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Detroit: The Lions looked like they were going to make it to their first Super Bowl until they had the worst fall in the team’s history



Even though coach Dan Campbell has changed a lot about the attitude, the Lions went back to being the disappointing team that fans had hoped was a thing of the past.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Why is Detroit so bad?

It’s one thing to lose a game, even one that was so close and had so much potential.

But to lose badly like the Detroit Lions did on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium? That’s really mean. Even though the Lions were ahead 17–0 at halfway, they still lost to the 49ers.

Wow, what a huge tease and… epic fail.

And there were no kneecaps to bite when the Lions lost the NFC title game 34–31.

Instead, the 49ers came back to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in what was the biggest comeback win in the history of the NFC title game. They also won a spot in Super Bowl 58 to play the Chiefs again. Whew.

Grit, on the other hand, got hit hard in the gut.

Lions coach Dan Campbell said, “You feel like your heart was ripped out.”


Campbell is aware. The top-seeded 49ers showed a lot of toughness by finally making it to the Super Bowl after losing the last two NFC title games and just barely beating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional playoffs. But this game felt more like a big, fat, ugly Lions loss.

How can a team lose when they rush for 148 yards in the first half, which is more than the 49ers have given up in a whole game under Kyle Shanahan?

How does a team with so many powerful tools get shut out for almost the whole second half when a spot in the Super Bowl is on the line?

It was very much like Detroit in many ways. Even though Campbell has changed a lot about the attitude, the Lions went back to being the disappointing team that fans had hoped was a thing of the past.

Campbell said that wasn’t true.

He said, “That’s not us.” “We had plays to be made that we just didn’t make (like) we normally do.”

How the Lions’ meltdown happened
Now, they’ll have the whole summer to think about what went wrong and how it happened, which included:

— Brandon Aiyuk’s amazing 51-yard catch early in the third quarter, which reminded me of Lynn Swann’s catch for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. It was a sign. As Aiyuk fell to the ground, the ball bounced off of Kindle Vildor and went to the 6-yard line. After three plays, Brock Purdy stepped up in the pocket and threw a touchdown pass to Aiyuk from 6 yards out.

Lions rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs lost the ball on the first play of the next drive. The 49ers got the ball back at Detroit’s 24-yard line thanks to Arik Armstead. It led to Christian McCaffrey’s 1-yard touchdown run, which tied the game at 24.

— A lot of doubts about Campbell’s story. Campbell didn’t try field goals twice in the second half when it was fourth-and-short. Instead, he went for it. The 49ers had a fourth-and-2 at the middle of the third quarter. The Lions tried to kick a field goal from 46 yards out, but Jared Goff’s pass to Josh Reynolds fell short. It would have been a three-possession game with the lead back at 17 points after the trey.

Campbell missed a 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter when his team was down three points. It could have tied the game. They chose to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the 30 yard line instead. When Goff was pushed out of the pocket, he threw to Amon-Ra St. Brown, but the ball hit the ground and was way too short.

“In this case, I wanted to get the upper hand back,” Campbell said. “I understand how easy it is to look back now. But I don’t feel bad about the choices I made. That’s tough. That’s tough since we failed.


“I know this close attention will be paid to me. “That’s just the job, dude.”

So much bad luck happened all at once. It was the Lions’ fault that they messed up the tough catches they made in the first half. One example is when Reynolds missed a third-and-9 pass from Goff near the end of the third quarter. John Fox punted the ball off the next play, and it went 74 yards to the end zone. Chase Lucas was trying to down the ball inside the 1-yard line and just missed. Come back.

Those were breaks.

That was the end of the school day. The speed had changed. Campbell missed the field goal a second time, but the 49ers took over and drove 70 yards, ending with a score from Elijah Mitchell from 3 yards out. It was pretty much game over. It was 10–0 for the 49ers.

Purdy, the quarterback for the 49ers, came into the NFL last season as “Mr. Irrelevant,” but he is making a historic comeback.

But the other side is just as interesting. The Lions finally had the first trip to the Super Bowl in the team’s history, but they let it slip away.

“That feeling that we all had walking off of that field, I don’t think any one of us want to feel that again,” St. Brown told us.

Campbell told his team in his speech after the game that that might have been their only chance. He might be right.

“Do I believe that? “No,” he replied. “Do I really believe that?” No. I know it’s hard to get here, though. I know that next year it will be twice as hard to get back to this point. That’s the truth.”

And the way it happened makes the reality check harder to take.

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