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An unlikely hero on the 49ers helped force the Lions into a critical late-game mistake

It forced Dan Campbell to use a timeout that the Lions would later need.

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

On Tuesday, we went over the 4th down stops by the San Francisco 49ers defense in the second half against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship game. Nobody should have been surprised by Detroit’s head coach, Dan Campbell, going for it on fourth down.

Campbell did not regret going for it on either fourth down. However, he did confess to a coaching mistake toward the end of the game.

The Lions were on the 49ers’ 1-yard line with 1:05 remaining in the game, down ten points. They had all three timeouts. Detroit elected to run the ball, and the 49ers stopped them for a loss. Campbell called a timeout, instead of trying to get another play off. That meant the game was over, even if the Lions scored on fourth down if they didn’t recover the subsequent onside kick.

George Kittle recovered the kick, the Niners ran the clock out with Elijah Mitchell, and Detroit didn’t touch the ball again.

Here’s Campbell on the decision to run the ball:

“The easy thing to do is to throw it. Probably should’ve been the right thing. But for me, I wanted to run it. I thought we would just pop it. We had just two-minuted 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.”

Much like the second fourth down attempt, no coach accounts for a missed block. Safety Logan Ryan had his best play as a Niner as he knifed his way into the backfield, which forced running back David Montgomery to redirect.

Fred Warner and Javon Kinlaw were there for the cleanup, and that’s how Campbell ended up using a timeout.

After the game, Campbell said, “I gambled and lost.”