The Detroit Lions season ended 3-13-1, but that doesn’t tell half of the story of the year. In his first year as Lions head coach, Dan Campbell navigated a torn-down roster through a difficult, but—at times—extremely entertaining year. There were times it looked like this team was going 0-17. There were times it looked like they could give any team in the NFL some serious trouble.
And just when it looked like the Lions had run out of magic, they actually turned a corner and started winning games. And they weren’t just stealing games, they started looking like the better team on Sunday.
But what is the pinnacle of the season? What was the defining moment, most competitive or most entertaining game of the season?
It’s time to hand out the 2021 Detroit Lions Game of the Year award.
2021 Detroit Lions Game of the Year
Kellie Rowe: Lions vs. Cardinals, Week 15
I was at first inclined to choose the defeat of the Minnesota Vikings that secured the Lions’ first win, but I liked another game a little more. In Week 15, the one-win Detroit Lions toppled the mighty Arizona Cardinals, who at the time were 10-4, and only needed to beat the Lions to clinch a playoff spot. Winning by a double-digit margin, this was a shocking victory, but it was deserved. Playing some inspired football, the Lions’ consistent rushing attack and relentless pass rush delivered a devastating defeat.
John Whiticar: Lions vs. Vikings, Week 13
The Lions’ victory over the Cardinals in Week 15 was a masterclass from the coaching staff, but their first win of the season should go down as the Game of the Year. It was shaping up to be another one-quarter wonder from Jared Goff, as the Lions put up 20 points in the second quarter before falling silent. It instead led to a defining moment of this rebuild. Amon-Ra St. Brown caught a game-winner to not only give Dan Campbell his first win as a coach but also give the Lions faithful something to cheer about.
Erik Schlitt: Lions vs. Cardinals, Week 15
The “Welcome to Detroit” game. The Lions dominated the Cardinals from start to finish, on their way to a 30-12 victory over the NFC No. 1 seed at the time. The Lions jumped out to a 3-0 lead, pushed it to 10-0 on a beautiful fake block release play by Amon-Ra St. Brown, then entered the half 17-0 after arguably Jared Goff’s best throw of the season, a touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds. An Amani Oruwariye interception set up a touchdown pass to Superback Jason Cabinda, followed by two more successful field goals from rookie Riley Patterson. Game. Blouses.
Mike Payton: Lions vs. Cardinals, Week 15
I’ll probably say for a while that the Lions win over the Cardinals was the best game I’ve ever seen the Lions play. There was not a mistake to be made. The Lions, filled with practice squad talent, played a beautifully complete game and dominated one of the better teams in the league.
Ryan Mathews: Lions vs. Cardinals, Week 15
Week 13’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, where the Lions won their first game of the season, was an entertaining game. Week 18 against the Green Bay Packers was a great close to the season. But neither of these games holds a candle to the way the Lions played against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15. At the time, the Cardinals were first in the NFC West, atop the entire NFC, and playing for a chance to get a week’s rest in the playoffs. That dream dried up when Detroit dominated Arizona from start to finish, 30-12.
Morgan Cannon: Lions vs. Vikings, Week 13
Since I was there, I would say I am biased when it comes to this award. But man, this was a lot of fun. There was a lot of tension in the building that day (definitely more tension than fans), but the ending was well worth all of the nerves that preceded it. Ford Field was bursting with joy and relief after the final whistle. I bet people didn’t even mind their cold, wet walks to their cars. I know I didn’t that day.
Chris Perfett: Lions vs. Vikings, Week 13
What an iconic moment. This game was phenomenal, not just for notching Dan Campbell’s first win as a Lions head coach, but for the changing landscape that this game ushered in. Jared Goff got the monkey off his back here, shining in a big-time moment to win this game against all odds, against all doubt and malaise - to which there was a lot for him in those first 12 weeks. And speaking of shining...guess who caught that game-winning touchdown? Guess who suddenly appeared on the radar then, his brilliance on display?
That’s right baby. PRAISE THE SUN
Hamza Baccouche: Lions vs. Steelers, Week 10
There are so many to choose from, but I gotta go with the game against the Steelers. That entire performance was so lopsided, and there were so many ways that the Lions could have lost that game, but God decided that the Lions were not to lose that day. They tied in a way very unlike any Lions win/tie we’ve seen over the last decade - with a hampered quarterback, dominated by the run game, and *in spite of* their kicker rather than because of him. I could not believe the Lions were still in it every time they touched the ball, and finding a way to not lose that game really felt like a huge turning point for this regime and for the 2021 team.
Jeremy Reisman: Lions vs. Rams, Week 7
It may have been a loss, but this was the most anticipated game of the season the second the schedule came out, and man, did it not disappoint. The game had everything. THREE trick plays from the Lions, a heroic fourth-quarter comeback from Matthew Stafford (albeit for the wrong team) and a chance for the Lions to win it at the end of the game. In a season that was never going to mean much, the end result doesn’t matter. This game delivered entertainment from front to back, and it really endeared me to Dan Campbell’s “we’re going to do whatever we have to” attitude.
What was the Lions’ 2021 Game of the Year?
This poll is closed
First win over Vikings
Blowing out Cardinals
Breaking losing streak in tie vs. Steelers
Lions/Rams: Stafford, trick-play-a-palooza