Detroit Lions top off amazing weekend of football in the state with first win of season

Detroit Free Press

Welcome, to a perfect day for the football teams in Michigan.

The Wolverines are heading to the College Football Playoff.

Michigan State is in a New Year’s Six bowl.

And the Detroit Lions?


Didn’t see this coming.

The Lions did more than escape the infamy of being the first team to go winless in a 17-game season.

[ Lions fans anger with Dan Campbell turns to shock after win vs. Vikings ]

They did more than overcome a long list of injuries.

They did more than build a lead, melt down, lose the lead and then come back.


They pulled coach Dan Campbell out of bubbling vat of second-guessing criticism and gave him his first win, coming from behind to beat the Vikings 29-27 on the final play on Sunday afternoon in front of a bunch of empty seats — and a few stunned fans — at Ford Field.

So party on, Sparty — you are heading to Atlanta to play against Pittsburgh on Dec.30 in the Peach Bowl.

And take time to celebrate a Big Ten championship season, Wolverines — you are playing Georgia Dec. 31 in the Orange Bowl in the national semifinals.

This is as good as it gets.

How the Lions did it

Lions quarterback Jared Goff was outstanding.

Yes, outstanding.

At least for the first half.

He looked comfortable and in rhythm, completing 13 of his first 17 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. And at least one of those incompletions was a throw away and one was dropped.

The defense?

CARLOS MONARREZ: How in the world did the Lions get their first win of the season? Thank Jared Goff

It was borderline dominant.

For a half.

The Vikings drove inside the Lions’ 25-yard line twice in the first quarter, but only walked away with six points.

Because the Lions were making plays all over the field.

There was Jerry Jacobs, an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas, came flying up and made a play against Adam Thielen, ending a drive. Thielen, who came into the game with 63 receptions and 10 touchdowns, was helped off the field.

There was Charles Harris, sacking Kirk Cousins and whacking his arm, causing a fumble. The ball bounced across the field and was recovered by Okwara.

There was Amani Oruwariye fighting off a blocker and making a tackle.

There was Jacobs flying up and making a fine, solo tackle, to force a field goal.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions did little wrong.

[ Lions honor the victims of Oxford High School before Vikings game ]

The Lions had no choice but to open up their offense. They were playing without the injured D’Andre Swift, their leading rusher and second-leading receiver.

So Campbell turned to the tight ends.

Suddenly, Goff was hitting his tight ends down the field for touchdowns, building a 20-6 halftime lead.

Gave it away, but got it right back

But then, the confidence slipped.

The accuracy faded away.

And the Vikings roared back.

Maybe, you started to think, here we go again.

Maybe, you thought: My goodness, this team is gonna find a new way to lose.

Or maybe you thought: Oh my goodness, Campbell, not again. Stop doing this!

Because the moment of the game happened late in the fourth quarter.

Gambling Dan was back.

He pushed all his chips to the table.

It was fourth-and-1 from the Lions 28 as they held a two-point lead.

Instead of going power on power.

Instead of hammering the ball up the middle.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: How late Lions OL Frank Gallagher made a bigger difference on the diamond

The Lions got tricky.

Campbell called for a play-action, roll out pass.

Which fooled nobody.

Goff was sacked and fumbled and the Vikings took over in the red zone as the crowd booed.

As the crowed seemed to scream: No, freakin’ way!

Before you knew it, before you could clear your eyes, Cousins was hitting Justin Jefferson for a 3-yard touchdown. And whatever faith you had in Campbell, took another hit.

But the Lions had one last chance and confident Goff was back, moving them down field.

First down. First down. First down.

They were marching.

They got to the Vikings 11 with eight seconds left.

Goff threw incomplete.

So the entire game, this bizarre confounding mess, came down to one play.

And Goff hit Amon-Ra St. Brown for an 11-yard touchdown.

For the win.

He cradled it in the end zone and the Lions celebrated

Touchdown Lions.

It wasn’t pretty. It doesn’t absolve Campbell of some of his questionable decisions.

But a win is a win.

And it finished off a pretty amazing weekend of football around here.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Oxford star athlete Tate Myre was willing to sacrifice for others

Contact Jeff Seidel: Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to

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