The 2018 Detroit Lions closed out their season last Sunday with a victory over the Green Bay Packers. A season of ups and (a lot of) downs came to a conclusion and another chapter in the long history of the team has been written. Here are the 10 plays that best tell the story of the 2018 Lions.
Week 1: Darron Lee 36-yard interception return for a touchdown
The Lions’ season opener was a failure from top to bottom but there was no bigger goat that day than Matthew Stafford. The quarterback threw four interceptions—two to linebacker Darron Lee—as the team was dominated. A third-quarter interception returned for a touchdown by Lee extended the Jets lead to 14 and was one of four touchdowns the Jets scored in a abysmal third quarter for Detroit.
This touchdown, and the entire game, put a sour taste in the mouths of Lions fans. It’s a taste that ended up lasting all season for many. In a way, this play was just a harbinger of what was to come for the Lions in 2018.
Week 3: Kerryon Johnson runs off left tackle for 10 yards
The Lions Week 3 victory against the New England Patriots will remain the most memorable night of the team’s 2018 season. An 0-2 team that looked lost dominated one of the NFL’s dynasty—and did it on the ground.
Detroit had not had a single 100-yard rusher in any game in over four years coming into this game. Rookie Kerryon Johnson did not take long to end that streak, though, and did it against one of the league’s historical powers. The running back was at 91 yards with just over four minutes to play. With the game seemingly in hand, Detroit handed the ball to the rookie on third-and-18. He gained 10 yards and finally eclipsed the mark and put that long running streak to bed.
Johnson remained the team’s starter until a midseason knee injury sidelined him. The rookie was a star in his first season and breaking the 100-yard mark was just the first of the many records he has a chance to set as a Detroit Lion.
Week 4: Dak Prescott 34-yard pass to Ezekiel Elliot
After beating the Patriots, the Lions were on top of the world. They had put their early woes behind them, they defeated a top-tier team and their offensive line and rookie running back had been playing well. An offense that was supposed to be elite was finally showing signs of life and optimism was high among fans.
Much of that hope was quickly dashed a week later when the Lions defense had no answer for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. He had 240 yards of total offense, and to top things off, he caught a perfect pass from quarterback Dak Prescott late in the game that put his team in position to kick a winning field goal.
The Lions offense played incredibly well. Both Stafford and Golden Tate played like stars but it was not enough. Detroit had a chance to earn a huge victory, get back to 2-2 and lock up a potential wild card tiebreaker. Instead they fell to 1-3 and it felt like the season was already lost.
Week 9: Danielle Hunter 32-yard fumble return for a touchdown
Detroit’s lowest moment may have came in their Week 9 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The offense had a meltdown and Stafford was sacked 10 times. The quarterback was clearly shaken as the game went on and it all culminated with a boneheaded late-game decision that effectively ended the game.
Stafford escaped the pocket and, in a panic, he tried to dump that ball off to his running back. The pitch was terrible and caught his teammate off guard. Danielle Hunter, the Vikings edge defender who had dominated the Lions, scooped the ball up and took it the other way for a touchdown.
It was incredibly fitting for Hunter to effectively end a game he dominated, and this was just another costly turnover for a quarterback having the worst stretch of his career.
Week 10: Mitchell Trubisky 45-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller
The Lions first matchup against their division rival Chicago Bears was a defensive disaster. Detroit’s secondary seemed baffled by the Bears offense and could not cover any receivers. Trubisky finished the day with 355 yards and three touchdowns in a game where his team raced out to a quick 26-0 lead.
This play was the perfect combination of everything that went wrong for them on the day. First, there were no defenders anywhere near receiver Anthony Miller. Second, once a defender got to him, a terrible tackle attempt is all he could muster. Miller threw the man off of him and waltzed into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown.
Detroit’s secondary had an awful season. A unit that is usually one of the best on the team had a lot of trouble this season and cost them dearly down the stretch.
Week 12: Eddie Jackson 41-yard interception return for a touchdown
While Detroit did lose seven of their last 10 games this season, they did have a few impressive performances. The Lions should have beaten the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving. Chase Daniel was not very effective against the Lions defense. The offense had trouble moving the ball but they did have a chance to take the lead towards the end.
That chance evaporated when Eddie Jackson jumped a quick out route, picked off a pass and took it for a score. Chicago went up by seven late and that lead was insurmountable for a stagnant Lions offense.
This was just one of many games were Detroit had a real chance to knock off a great team but a late mistake cost them their chance.
Week 13: Aaron Donald strip sacks Matthew Stafford; Rams recover
Week 13 felt like deja vu for Detroit. For the second straight week they had a real chance to beat a good team late in the game. The defense played well but the offense could not do enough to take advantage. Once again, the game was lost because of a late turnover.
Detroit only trailed by three with eight minutes to play. They were around midfield with a chance to tie or win the game. Stafford dropped back and then tried to escape pressure out of the back of the pocket. While he was turned around he was stripped by defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Los Angeles recovered the fumble and put the game out of reach a few plays later.
Donald absolutely dominated the game and shut down Detroit’s offense. It was one of the most impressive defensive performances ever by a single player, and it was fitting that he was the one who caused the Stafford turnover.
Week 14: Darius Slay 67-yard interception return for a touchdown
The Lions’ Week 14 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals was a snooze fest. Detroit could not break the game open and the offense did not score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. There was one play of significance, though.
In the third quarter, cornerback Darius Slay intercepted a Josh Rosen pass and took it 67 yards for a touchdown. It was the first career touchdown for the 2017 All Pro. This play also help break open a victory that had some Lions fans thinking they had an outside shot at stealing a playoff spot.
Week 16: Kirk Cousins 44-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph
Week 16 presented another chance for the Lions to knock off a better team. They absolutely dominated the first half against the Minnesota Vikings. Bad red zone play calling had them set to enter the half disappointingly up only 9-7, but at the last second, things got worse.
Kirk Cousins threw a Hail Mary pass to close out the half and Kyle Rudolph beat everyone to the ball in the end zone for the touchdown just before the break. It was a gut punch for team who felt like they were punched in the gut almost every week. To make matters worse, it was the same end zone that Aaron Rodgers famously threw a game winning Hail Mary into a few years earlier.
Week 17: Quandre Diggs intercepts Deshone Kizer
Detroit managed to end a terrible season on a positive note when they defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field 31-0. The Lions had a stranglehold on this game from start to finish and safety Quandre Diggs’ late interception was an exclamation point.
Diggs managed to high point and bring down a floating, ill-advised throw, from the Packers backup quarterback. He then gathered the entire defense for one final victory lap around the field that was the source of so many nightmares in Detroit over the past few decades.
By all accounts, this season was a failure for the Lions. Despite all of their failures, they still managed to finish the season with a sweep over their long time rival and celebrated on their field.