It has been a long time coming for the Detroit Lions.
After decades of frustration, disappointment, and heartbreak, the Lions have emerged victorious in the playoffs. Heartrates were certainly elevated against the Los Angeles Rams. The Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes era of Lions football has already been recognized as one of the most successful tenures in franchise history, which is both impressive to what they have built and a statement towards how poor it has been.
For all the fans in attendance or at home, for all the fans new or old, and for all the fans that have supported the Lions, this win is for you.
Let’s examine some takeaways.
THE DETROIT LIONS HAVE WON A PLAYOFF GAME
IS THIS OVERREACTING TO JUST THE WILD CARD ROUND? PERHAPS!
BUT AFTER MORE THAN 30 YEARS, THE DETROIT LIONS WON A PLAYOFF GAME.
The monkey is off their back. They won the NFC North for the first time in franchise history, but winning that elusive playoff game was just as important. And thanks to the lovely Green Bay Packers (that feels weird to write) defeating the Dallas Cowboys in upset fashion, the Lions will host the next playoff game as well. Which is crucial because...
Ford Field won the game
I do not want to take anything away from the offense or defense (for good or for bad), but this victory really comes down to Ford Field and the packed stands. This isn’t even a moral victory, the fans were genuinely key to this playoff win.
The reason? Ford Field was rocking, and it was causing havoc for the Rams offense. Due to communication issues, the Rams called the first of their second half timeouts just one-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter. The Rams would spend their second timeout with 13:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Suddenly, with the game on the line and coming down to the wire, the Rams were left with one timeout. That proved pivotal, as their comeback attempt fell short as Detroit bled the clock just enough to call game. If the Rams have their full arsenal of timeouts, the dying minutes of the game play out differently.
Detroit and Ford Field have another date with playoff destiny upcoming, and there is no doubt that the fans will come to let their presence be felt.
Josh Reynolds Revenge Game
Much of the talk this week was about the Matthew Stafford or Jared Goff revenge game, but how about Josh Reynolds? Against the team that drafted him back in 2017, Reynolds matched a season-best with 80 receiving yards on five receptions. A majority of these came in the first quarter, so it was far from a complete takeover for Reynolds, but it was still an impressive outing. A week after earning a nice incentive-based paycheck on some late-game catches, Reynolds showed his worth to this team when it mattered most.
Money Badger, game winner?
The Lions’ game-winning score was... a 54-yard field goal from Michael Badgley?
For as exciting as the Lions offense has been this season, the kicking game has been a notable weakness. Already on their second kicker of the season, the Lions were rarely attempting long distance field goals, opting instead to gamble on fourth downs. Yet when faced with a fourth-and-17 from the Rams 36, the game suddenly came down to the leg of Badgley. The Lions were not banking on it being the difference in the game, but with both offenses falling silent down the stretch, it stood.
Does this remove any doubt about his long distance capabilities for the remainder of the playoffs? Unlikely, but in a crucial moment for the franchise, he delivered. That deserves props.
Another secondary blowout
At this rate, it is becoming a weekly feature to describe how the Lions secondary was picked apart by the opposition. In this week’s edition, it was Puka Nacua totaling an absurd 181 yards on nine catches and a touchdown as Stafford’s favorite target. Cam Sutton and Kindle Vildor yet again gave up sizable gains to the likes of Nacua and Tutu Atwell.
Sure, the blame is not entirely on them—miscommunications between safeties appear far too often—but it is difficult to feel confident in the secondary going forward. The road to the Super Bowl could feature receivers like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and the Packers wide array of targets. The Lions need to do something to slow them down because whether due to execution or scheme, it is not working.
More officiating malpractice
How does this keep happening to the Lions?
Weeks after getting hosed by the officials on a miscall for the ages, the officials reared their ugly head yet again against the Lions. The Rams jumped offside on fourth-and-5, which would have granted the Lions a first down and a shot to extend their lead before halftime. Instead, the officials made the blatantly incorrect call and penalized Taylor Decker (yet again) for false start. While the Rams failed to score on the ensuing drive, it took away a scoring opportunity for the Lions.
The Lions had other more pressing issues that almost contributed to this loss, but it’s more of an annoyance that the officiating keeps pulling out questionable calls against Detroit.
LaPorta is a cyborg
The fact that Sam LaPorta even suited up for this game is impressive. Scoring a touchdown? Just par for the course for the impressive rookie. Despite being hampered by a knee injury, LaPorta looked spry, albeit with limited targets. He finished with just three catches for 14 yards, but being active in the first place is a win for him. Now that Detroit stays alive in the playoffs, he will have one more week to recover and return to top form.
John’s Turning Point: Dan Campbell accepting a holding penalty to force a fourth quarter punt
Dan Campbell has been known as a gambler, and it paid off big time against the Rams. The Lions defense had forced a stop against the Rams, setting them up for a fourth-and-4 from the Detroit 44. The score at this point was 24-23 for Detroit, meaning that a field goal—an attempt of around 53 yards—would have given Los Angeles the lead.
Yet instead of taking that fourth down attempt, Campbell accepted a holding penalty on Rams tackle Rob Havenstein. This pushed the Rams out of field goal range, but it gave them another shot on third-and-14. The Rams offense had been carving up the Lions secondary, including multiple long distance downs, but Campbell gambled on his defense holding them. And hold they did, as the Rams’ ensuing attempt went incomplete and forced a punt.
The Rams kicking game is far from a guarantee (they had signed Brett Maher on January 1), so it is very possible the 53-yard attempt would have been unsuccessful anyway. Campbell’s decision to accept the penalty eliminated the possibility of such a kick, but it also put the burden on the Lions defense. Yet on a night where the Lions secondary was gutted on a consistent basis, they came up with a stop when it mattered most. If the defense gives up a first down, Campbell undoubtedly gets criticized for the decision. Thankfully, it ended well.