Santa Clara, California— Since joining the Detroit Lions, David Montgomery would probably need two hands to count the number of times he was asked after a game about the aggressiveness of his head coach, Dan Campbell.
It was the same story Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium. But this time he was defending decisions that went wrong. The Lions passed on field goals twice in the second half, in favor of trying to keep a fourth-and-short drive alive, but both times, poor execution resulted in turnovers.
“As I say every time I get asked that question, Dan is the best coach in the league,” Montgomery said. “We trust every call he makes and we stand behind him. Every decision he has made is the right decision.”
The first came on fourth-and-2 midway through the second quarter, with the Lions holding a 24-10 lead after the 49ers added a field goal to start the third quarter. Lions quarterback Jared Goff took the snap, avoided pressure and fired a low pass to typically safe Josh Reynolds who clearly fell.
The other came on fourth-and-3 with 7:38 left in the third, after the 49ers took their first lead of the game, 27-24, marking the first time Detroit trailed during the playoffs. Goff was pressured, rolled to his right and was unable to make an accurate pass as his throw fell harmlessly to the ground in no man’s land.
Reynolds agreed that they were correct decisions and cited poor execution as the reason the plays failed.
“He called it because he hoped we would get it. Us too, but the execution (failed),” Reynolds said. “You don’t want to lose. And losing to go to the Super Bowl, I mean, makes it a lot worse.”
During the regular season, the Lions tried fourth and under 3 21 times and converted 16 of them (76.1%). Detroit kicker Michael Badgley, who was on the team’s practice squad for most of the year until the Lions decided to part ways with Riley Patterson after Week 14, had not attempted an outdoor kick this season.
Of the decisions, Goff said: “I loved them… we didn’t connect. Next time I will throw a better ball.”
Including the playoffs, Reynolds caught 47 of 74 passes thrown in 2023 and entered Sunday with just three drops all season.
“Josh is a stud. … He made a mistake,” Goff said. “We made a lot of mistakes out there. I missed shots, I got sacks. He made mistakes and it happens. He is a real stud.”