Loss to Vikings still burns Lions’ Dan Campbell: ‘That will be there until the day I die’

Detroit News

Allen Park — After winning four of their past five games, the Detroit Lions sit on the fringes of the NFC playoff race. Of course, optimism likely would be much higher had they not blown an early-season game to the division-leading Minnesota Vikings.

The Lions held a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter in that Week 3 matchup on the road, and even after giving up a touchdown midway through the frame, appeared poised to close it out after forcing the Vikings to turn it over on downs near midfield with a little more than two minutes remaining.

But facing a fourth-and-four at the Vikings’ 36-yard line with 1:14 on the clock, Lions coach Dan Campbell had a difficult decision: Go for it, punt the ball and try to pin the Vikings deep without any timeouts, or attempt a 54-yard field goal — a career-long for then-kicker Austin Seibert — to extend the Lions lead to six.

Campbell opted for arguably the riskiest of the three, the field goal, and Seibert’s effort missed wide right. Three plays later, after already moving into field-goal range for the potential tie, the Vikings took the lead with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to K.J. Osborn (Ypsilanti).

Players are conditioned to have a short memory, to move on to the next play and the next game, but Campbell hasn’t afforded himself that luxury with the coaching decision he readily took the blame for immediate after the loss.

“It burns me,” Campbell said Wednesday. “Of course, it burns me. That will be there until the day I die. That’s not going to go away. It does. I also know I can’t wallow in that and let that pull me down.”

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The loss to the Vikings started a downward spiral for the Lions and it took more than a month to climb out of the hole. By the end of October, the team had lost five in a row, sinking to the bottom of the division. For the Vikings, the rally ended up being the first of seven straight victories, notably all by one score, and put them in position to clinch the division this Sunday, when the two teams meet for the back half of their annual home-and-home series.

It’s easy to wonder what might have been had the Lions’ held on. Would it have had much impact on the overall course of the season for either team? Obviously, those are meaningless hypotheticals. Instead, Campbell focuses on the reality of the outcome and believes his team ultimately ended up benefitting from its struggles coming out of the loss to Minnesota.

“It is what it is and it happened for a reason,” Campbell said. “And honestly, I think us losing five in a row is why we’re at where we’re at right now. That’s kind of how I look at it. Maybe we needed this to happen to get to where we’re at right now, at this point.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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