Detroit Lions’ Jamaal Williams wins NFC Offensive Player of Week after 2-TD game

Detroit Free Press

If Sunday was Jamaal Williams’ last game as a Detroit Lions running back, he picked a heck of a way to go out.

Williams was named NFC Offensive Player of Week on Wednesday after rushing for 72 yards and scoring two second-half touchdowns to lead the Lions to a 20-16 win over his old team, the Green Bay Packers.

Williams broke Barry Sanders’ single-season franchise record for rushing touchdowns (16) in the victory and became the first Lion to top 1,000 yards on the ground since Reggie Bush in 2013.

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He finished the season with career-highs of 1,066 yards and 17 touchdowns, and the Lions (9-8) kept the Packers (8-9) out of the playoffs with the win.

“Everybody to a man, they’re excited for Jamaal,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said after the game. “I mean, they are cause he’s the ultimate team guy. He’s an energy guy. If he’s not practicing, you’ve got to sit him. You have to force him to sit down because he won’t say a word, he’ll go out there every day even if he probably shouldn’t be practicing. He’s just, that’s the way he’s wired. And he’s one of the most unselfish players that I’ve ever been around. And he is, he’s all about it for the team.”

Williams dedicated his performance to his great-grandfather, who died last week and whose funeral he missed on Saturday, and his father, who died last year.

He got emotional after the game, when he said he felt like both men were looking down on him and his performance.

“I’m just grateful to be able to be successful for them, and for myself, too cause I’ve worked so hard for this,” Williams said. “This is Year 6. Now that I think, I just look at all the years, all the offseason, all the running hills, throwing up in the offseason, OTAs, games. Even last year, just how that season was, just fighting and fighting through adversity and I see what happens when you keep fighting through adversity, blessings happen at the end of the road. So I’m just blessed, grateful and I’m just happy.”

An impending unrestricted free agent, Williams has expressed a desire to return to Detroit in 2023.

He opened this season as a complement to D’Andre Swift, but took over as the Lions’ lead back when Swift was slowed by ankle and shoulder injuries.

Swift said he hopes the Lions re-sign Williams this spring.

“(He) helps the whole team, especially with the type of guy, his energy, his work ethic and everything he’s able to accomplish this year,” Swift said. “Can’t be more proud of the guy like that. Just happy for him. He deserves everything.”

Williams is the sixth Lion to earn NFC Player of the Week honors this season, tied for the most in franchise history with the 1995 team.

Amon-Ra St. Brown was named Offensive Player of the Week after a nine-catch, 116-yard game in a win over the Washington Commanders in Week 2, rookies Kerby Joseph (in Week 9) and Aidan Hutchinson (Week 11) won NFC Defensive Player of the Week awards, and kicker Michael Badgley (Week 13) and return man Kalif Raymond (Week 15) took home NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Former Lions safety Quandre Diggs was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after his overtime interception of Baker Mayfield helped the Seattle Seahawks beat the Los Angeles Rams to clinch the NFC’s final wild card spot.

The Seahawks’ win knocked the Lions out of playoff contention after 45 minutes before the start of the Lions-Packers game. The Lions and Seahawks finished with identical records, but Seattle won the head-to-head meeting in Week 4, when Geno Smith was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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