship Game appearance. Yet, in the critical junctures of that game, the very same daring decisions led to their downfall. Gould's critique highlights a fundamental football wisdom: the value of conservative plays in crucial moments. I respect Gould's opinion, but I still believe Dan Campbell made the correct decisions. Unfortunately, those decisions did not work out on the big stage.