NFL: Fourth And Never - Lions Decisions, Execution Create Heartbreak in San Francisco

Detroit Lions Sport News


  • The Lions were playing in just their second NFC Championship Game, and hadn’t won a road playoff game since 1957.
  • After leading big early, San Francisco outscored Detroit 27-7 in the second half to win 34-31 and earn a spot in Super Bowl LVIII.
  • San Francisco has opened as a slight favorite over the Kansas City Chiefs at Michigan Sportsbooks in Super Bowl LVIII.

There’s no other way to say it Lion fans, this is a bad beat.

The Detroit Lions were The Story in the NFL for the last three weeks, trying to reach their first Super Bowl in franchise history, but were knocked off by the Forty-Niners, 34-31, Sunday in Santa Clara.

Now, the Story in the NFL becomes whether Taylor Swift will make it to Las Vegas to see her boyfriend and Chiefs TE Travis Kelce play. (She has a concert in Tokyo the night before).

PointsBet has San Francisco is one-point favorites on its opening line for the Super Bowl as do many of the other top Michigan sportsbooks. FanDuel has the Niners as 1.5-point favorites.

For the Lions, it’s a bitter….bitter finish to a season that included so many highlights and thrills. Detroit stayed true to itself by being aggressive the whole way in the NFC Championship, but it may have cost them.

The Decisions 

Smart sports bettors in Michigan know when to be aggressive and when not to be. Detroit head coach Dan Campbell has made a name for himself by opting to go for it on fourth down in various situations, trusting his gut over some analytics chart.

There were two fourth down decisions Sunday that left everyone wondering if Campbell had outsmarted himself. Both times, the Lions passed up a field goal, including at one point a field goal that would have tied the score at 27 in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps though, the most-costly decision came in the final minute to burn a timeout when the Lions needed to save all three to have a shot at getting the ball back from San Francisco. Of all the decisions made, I personally, thought that was the worst.

From Ecstasy to Agony 

In the first half, the Lions roared up and down the field and had San Francisco on their heels. They scored on their opening drive in four plays and were dominating both sides of the ball. It was 24-7 at halftime.

But give San Francisco credit. They didn’t stop playing. They got a huge break on a pass that bounced off Lions defensive back Kindle Vindor’s helmet into Brandon Aiyuk’s hands and that gave them momentum. Niners quarterback Brock Purdy hurt Detroit running the ball and it all came undone. NFL games aren’t won in the first half. They’re won in the fourth quarter.

Time to Turn The Page 

There will be plenty of time to go over what happened to the Lions in the second half, and pick apart all the decisions and execution, but there’s also reason for a tremendous amount of optimism if you’re a Lions fan.

Detroit had one of its best draft’s in franchise history, pulling in running back Jahmyr Gibbs and tight end Sam LaPorta. Quarterback Jared Goff is still in his prime. The Lions offensive line is loaded. The Lions have seven picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Defensively, Detroit could probably use another quality defensive back, but Detroit will be a coveted destination for NFL players, who want to get the franchise to their first Super Bowl. Super Bowl LIX (59) is in New Orleans.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.