Lions take Dan Campbell swagger to NFC championship game

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Get ready for an onslaught of opinions on why the Detroit Lions cannot beat the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC Championship game.

Do not be offended. This is not another Detroit vs. Everybody situation. The Niners are a great team. They are probably more talented and have been in this position before. They have two MVP candidates in quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey.

Receiver Deebo Samuel is one of the greatest playmakers in NFL history. The Niners are also the number one seed.

There is one important thing the Niners do not have. Lions Coach Dan Campbell.

There is a reason why Dan Campbell lasted 13 seasons in the NFL as a mediocre tight end. There is a reason why Campbell was able to win over a prickly dressing room and make it a winner in three seasons.

The Lions turned from loveable losers to loveable winners in just three seasons under Campbell.

We saw Campbell break down in tears while addressing his team. We see him run at a break neck pace before, during, and after games. More importantly, he changed the culture of a stubborn franchise that was stuck on losing.

Campbell does not get enough credit for being a tough SOB. And that toughness goes beyond broken knee caps and being a meathead.

The man is tough. If there was a skirmish during Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys training camps, Dan Campbell, the tight end, wasn’t far away. He could handle himself against players with bigger names and bigger reputations.

Campbell has passed along that toughness and grit to his players.

“You guys are unbelievable man,” Campbell told his team after the Bucs game. “You were built for this.”

GM Brad Holmes built the roster. Campbell built the mentality. He is just as comfortable addressing a group of auto workers as he is his football team.

“Here, man, it’s harsh winters, auto industry, blue collar, things aren’t always here. And I just think, that’s what we’re about,” Campbell said.

Look at some of the players on this roster. Is anybody around the league tougher than Amon-Ra St. Brown or Peni Sewell? St. Brown got much of his toughness from his father. Sewell from his humble beginnings in Samoa.

But don’t you think both men took toughness to another level because of Campbell? I sure do.

The Lions might lose games. Everybody does. But have you noticed they don’t make mind-numbing mistakes near the end of games?

The Lions made enough winning plays to beat the Bucs, and played tough enough to hang on.

The tough mentality Campbell passed along is a major reason why.

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For more from the author Terry Foster, check him out on Twitter here: @terryfosterdet

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Original Photo Credit: © Stephen Lew – USA TODAY Sports