The Detroit Lions will not make the 2022 NFL playoffs, but that’s not the story of their season.
After an emotional rollercoaster of a game in Seattle, the Lions were knocked out of the playoffs. It happened before they began play at Lambeau Field.
While it’s unknown how many players and coaches knew on Detroits sideline, they still played and they played hard.
The Detroit Lions took down the Green Bay Packers 20-16, to knock the “Cheeseheads” out of the playoffs.
It’s their third win in-a-row against the Packers and the first time they’ve swept the season series against Green Bay, since 2018.
Unlike Lions teams of the past, there’s a new feeling in Detroit. No longer do fans have to suffer the grueling disappointment of playing for nothing halfway through the season. No longer will fans question the integrity within the Lions organization.
Yes, there’s still many things to improve on — they did start the season 1-6 — but all those games were close. “Close,” will never cut it in the NFL. There’s no such thing as a good loss, but they were at the least impactful. With a team full of young unproven talent, time was necessary. Time for players to learn schemes and grow confidence that they can hang with the big dogs.
Against Green Bay this year rookie safety Kerby Jospeh has been electric. He picked off Aaron Rodgers twice in their first meeting and became the first player ever to pick him off three times in one season.
Joesph finished with five tackles an interception and a pass defend.
While Joseph played great he still can be shaky in coverage, his ball-hawking instincts are there but he is inconsistent in short-yard pass coverage. Again, he’s a rookie, much like co-defensive stud, Aidan Hutchinson.
Hutchinson had an interesting start to his season. He over pursued on the quarterback regularly and it hurt the coverage of the run and on screen plays. As the season progressed, so did his game. He began to close in gaps, became more consistent in the sack department and dropped back in coverage.
His growth was capped off by a great performance against the Packers finishing with two sacks and four tackles.
Another player who has refined their role is defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs. He’s gone on record multiple times this season expressing his gratitude for the chance he’s gotten. He was essential to stopping the run-game with seven total tackles while stuffing the holes.
Moving to the offensive side of the ball, one player who has dominated all year was Amon-Ra St. Brown. In his second year he was by-far the most targeted and used receiver on the Lions roster. He had an extremely slow start in his rookie season, then his stock rose when Ben Johnson took over play-calling duties.
He finished the game with six catches for 49 yards and was targeted in the biggest moments of the game. His growth goes hand-and-hand with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.
In his first year of play calling, Johnson was able to turn the Lions into an offensive powerhouse. His growth in year two was essential for the Lions success and practically changed the outlook on Jared Goff from negative to positive overnight.
Keeping with coaching, second year head coach Dan Campbell made the jump. It was a steep hill to climb and Campbell had the team completely bought in. For the first time in years there’s total trust in the head coach. While he struggled with clock management and decision making early in the season, he tightened it up and made risky plays look like a new was to play football.
The decision to allow as many crafty and tricky plays takes a lot of trust in your players. Trust is key for a successful franchise and for team chemistry. Campbell has spearheaded the change in Lions football and the players who make it happen are in his corner.
Young players, veterans and coaches alike have shown tremendous growth and perseverance this season.
The Detroit Lions season is over, but the hope looms large. Hope for future success and hope for winning playoff football.
Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch – USA TODAY Sports
Photo Edit: Noah Wulbrecht – Woodward Sports