SAN FRANCISCO -- Detroit Lions coach Monte Clark had read the script before.
All season long, the Lions head coach had watched helplessly from the sidelines as victory slipped from his team's grasp in the last minute.
Saturday's NFC semifinal game against the San Francisco 49ers proved to be no different.
Down 24-23 with the clock ticking down, Detroit rallied and drove down the field to set up its steady kicker, Eddie Murray, with a 43-yard attempt to win the game with just 11 seconds left.
Murray's attempt went wide giving the 49ers the victory and their second trip to the NFC Championship game in the last three years.
Clark, his voice reduced to a whisper by the strain of the contest, said he was proud of his team because it went down fighting.
'I'm proud of the way we fought back,' Clark said. 'We did everything we could to win except win.'
However, the toll of a season full of 'what ifs' was clearly etched on Clark's face as he talked.
The Lions coach still does not know whether Billy Sims -- the heart and soul of his team's running game -- will be with the club next season. Sims has signed contracts with both the USFL's Houston Gamblers and the Lions for next season leaving it up to a Michigan court to decide who the gifted running back will play for.
Clark chose not to dwell on the Sims situation as he stood in his lockerroom or the fact that he was forced to stay with quarterback Gary Danielson because Eric Hipple -- the club's starter for much of the season at the spot -- was injured. Danielson tossed five costly interceptions in the contest.
Instead, Clark talked of the positive.
'We have built a foundation,' he said of his team's year. 'A foundation that will be very important in the years to come.'
Nearby, Murray sat at his locker explaining over and over his failed field goal.
'I'm the kind of kicker who kicks from a spot,' he said. 'When I kicked he ball that last field goal, I looked down and saw I missed my spot. I knew then that I had missed. I guess I just tried to finesse it too much.'
The Detroit kicker had booted a 54-yarder earlier in the contest to set an NFL playoff record.
Danielson -- who threw five costly interceptions -- said the loss was typical of Detroit's season.
'Maybe this game was typical of our season,' the veteran quarterback said. 'But I'm still proud of the way I came back in the second half. You know it's tough to rally yourself after throwing that many interceptions.'
Defensive tackle William Gay said the difference in the contest was San Francisco 49er quarterback Joe Montana's willingness to stick with the short passes in the fourth quarter.
'He didn't try to win it with one play,' Gay said. 'He keep chipping at us.'
But it was wide receiver Freddie Scott who summed up the feelings of most of the Lions.
'Any loss is going to be disappointing but I feel like I left everything I had out there on the field,' he said. 'We won't forget this game today.'