It took a split-second for the ball to travel from Jared Goff’s right hand to Amon-Ra St. Brown’s chest, but it felt like forever.
St. Brown, the Detroit Lions‘ rookie receiver, capped a career day by catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Goff as time expired Sunday to give the Lions their first win of the season, 29-27, over the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field.
“As I broke in, I was wide open, actually,” St. Brown said. “I was like no way. So I was looking at Jared, I was like, ‘Oh, please just throw it.’ And the ball was in the air, I was like, ‘This can’t take any longer.’ Cause I know the (defensive back is) coming from behind, so I was just sitting there waiting, cause I couldn’t really attack it. I didn’t want to get back into the field of play, I wanted to stay in the end zone.”
St. Brown said Sunday’s touchdown — the first of his career — came on a play the Lions have repped every Friday in practice since training camp.
Three weeks ago, the Lions moved St. Brown to the far outside position in a three-receiver stack to the left of scrimmage.
He said coaches constantly remind players to “make sure you’re in the end zone when you catch the ball” in an end-of-game situation, and on Sunday he had plenty of cushion to do so from Vikings defensive backs Cameron Dantzler and Xavier Woods.
“He’s a stud,” Goff said. “He’s a stud and will be a stud for as long as he wants to be in this league. He’s been on our mind and I’m sure Dan (Campbell) would say it, too, of trying to get him the ball for the last probably six weeks now. I think today it showed up, just trying to get him involved and get him the ball in space and what he can do in space. … He’s a freak and he did some things.”
St. Brown finished with 10 catches for 86 yards Sunday. He hurdled a defender to get to the sideline while the Lions were trying to conserve clock late in the first half, and he had four catches for 37 yards on the game’s final drive, including a touchdown grab he said he will never forget.
“My first NFL touchdown, first NFL win, I’m going to remember this day for a long time.” St. Brown said. “The way it happened, the way it unfolded was — I mean it was just — it couldn’t be any better.”
The Lions stopped the Vikings on all three of their two-point conversion attempts Sunday. Had the Vikings converted one, the Lions would have needed an extra point after St. Brown’s touchdown to win.
Had Minnesota kicked PATs after all three of its second-half scores, the Lions would have needed the extra point to force overtime, or been forced to go for their own two-point attempt for the win.
“They weren’t very good, I didn’t think,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of his team’s two-point tries. “We tried to run it and smash it down their throats from the 1-yard line. Then we tried to hand the ball off to Kene (Nwangwu). So those weren’t the best.”
Alex Anzalone stopped Nwangwu on an inside handoff on the Vikings’ first two-point attempt, and Derrick Barnes tackled Alexander Mattison short of the goal line on the second. On the third, after Minnesota took a 27-23 lead with 1:50 to play, Kirk Cousins threw incomplete toward a mass of players.
Campbell said Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn “had a good beat on what” the Vikings were trying to do.
“We were prepared,” he said. “Our guys did a good job. You can’t prepare them for every look you’re going to get, you just have to play the odds by personnel and looks that you get and hope that they play their roles. And they did a good job today. We did and it made a difference.”