3 Lions to blame for painful NFC Championship collapse

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers
NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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2) Lions head coach Dan Campbell

Let's get one thing out of the way before launching into the Dan Campbell section of this article. Even as a Bears fan, I am a Dan Campbell believer. The job he's done in turning one of the NFL's most pitiable franchises around is nothing short of spectacular. If I showed up at his house for dinner and he offered me a bowl of kneecaps, I would do my best Oliver Twist and say, "Please sir, can I have some more?" In short, Dan Campbell rules.

One can quibble with Campbell's decision to go for it twice on fourth down in the game's second half, but for anyone who's been paying attention all year, they had to know that the Lions would be aggressive and keep the field goal unit on the sideline. This was never a team that was going to play not to lose, and in the end, they died like they lived: going for it until the wheels came off. There's something admirable about that.

The Lions are where they are because of Campbell's aggressive mentality. For too long Detroit has been the prey, but under Campbell, they're the predator. You can't knock the guy for dancing with the girl that brung him, especially when everything he's touched this season has turned to gold. You also can't blame him for Josh Reynolds dropping a catchable ball to turn the ball over on downs.

What you can knock Campbell for is the decision to run the ball on third down with just over a minute to go. That forced the Lions to burn a precious timeout when David Montgomery was tackled for a loss, and essentially ended the game when they couldn't recover the ensuing onside kick following Jameson Williams' fourth-down touchdown catch (people are curiously quiet about this decision, undoubtedly because it worked). And yes, I know Ben Johnson is the offensive coordinator and play caller, but I refuse to believe Campbell didn't have a hand in the plan down on the goalline in that situation.

Even if the Lions had scored without burning a timeout, the odds of getting the ball back with enough time to tie or win the game were not in their favor. Still, it would have been nice to see them get the chance to try.