Why Detroit Lions’ win over Packers in finale is way more important than No. 1 pick

Detroit Free Press

The chant erupted in Ford Field.

Let’s go, Lions!” the fans chanted deep into the fourth quarter.

The Detroit Lions were down, 30-27, in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, and the fans were into it, wanting the win.

They weren’t screaming: “No! Let’s go for the loss and get the No.1 pick!”

Heck no. They were cheering like crazy when Jared Goff hit Amon-Ra St. Brown for 28 yards. Because St. Brown is a keeper. He has a been wonderful revelation in this season of close losses. He’s somebody you can build around. You don’t tell him, “Hey, take a series off.”

Nope, you tell him to go out there and play like crazy. To try to win it.

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Sometimes, it’s better to see the forest from the trees. To see overall improvement than to worry about having the first or second pick.

Let’s go, Lions!” the fans chanted, as this team fought back.

Because these Lions didn’t give up. They didn’t roll over and play for the loss, like they could have. And there is something noble, if not encouraging in that.

The fans in Ford Field showed their appreciation, exploding with screams when Goff hit Brock Wright, getting into the red zone.

Now, there were two minutes left.

Sure, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sitting out the second half— Green Bay was already safely in the playoffs. But this was still the Packers, the No. 1 seed in the NFC. And besides, the Lions took a halftime lead while he was playing.

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So now they had first-and-10 in the red zone, and D’Andre Swift broke off a 14-yard TD run to take the lead.

I looked down at the crowd and everybody was standing, everybody was cheering.

Because it feels like something is changing here.

Under this new regime.

Under Dan Campbell.

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And if you wanted the Lions to lose, just to get the No.1 pick, well, you lost any hope of that, when CJ Moore was in the right place at the right time, picking off a pass.

And then Tracy Walker picked off another pass to secure the win with 21 seconds left.

Kneel-down time.

Lions 37, Packers 30.

Campbell took off his headset and jogged off the field after just his third win of the season.

He had plenty of reason to be proud.

His team fought like heck on Sunday.

It was fun and creative and entertaining and encouraging. We saw a punter throw a pass. And then a receiver throw a pass.

All in the first quarter.

Maybe one of the most impressive things Campbell and his staff did this season was prepare so many different players.

It seemed as if half the team was missing.

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Shoot, I think they were down to their fourth option at center by the end.

But they always looked prepared.

And give Campbell credit for that.

Now, it’s important to keep this in perspective: This game meant nothing to Green Bay. The Packers approached this game like a tune up for the playoffs. They just wanted to get in and get out with the win, hoping to prevent rust before their first-round bye.

So Aaron Jones — the Packers’ leading rusher (and second-leading receiver, with 65 catches) — sat out.

Rodgers played only the first half.

But this game meant everything to the Lions, and they held a 17-13 halftime lead.

It wasn’t just how well they were playing. It was how smart.

The Lions were able to put together a drive at the end of the second quarter that not only lead to a field goal but burned the clock and kept Rodgers on the sideline. When Tom Kennedy caught a pass over the middle with less than 15 seconds to play, he got out of bounds because the Lions didn’t have any timeouts.

That’s smart football.

One of the loudest cheers of the game came during the two-minute warning.

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The Lions played a hype video that featured Campbell vowing to turn this organization around. It was inspirational and promised better days.

The tagline: “Driven by Detroit.”

And the crowd let out a cheered. A real organic cheer.

Then, Swift came out and busted off a first down.

Clearly, most believe in Campbell. They believe in what they can see. There is a foundation here. You can see the growth in young players.

In most games, this team has had a chance, even though the talent disparity, in most situations, is massive.

Yes, they could have secured the No. 1 pick, considering the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts.

But who cares?

It’s not like there is a great quarterback lurking at the top of this draft. And besides, the Lions might end up with the same player anyway depending on if the Jaguars go offensive tackle or edge rusher.

Does this win build for next season?

No. I don’t believe a win at the end of the season will carry over into momentum for 2022. But the attitude — go for the win, play tough and do everything possible to win — just might. It’s an attitude that is starting to be ingrained in this organization.

Many of these players won’t be here next year.

But some will.

Like St. Brown.

You fight and you keep fighting.

That’s the DNA that Campbell is trying to instill in his team. That’s the culture he is trying to create.

And I say: Hallelujah.

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Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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