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Tom Brady sounded off on Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell’s decision-making late in the game against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
Campbell decided to go for it on 4th down instead of kicking a field goal twice in the second half. He also took heat for calling a run play on the 49ers’ 1-yard line as the team tried to add pressure on San Francisco late in the game. The run play forced the Lions to take a timeout.
Brady talked about some of the play calls as the Lions lost the game 34-31 despite being up 17 points. He first took issue with the goal line handoff with 1:05 left in the game and being down 10 points.
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“Well, the whole team’s responsible. I’ll say it’s ultimately a team sport and the coach makes these decisions and you gotta go execute,” Brady said on the “Let’s Go!” podcast on Monday night. “My opinion differed on all those plays, too. I definitely thought the handoff there late in the game, that was the one that I didn’t understand because you’re just, unless you saw some incredible look to walk the ball in, you just can’t take the chance that you’re gonna be stopped short and keep the clock running, because you just can’t get the ball back.
Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell celebrates a touchdown scored by running back Jahmyr Gibbs during the first half of the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK)
“So that was the one that I just said I don’t know what they’re doing. And I thought it was just a flat-out error.”
Brady said he would have taken the points instead of trying to convert on 4th down.
“And then the other ones are judgment calls, and they’ve been aggressive all year. Obviously, when you’re aggressive, and it doesn’t work, it comes back to bite you, and it came back to bite ’em yesterday,” he said. “And again, I would’ve taken the points. I’ve been in those situations. I look at them and I say, OK, this is the opportunity for you to continue to keep the pressure on the 49ers to make great plays, and you were in a good position.
“So, you know, it’s an aggressive coach, an aggressive mentality. I’m sure the players really wanted to go for it, you know, when you’re on the field, and you feel like you let him down. But at the same time, the coach has gotta make in his mind the best decision to win. And obviously it didn’t work out for the Lions.”
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Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell looks on during warmups before the NFC Championship football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, Jan. 28, 2024. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Campbell’s 4th down decisions really irked the NFL world.
The first attempt came with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter with the Lions up 24-10. Detroit had a chance to go up 17 points, but the team decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 on the 49ers’ 28-yard line. Jared Goff threw a pass to Josh Reynolds, but it was incomplete.
In the fourth quarter, Detroit may have been able to tie the game with a field goal but chose to go for it on 4th-and-3. Goff fired a pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown, but it was incomplete as well.
Detroit had two opportunities to get at least six points on the board. However, their aggressiveness failed twice as the 49ers surged in the second half.
Campbell said after the game he did not “regret” the decisions.
“I just felt really good about us converting,” Campbell said after the game. “And getting our momentum and not letting them play long ball. They were bleeding the clock out – that’s what they do – and I wanted to get the upper hand back.”
Amon-Ra St. Brown, #14 of the Detroit Lions, celebrates after a play against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of the NFC Championship football game at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
The Lions have been going for it on 4th down more often since Campbell took over as head coach. The Lions were successful 54.76% of the time on 4th down, which ranked 12th in the NFL, according to Team Rankings.
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However, their game plan may have cost them a trip to the Super Bowl.
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