With each day that passes since the NFC Championship Game loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff knows the sting will hurt less and less.
It was a crushing defeat, one that saw Detroit own a 24-7 lead heading into the second half, but ended up falling to San Fran, 34-31, to fall just short of a Super Bowl LVIII appearance.
“I think the further you get away from it, the easier it is to sleep at night and deal with those thoughts and what not,” Goff told Fox News Digital while discussing his partnership with Jared Jewelry. “But, yeah, I think right after the game there’s always those plays you want back. You always want a few throws back, always want a few plays back. But that’s every game, and you deal with that win or lose. Typically, when you lose, those thoughts happen a bit more.
Jared Goff, #16 of the Detroit Lions, drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of the NFC Championship football game at Levi’s Stadium on January 28, 2024, in Santa Clara, California. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
“I think it just didn’t go our way that night. We played well in the first half and not so well in the second half, and they did. They earned it, they’re a great team. We just didn’t finish off the game, unfortunately, and sometimes it goes like that.”
The plays fans and analysts kept coming back to when discussing the NFC title game were the calls by head coach Dan Campbell to go for it on multiple fourth downs in the second half, which ultimately led to turnover on downs and 49ers points.
Campbell’s Lions went for it 34% of the time on fourth down, by far the highest rate during the regular season of any team in the NFL. It’s a staple of the team’s offense, as Campbell has faith in whatever play offensive coordinator Ben Johnson calls to move the chains.
These calls were criticized because a more conservative approach may have kept the Lions’ lead in tact and not given the 49ers momentum to mount a comeback.
Don’t tell Goff that, though.
“That’s who we are,” he said. “To be honest, we expect to convert and [Campbell’s] going to catch the heat for it. But we feel as much responsible as anybody that we didn’t get it done. It’s not about when, or how, or doing it. It’s just, he put the faith in us. Those two times we didn’t get it done. It sucks.”
The first was fourth-and-two in San Fran territory when Goff’s throw was behind wide receiver Josh Reynolds, but catchable. Reynolds couldn’t haul it in, and the 49ers scored on the next possession.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff throws during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, January 14, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Then, after the 49ers took the lead, Campbell gave the nod on fourth-and-three from the San Francisco 30-yard line, but Goff couldn’t find anyone open. A field goal would’ve tied the game.
But Goff doesn’t even believe that’s the most egregious fourth-down, go-for-it scenario that occurred this season for the Lions.
In his eyes, that came on November 12, 2023, against the Los Angeles Chargers, where Campbell decided to go for it on fourth-and-two with 1:47 left in the game on the Chargers’ 26-yard line in a tie game.
A field goal gives the Lions the lead, but Campbell didn’t want Justin Herbert to get the ball back with a chance to win the game. Detroit converted, and Goff kneeled out the clock before a game-winning field goal was kicked.
That’s the type of faith few coaches have in the NFL, but Campbell is a gambling man and one who believes in his players to get anything done in any situation – a trait that Goff has nothing but respect for.
The difference between that situation and what happened in the Bay Area, though, is something Goff gets about the gamble.
Jared Goff, #16 of the Detroit Lions, waits to lead the team to the field before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on January 7, 2024, in Detroit, Michigan. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
“We got it, so no one says a thing,” he explained. “When you don’t get it, of course everyone’s going to come out of the woodwork.
“But, yeah, if we would’ve got those, it’s a different game. Everyone’s praising him and our team for doing it.”
The Lions may not be playing Sunday, but Goff knows his Lions have the pieces necessary to make another run next season.
“We are built for it,” he said. “We have the pieces in place. It’s about putting the work in and wanting to do it. Next year is going to be a whole brand-new year with a whole new set of challenges. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
And if it comes down to short fourth downs, you can likely bet that Campbell will look to his quarterback and give the nod, and the offense will be staying out on the field.
Jared Goff, #16 of the Detroit Lions, looks to throw a pass during the second half of a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on January 7, 2024, in Detroit, Michigan. (Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
Jared went to Jared
The “He went to Jared” trademark slogan of Jared Jewelry was used by fans all season for Goff in Detroit. But the quarterback actually went to Jared for some custom watches to gift his offensive lineman for blocking for him this season.
Goff selected the Breitling SUPER CHRONOMAT, a top of the line watch which features a sharp combo of stainless steel and 18K red gold. He also worked with Jared in the creation of the packaging, making sure each of his linemen’s names were on the box with Detroit’s Honolulu Blue and silver colors on it.
“Everything this company stands for and everything they provide for their customers and the custom experience, it’s been fun to learn about and to be partnered with,” Goff said. “I’ve been able to give my linemen some Breitling watches in a custom box and go through that whole experience with them, and it’s so fun. They make it so easy and approachable.”
Scott Thompson is a sports writer for Fox News Digital.