The Detroit Lions may not have known it at the time, but they were playing for the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. But it’s clear they had no interest in taking that, as the Jaguars destroyed a win-needy Colts team.
Dan Campbell and company emptied the play book against the Green Bay Packers, took the lead against Aaron Rodgers and most of the first-string Packers, and eventually wrestled back the lead from Jordan Love in the second half to come out with the victory to end the season.
While some may be upset with Detroit losing out on the top pick in the draft, Lions fans would have a tough time being upset with the effort this team put up in the final leg of the season, and to go out on a high note against a division rival has to feel good for a team hoping to make big strides in Year 2.
Here’s how it happened.
The Packers got the ball first and got off to a hot start, with Aaron Rodgers finding Allen Lazard for 28 yards. The Lions had an opportunity to get off the field, but AJ Parker couldn’t take down Davante Adams short of the sticks on a third-and-10. The Packers, in fact, would convert four third downs on the drive, including this 1-yard touchdown pass to Lazard. 7-0 Packers.
The Lions weren’t able to respond, as Jared Goff took a sack on third-and-5. The Lions tried to get sneaky with a fake punt on fourth-and-13, but punter Jack Fox couldn’t connect with Godwin Igwebuike.
lions fake punt attempt fails pic.twitter.com/o7Fct36fo9— packers clips (@packers_clips) January 9, 2022
The Lions defense would make up for the mistake, though. The Packers quickly went three-and-out, and a Jessie Lemonier sack on third down would push them out of field goal range and force a punt.
Despite being deep in their own zone, the Lions would tie up the ballgame. First, Amon-Ra St. Brown set the Lions rookie receiving record with a 17-yard pickup. Then the Lions went to their bag of tricks with this perfectly-executed trick play with TOM KENNEDY connecting with Kalif Raymond. 7-7 tie.
The Lions defense made another great stand. As first rookie corner Ifeatu Melifonwu made a nice pass breakup on a deep ball to Adams. Then on the subsequent fourth down, Tracy Walker had a textbook open-field tackle to stop the Packers short of the sticks. Detroit took over on their own 43-yard line.
The Goff-to-St. Brown pipeline got a lot of work on the next drive. St. Brown picked up gains of 9, 16 and 21 yards to move Detroit into the red zone. The Lions got into a fourth-and-goal situation from the 3 and decided to go for it. And who else? Yep, St. Brown got the touchdown to cap the drive. 14-7 Lions.
Rodgers would quickly answer with a seven-play, 75-yard drive. It was capped by a perfect pass to Lazard that just barely went over the hands of rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes. Mason Crosby would miss the extra point, though, keeping the lead with the Lions. 14-13 Lions.
With just over two minutes left in the half, the Lions looked to add to their lead—while also setting up potential back-to-back offensive possessions granted they were to receive in the second half. Thanks to a nice fourth-down conversion from Josh Reynolds, Detroit moved into Packers territory and burned the rest of the clock from the half. Riley Patterson kicked it through from 34-yards to make it 17-13 Lions at halftime.
The Lions offense got off to an uninspiring start, quickly going three-and-out, but the defense quickly got the team moving. With Jordan Love in at quarterback, the Lions defense feasted. First Julian Okwara picked up his second sack of the game. Then rookie cornerback AJ Parker forced a fumble on the next play.
The Lions offense immediately went back to its bag of tricks with a reverse/flea-flicker to Brock Wright for a 36-yard touchdown pass. 24-13 Lions.
Love led the Packers on a scoring drive to bring the game to a one-possession contest. However, Detroit was able to stop Green Bay short of a touchdown, thanks to a nice third-down stop from Parker, forcing an incompletion with a huge hit. Crosby was good from 35 yards, making the score 24-16 Lions.
Detroit offense went three-and-out yet again. They weren’t helped out by the fact that they were down two offensive linemen. Center Evan Brown was injured earlier in the game and did not return. Left tackle Taylor Decker suffered a foot injury and was listed as questionable to return.
Green Bay partially blocked the subsequent punt, giving the offense the ball at their own 43-yard line. Love would drive the Packers into a goal-to-go situation as the game turned over into the fourth quarter.
Green Bay punched it in with Patrick Taylor on the second play of the quarter. But they couldn’t connect on the two-point conversion, keeping the lead with the Lions. 24-22 Lions.
Detroit’s offense would get moving with a bit of a change in the offensive line setup. Jonah Jackson moved to center, replacing Ryan McCollum. While Tommy Kraemer took Jackson’s spot at left guard. As a result, the Lions run game came alive. Detroit was able to move into the red zone, but on a third-and-8 attempt, Swift couldn’t haul in the pass from Goff. The Lions settled for a 36-yard field goal attempt and Patterson was good. 27-22 Lions.
But the Packers would strike quickly and take their first lead of the game since the first quarter. Love would find Josiah Deguara, who broke a tackle attempt from Tracy Walker and took the ball 62 yards for the go-ahead score. This time, the Packers’ two-point conversion was good. 30-27 Packers.
Detroit would respond, though. Bolstered by this huge record-setting catch from St. Brown—his eighth catch of the game, marking the six game in a row he’s hit that mark—Detroit worked their way into the red zone with two minutes left:
On the first play out of the two-minute warning, D’Andre Swift bounced a run to the outside and found paydirt, giving the Lions a 34-30 lead with 1:54 left.
The Lions defense got their second turnover of the game when C.J. Moore picked off a deflected pass, giving the Lions great field position to put the game away. While Detroit didn’t get in the end zone, they did bleed two Packer timeouts and add a field goal, making the score 37-30 Lions.
With 41 seconds left, one timeout and down seven points, Jordan Love had the opportunity to make a dramatic comeback. But Tracy Walker picked off Love for the game-sealing interception.