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Dan Campbell admits to coaching mistake vs. 49ers—but not 4th down decisions

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell admitted they made a mistake late in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, but it had nothing to do with 4th down decisions .

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell became the hot button of debate for his two decisions to go for it on fourth down in the second half of the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. While that debate rages on, Campbell has already said he doesn’t regret either of those decisions—and he’s largely supported by analytical analysis of his choices.

But on Monday after the game, Campbell did fess up to a coaching mistake that was made at the very end of the game.

With the Lions down 10 points and needed to score quick, Detroit faced a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Lions still had three timeouts left and there was 1:05 left. Detroit then dialed up a run play that was stopped for a loss. The play call forced Detroit to call a timeout, meaning if Detroit didn’t receive the subsequent onside kick, they would no longer have the timeouts necessary to get the ball back if they got a three-and-out stop on defense.

That’s exactly how the rest of the game played out. Detroit scored on fourth-and-goal, didn’t recover the onside kick, and the 49ers offense ran out the clock with four straight runs.

Here’s what Campbell had to say about that series of events.

“The easy thing to do is to throw it. Probably should’ve been the right thing,” Campbell admitted. “But for me, I wanted to run it. I thought we would just pop it. We had just two-minute (drilled) all the way down the field, throwing the football and they were in a four-down front and I believed we’d walk right in. And we just missed a block, so then yeah, I’ve got to use a timeout.

“So, hindsight, throw it four times, but I believed in that moment it was going to be a walk-and-run. And it didn’t work out. So, I gambled and lost.”

This is one of the reasons I’ve come to respect Campbell even more. He’ll stick to his guns on things he truly believes in, but is not afraid to own up to a mistake publicly. And after he explained his thought process here, it’s easy to understand why he made the choice he did.

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