The Detroit Lions were painfully close to the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance only to see their 17-point lead over the San Francisco 49ers evaporate.
Taylor Decker, the veteran Lions lineman and team’s longest-tenured player, knows it could be even harder to get back next season. Decker spoke out after the team’s 34-31 loss to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, echoing a warning from head coach Dan Campbell that the team could face an even more difficult path next season.
“Ultimately, one team’s going to go home happy at the end of this year, and like I said, it’s hard to climb that mountain, and it’s probably going to be even harder next year to get back to this point,” Decker told reporters after the January 28 loss, via MLive.com. “It’s why you play the game, though.”
Dan Campbell Sees Difficult Path Ahead
Campbell delivered a somber message after Sunday’s loss, which saw the Lions race out to a 17-point lead before the 49ers ripped off 27 unanswered points in the second half. Though he sees a bright future for the team, Campbell warned his players that this could end up being their only shot at the Super Bowl.
“I told those guys, ‘This may have been our only shot,’” Campbell told the media. “Do I think that? No. Do I believe that? No.”
The Lions will face new challenges next year, including a low draft spot and a first-place schedule that will see them face off against the San Francisco 49ers again. Campbell added that the NFC North is getting stronger and that the Lions will have a target on their backs next season.
Taylor Decker Sees Bright Future
Decker had been through plenty of tough times in Detroit. As MLive.com noted, he was part of a Lions roster that went 96 regular-season games between playoff appearances, and the team had not won a playoff game in three decades.
After issuing his warning that next year will be more difficult, Decker shared a more optimistic outlook for the franchise.
“I think we have a good foundation,” Decker said. “And I think that Dan and Brad have built this team the right way, a team that’s going to handle adversity, that’s not going to back down, that’s going to play confident and play physical. And ultimately, we just have to see if we can sustain it, because that’s going to be the mark of an actual good team … We might have some new coaches, so it’s going to be different. But I think you just bottle this feeling up because now we know what it feels like to fall short of our goals being so close. Gotta just try and do it again, I guess.”
Campbell still bemoaned the heartbreaking loss to the 49ers, which he said was a big missed opportunity for the franchise and an especially painful loss.
“It’s hard,” Campbell said. “You want to make the most of every opportunity. We had an opportunity, and we just couldn’t close it out. It stings. It stings.”
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