On Sunday, The Detroit Lions hosted a playoff game at Ford Field for the first time in franchise history. Their opponent in the historic game was the Los Angeles Rams, led by former Lions quarterback, Matthew Stafford. The storylines wrote themselves all week long as it was more than just Stafford's return to Detroit. The was also the Lions’ current quarterback Jared Goff with a chance at revenge against his former team, the Lions trying to end a playoff drought, and more.
On Sunday, the storylines and talk went out the window and actual football was played on the field. Hardly anything can match the intensity or enormity of games in the NFL playoffs. This one came down to the wire, ending in a one-point victory for Detroit. What began as a shootout of teams trading scores in a close game, transitioned to a defensive battle in the second half with only nine points scored by both teams combined.
Check out my winners and losers in the NFC Wild Card victory against the Rams.
Heading into this week, everyone talked about how Goff wanted to get revenge against his former team, but he wasn’t the only former Ram on the Lions team: wide receiver Josh Reynolds was also on the Rams from 2017-2020. He didn’t get a second contract with the Rams and signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2021. After Reynolds was cut by the Titans, the Lions picked him up and here we are.
Reynolds had a great game with five catches for 80 yards. Reynolds made multiple big catches in big situations and helped the offense move the chains when they needed it. This game was a chance for him to show the team that drafted him that they should have given him a second contract. Now he gets the last laugh as the Lions move on in the playoffs.
Outside of one play where he made a mistake, Goff was dealing the football with ease all night long. He was comfortable and looked determined to help his team win the game. Goff finished the game 22-for-27 for 277 yards and a touchdown through the air. He needed to have a big game and avoid mistakes, and for the most part he did just that.
With the game on the line at the two-minute warning, the Lions could have simply run the football to drain the clock. Instead, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said let's trust our quarterback and Goff delivered a dart to wide receiver Amon Ra St. Brown for a 10-yard completion and the game-sealing first down at the end of the game.
Goff got his revenge against his former team and brought Detroit its first playoff win since 1991. Goff has played well this season. With a contract extension decision coming up, this performance just adds to the reasons for that extension to happen sooner rather than later.
Coming in banged up, tight end Sam LaPorta got the start and did well in the time he played. The second-team All-Pro rookie wore a brace on his knee, but that didn’t slow him down. He finished the game with three catches for 14 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was a big play as the Lions were up by four but faced fourth down inside the five. Dan Campbell gambled and it paid off with a score by LaPorta.
When LaPorta went down against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 18, it was feared he would miss some time. He didn’t play as much as he normally would, but that was expected and understood. He did well for the time he was asked to and he scored the last touchdown the Lions were able to get in the game.
The kicking game has been questionable all season long, no matter who has been listed as the starter. Michael Badgley was asked to make a big kick in this game from 54 yards out. When the Lions needed him the most, he stepped up and made the kick. He also made all of his extra points as well. With the game being a one-point victory, every point mattered, and that big field goal made the difference in the end.
The City of Detroit
This town has waited since 1992 to host another playoff win and after over 30 years, the playoff drought is finally over. The fans showed up to Ford Field and made it LOUD. This city was backing up the team all week, and they showed up and supported them in a way they never had before. The best part is? They get to do it again next week as the Lions get to host a divisional playoff game next week!
It was expected to be a high-scoring game with the Rams throwing the ball with ease and they did that for the most part. Cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Kindle Vildor suffered in one-on-one coverage with Sutton getting beat by Rams wide receiver Puca Nacua and Vildor beaten by Tutu Atwell. Sutton losing to Nacua is understandable as Nacua is having a fantastic rookie season, but it’s still not an excuse for the poor play.
Vildor was complaining about the officials not calling for offensive pass interference on the play where he allowed Atwell to score. If Vildor doesn’t put his hands up and complain in the middle of the play, he might be able to at least force an incompletion on the play instead of allowing a touchdown.
Overall, the secondary allowed Stafford to go 25-for-36 for 367 yards and two touchdowns. The secondary has been picked aparty by teams with great wide receivers: by Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, and now Stafford. Next week, the Lions will either take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their dynamic duo of wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, or the Philadelphia Eagles with AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith. Either option will be tough, but with the Eagles having a better quarterback in Jalen Hurts, the Bucs are the easier option.
It wouldn’t be a Lions playoff game if the officials didn’t miss a big call now would it? The officials were calling penalties fairly until a fourth-and-five with less than two minutes left in the second quarter and the Rams clearly jumped offsides. The refs threw the flag and instead of offsides, it was called false start on Lions left tackle Taylor Decker. The replay showed it was not a false start by Decker and it was a clear missed call by the refs.
The NFL would be a better product if the officials were able to make clear penalties with 100% accuracy. Flags like pass interference, roughing the passer, and running into the kicker are hard to judge at times, but false starts and offsides are the easiest penalties to call as an official, missing those should not be possible.