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Cheese Curds, 1/29: Lions fans finally share Packers’ playoff pain

A week after the Packers lost a late lead to the 49ers, the Lions gave up a much bigger advantage in the second half.

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Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Lions’ collapse in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game was not quite to the level of the Green Bay Packers’ self-immolation in the 2014 version of that game. But it was close — the Lions gave up a 17-point halftime lead in just 12 minutes, and they compounded that collapse by failing to execute when given some great opportunities to do so.

Head coach Dan Campbell made some divisive decisions to go for some 4th down opportunities, passing up on field goal attempts, but his players just did not make the plays they needed to. If Campbell deserves any criticism, it should be for the decision to run the football on 3rd and goal with about a minute left while needing to preserve all three timeouts — and then to take one of those timeouts after David Montgomery got stuffed. That was by far the biggest strategic mishap from the Lions’ coaching staff.

Execution errors late in a playoff game against an NFC West team? Packers fans have seen this story before, far too many times. After all, they have lost to the 49ers now in the playoffs five times in the last 12 years, and three of those saw San Francisco scoring to take the lead within the last five minutes of the game. The Lions weren’t forcing quite the same late-game drama, having done most of their work in the third quarter, but they can finally relate at least a bit to what Packers fans have been through in the past decade-plus.

Meanwhile, the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2019, when they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, whom they will face again in two weeks. Kansas City won an uncharacteristically low-scoring game as their defense kept Lamar Jackson limited, and both winning teams on Sunday benefitted from critical fumbles by rookie first-round draft picks — Jahmyr Gibbs for the Lions and Zay Flowers for the Ravens.

Here’s a look back at Sunday’s games and a look forward to the Packers’ future in 2024 and beyond.

Brock Purdy rallies 49ers to comeback win over Lions, Super Bowl LVIII berth with 'unbelievable' second half |
The 49ers' second half comeback was payback for a playoff game 65 years ago, when they led Detroit 24-7 at the half and the Lions rallied to win. That was actually the Lions' last road playoff victory, but this collapse had plenty of explanations.

Lions coach Dan Campbell doesn't regret costly 4th-down calls - ESPN
Campbell shouldn't be getting much blame for his decisions to keep the offense on the field, however. The Lions were set up well on those opportunities, and the players simply didn't execute. Plus an absolute killer of a fumble by rookie Jahmyr Gibbs in the third quarter set up the 49ers' tying score.

Ravens WR Zay Flowers on fumbling would-be TD in loss to Chiefs: 'I'll learn from my mistakes' |
Meanwhile, the Chiefs advanced thanks in part to a fumble by the Ravens' rookie receiver, who lost control of the ball just before reaching the goal line for a potential game-changing touchdown.

Lamar Jackson’s legacy and Dan Campbell’s gambles: Mike Sando’s Pick Six - The Athletic ($)
The Ravens' playoff record with Jackson is now just 2-4, the same record that the Colts had in Peyton Manning's first six years. But the big difference is that Baltimore has had an elite defense for Lamar's entire career.

Evaluating Green Bay Packers roster entering 2024 offseason: Free agents, restructures, salary cap options | Packers Wire
The Packers, meanwhile, head into the offseason with a young team but a suddenly pressing need to extend their star quarterback.

Elgton Jenkins on Packers in 2024: ‘We’re coming with a purpose’ |
With David Bakhtiari injured most of the season, Jenkins has been the team's veteran leader up front, and he said he knew from early on that this offense would figure it out in 2023, it was just a matter of when. Now that they have, next season will have much bigger goals.

New Jersey house vandalized with pepperoni: 'It hurts the heart'
If it had been chicken cutlets, we might have a suspect. But pepperoni? This is truly a mystery.