The Detroit Lions’ 2021 season won’t be remembered much for exciting moments and unforgettable plays. If all things go right, it will be viewed as a stepping-stone season in which the team took their lumps for the greater good.
That being said, the season wasn’t a bore, either. The Lions found themselves in more games than not. And while the first half of the season was filled with thrilling plays, most of them tipped in their opponents’ favor. But after the bye week, the scales started to even out and Detroit started making some highlight-reel plays that led to the team finally winning some games down the stretch.
So without further ado, here are our choices for 2021 Detroit Lions Play of the Year.
2021 Detroit Lions Play of the Year
Kellie Rowe: Jared Goff’s game-winning pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Vikings
It’s a rebuild, it’s a rebuild, it’s a rebuild. We knew that going into 2021, and we told ourselves that week after week. But losing still stinks. So Jared Goff’s game-winning touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown in the end zone to secure the Lions’ first win was simply a very special moment. This play was the most important of the season in terms of what it meant for the Lions community. First and foremost, it meant the Lions would not go winless. But it also inspired hope. The Lions’ first win did not come until Week 13. Can you imagine suiting up, laying it all out there on the field, and losing for three months straight? But Dan Campbell continued to keep his team’s hopes up — and that play told each and every player hey, we *can* win.
John Whiticar: Tom Kennedy touchdown pass to Kalif Raymond vs. Packers
Tom Kennedy has more passing yards than receiving yards as a pro, which is wild to think about. This play perfectly summarized the Lions' offense once Dan Campbell took over play-calling: they used their creativity to overcome their weaknesses. Tight ends coach Ben Johnson has been a rising star for the Lions, and this play is just another feather in his cap.
Erik Schlitt: Game-winner vs. Vikings
A perfect play call when the Lions needed it most. The Lions knew they were going to get a variation of bracketed coverage on all their eligible pass catchers, but they had been preparing for this scenario for weeks. This bracket buster was designed to run off the underneath coverage, sucking them into the middle of the field, opening up a frontside path to the end zone for Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Vikings used a safety over the top, with a corner on the boundary, but both allowed St Brown a bit too much cushion and he took advantage gaining the necessary ground, then settling down in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Mike Payton: Tom Kennedy trick play
Unfortunately, it happened in the last game of the year. Tom Kennedy’s trick-play touchdown pass to Raymond against the Green Bay Packers had everyone on their feet.
Ryan Mathews: Tom Kennedy trick play
1st & 10 at DET 25
It’s perfect as the ESPN play-by-play chart describes it.
Morgan Cannon: Amon-Ra St. Brown
If you need any evidence as to why this is the play of the year, see Dan Miller’s call. It’s an all-timer.
DAN MILLER GAME WINNING TOUCHDOWN CALL pic.twitter.com/zZjGKNuToQ— (Stafford) (@DetroitMoments) December 5, 2021
Chris Perfett: Game-winner vs. Vikings
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: Game-winner vs. Vikings
That was another key turning point of the year, this time for the Lions’ first win of the season. The fact that it happened on a drive orchestrated by a quarterback who had refused to throw past the line of scrimmage all game, and caught by their rookie receiver who had yet to blossom, was another key turning point that shaped the identity of who this Lions team became over the remainder of the season.
Jeremy Reisman: Tom Kennedy trick play
It is now a canon that the Detroit Lions must unload all of their trick plays in the final week of the season, so it was no surprise to see Detroit empty their playbook against the Green Bay Packers. But among all trick plays, this was one of the coolest. As I wrote about at the time, this trick play was all set up by using Amon-Ra St. Brown as a decoy. For weeks and weeks, Detroit used him in the backfield for the occasional rush. The Packers knew that and thought that was coming.
“Actually, before that play that Tom Kennedy threw,” St. Brown recalled, “I’m lined up and all I hear from the sideline is, ‘14 is getting the ball coming across. 14 is getting the ball,’ and I’m just smiling because I already know what’s about to happen.’”
What the Packers didn’t know is that Tom freakin’ Kennedy is also capable of throwing the damn ball.
There is no better example of how this coaching staff elevated their players’ play than designing a player where TOM FREAKIN’ KENNEDY threw a touchdown pass to Kalif Raymond.
Here are some honorable mentions to round out our candidate list:
Taylor Decker touchdown catch:
Fake punt vs. Rams
Let’s give the defense some love: Amani Oruwariye’s diving INT vs. Cardinals
Lions CB Amani Oruwariye with the incredible pick! pic.twitter.com/IjNAb2RO4o— USA TODAY NFL (@usatodaynfl) December 19, 2021
What was the Lions’ Play of the Year?
This poll is closed
Game-winning pass vs. Vikings
Tom Kennedy trick play
Taylor Decker TD catch
Fake punt vs. Rams
Amani Oruwariye diving INT vs. Cardinals