The Detroit Lions said goodbye to their shot at the 2023 NFL playoffs on Sunday afternoon, but business was not yet finished. The media darling Green Bay Packers remained, poised for a playoff berth and another chance to entrench the legacy of Aaron Rodgers. The Lions were seemingly another footnote in the improbable turnaround of the Packers.
Not on their watch.
The Lions weren’t the only ones saying goodbye to the playoffs, as they dragged the division rival Packers down with them into the playoff-less abyss. Their season was ended earlier in the day in dramatic fashion by the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks, but that was not enough to demoralize these Lions. They had the opportunity to punch a cocky team in the face, and they did so in style.
In theory, the season ends with disappointment, but there is far more at play. The Lions rebuild is ahead of schedule, and with questions abound in the NFC North, the coming years look promising for this young team. Playoffs would have been a monumental accomplishment, sure, but to even enter the discussion after a 1-6 start is a testament to the staff and players. “The 2022 Detroit Lions will be the team that can and will,” said head coach Dan Campbell on Hard Knocks before the season, and they certainly were. It’s one thing to end the season on a high note, but doing so against the Packers to burn their playoff ticket? That’s the cherry on top.
“Satisfying” is one way to describe that victory for the Lions. The elation that came with the Lions winning a meaningful game in the national spotlight will not be soon forgotten. For all the hardship that this team has endured, for all the doubters in their process, for all the players labeled as castoffs, unwanted, nobodies, or not good enough, this was a signature moment. The Detroit Lions are not a laughing stock. They are not a team to pity. These Lions have fought and grown, and the future looks brighter than ever.
We can point to many things that went wrong for the Lions this year, but on that Sunday night, we could see the promise and excitement that has been building in Detroit. That’s hope. That’s satisfying.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
When was the last time the Lions had a win this satisfying?
My answer: 2014 versus the New York Giants in Week 1.
Blowouts are always fun, so the victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears this year were undoubtedly enjoyable, but they did not feel as satisfying as this Packers win. Elsewhere, the victories over the Arizona Cardinals and Packers in 2021 were satisfying in a way, but amidst a losing season, the excitement wasn’t fully there. In a truly satisfying win, you need a mix of positivity and excitement.
In 2013, the Detroit Lions were not good enough, plain and simple. Exit Jim Schwartz, enter Jim Caldwell. Any time you hire a new head coach, there will be plenty of optimism. Yet as we learned with Matt Patricia, early first impressions are important. Could these Lions come out of the gate and prove they belonged? The Lions were gifted with a rare Week 1 edition of “Monday Night Football,” and there was no better time for a coming out party.
The Lions stomped the Giants on prime time, and the optimism I felt in that moment was largely unmatched until this very Sunday. For all the losing that came before and after that 2014 victory, in that moment, you remembered why you watched football. You remembered why you cheered for the Detroit Lions. You remembered why you felt hopeful about the future of your team. The Giants were not a world-beater that season, nor did they have the beloved reputation on a national scale, but that didn’t matter at the time.
In all honesty, this victory over the Packers might go down as the greatest in my relatively short history as a Lions fan. Is that sad that it came in a Week 18 game with the playoffs out of reach? Perhaps. Yet on a Sunday night in the chilly confines of Lambeau Field, everything that led up to that moment felt worth it. The Lions were beat, battered, and bruised this season. With nothing to play for but the vengeance in their heart, they snuffed out the playoff dreams of a bitter rival. Hope might be a foolish thing to cling to in a league built on results, but when the Lions knelt to end the game, it sparked optimism I had not felt in nearly a decade.