It was not at all surprising that the Lions played the Green Bay Packers like everything depended on a win. Detroit knew when it took the field there was no chance they could earn a playoff berth after the Seahawks beat the Rams in overtime, but they played like it was their Super Bowl.
The Lions ended up with a 20-16 win at Green Bay on Sunday night to knock the Packers out of the postseason.
“It was a great win, I was proud of our guys, they played their ass off, they were ready for this game,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “They wanted to prove something and they did that. This team has hung in there all year long, it’s a special group. The hard part of this is it’s over for this season because it is a special group. If you’ve got to go down, and it’s the last one for the season, what a better way to go than that for 2022.’’
The final play perfectly captured their season. It was a fourth-and-1 at the Packers’ 15-yard line with 1:15 on the clock. A field goal would have given the Packers too much time to go down the field and possibly win.
Like he’s done all season, Campbell trusted his offense and went for the win on fourth down.
Boom – Jared Goff to D.J. Chark for 4 yards, the first down and the win. Detroit was 2-for-2 on fourth-down plays in the win.
Campbell said he wanted to put the game in Goff’s hands. “Let’s let Goff finish this out for us … We believe in Goff,’’ Campbell said.
The Lions finished the season 9-8, their first winning season since 2017. They also finished 5-1 in NFC North games while the Packers were 3-3 in division games.
It wasn’t a miracle, it was hard work and it paid off.
Five of the many reasons the Lions won:
1. Safety Kerby Joseph intercepted Aaron Rodgers on third-and-10 with 3:37 left in the fourth quarter. Goff and the Lions took over and made enough plays to keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands for the rest of the game. Joseph also had an interception earlier in the game, but it was negated by a holding call.
2. Jared Goff had better numbers in games this season, but certainly he came through when he needed to on Sunday night. He finished the season with nine straight games without an interception or what he called a “great little streak.” Against the Packers he was 23 of 34 for 224 yards with no interceptions. “(This team has) a lot of toughness, this team is built to handle adversity and we showed it tonight .This team would never win in these conditions on the road at Lambeau and we came in and did it,’’ Goff said.
3. Aaron Rodgers had trouble with the Lions defense in Detroit on Nov. 6 when the Lions prevailed 15-9. That day he was intercepted three times. Sunday he made a few big plays but not quite enough. He was sacked twice by Aidan Hutchinson and pressured start to finish by the young defensive group. “It verified what I thought. It wasn’t too big for them,’’ Campbell said. “They went out and played ball. Certainly at an NFL level, but they looked like kids again.’’
4. Running back Jamaal Williams scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to surpass Barry Sanders for the franchise single season mark. Sanders finished with 16 in 1991. Williams has 17 this season. Plus he hit the 1,000-yard mark in the win. “Everybody is happy for Jamaal. He’s the ultimate team guy,’’ Campbell said. The coach has repeatedly talked about Williams’ consistency throughout the season.
5. Dan Campbell and his coordinators (Ben Johnson, Aaron Glenn and Dave Fipp) had the guys prepared physically and mentally. They knew they couldn’t get into the playoffs during pre-game warmups, but it didn’t matter. Campbell said they were unfazed. They played physical football just like they do in every game, in every circumstance. Campbell never, ever gave up on these guys even when they were 1-6. At that point he was continually asked why he saw improvement in his team when they weren’t winning and he continually said he saw it coming. Now we know those were not empty words.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)