Motor City heartbreak: Detroit Lions' Super Bowl chances slip away
The Lions' first Super Bowl appearance was within reach, but a second-half collapse doomed their chances and the San Francisco 49ers won Sunday night, 34-31.
Why it matters: It was a heartbreaking end to a memorable season that reminded the country just how much Detroit loves the Lions.
What they're saying: "Nothing's worse than almost making it," linebacker Alex Anzalone said on Fox's postgame broadcast. "These are the losses I'm going to remember forever."
State of play: Detroit's high-octane offense looked unstoppable early. Rushing touchdowns from Jameson Williams, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs contributed to the Lions' surprising 24-7 halftime lead.
Yes, but: The 17-point lead evaporated in the third quarter thanks to a wild series of events: coach Dan Campbell's failed fourth-down gamble; San Francisco's ensuing 51-yard completion off the facemask of a Lions defender; and then Gibbs' lost fumble.
- San Francisco eventually took a 34-24 lead late in the fourth quarter after scoring 27 unanswered points.
- Williams scored his second touchdown with about a minute remaining, but it was too late.
- Detroit couldn't recover the onside kick and the 49ers ran out the clock.
Between the lines: Campbell stayed true to his aggressive coaching style, twice going for it on fourth down when the Lions were in field goal range.
- Both attempts failed, but Campbell said during his postgame press conference that he didn't regret his decisions.
- "It just didn't work out," a dejected Campbell said.
The other side: San Francisco will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas on Feb. 11.
- The Chiefs upset the Baltimore Ravens, 17-10, earlier Sunday for a chance to repeat as champs.
What we're watching: Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson — known for creative play designs and effective gameplans — very well could have coached his last game for Detroit.
- He's a top candidate for the Washington Commanders' head coaching job.
The bottom line: An NFC Championship game, two playoff wins at Ford Field and a division title made this Lions season unforgettable. Campbell is a charismatic leader, and Detroit heads into next season with Super Bowl expectations.
- But it still feels like they blew this one.
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