In front of a thunderous 66,367 fans echoing through Ford Field, the Detroit Lions achieved history: their first playoff victory in over three decades. The air was electric as the Lions’ offense, displaying a near-unstoppable rhythm, ended the season for Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams. The Lions’ defense rose to the occasion when they needed them the most, making crucial stops and compelling the Rams to settle for three field goals.

Entering the playoffs as the NFC’s three seed, the Lions (for some reason) were widely perceived as underdogs. But on Sunday night in Detroit, they emphatically silenced skeptics.

Here’s a recount of how the Lions carved out a thrilling playoff victory.

1st Quarter: Detroit Lions Off to a Roaring Start

The Detroit Lions, unfazed by losing the coin toss, immediately seized control of the game after receiving the opening kickoff. They brilliantly balanced a ground assault with Jared Goff’s precise aerial attack against the Rams secondary.

David Montgomery emerged as a standout, powering through the Rams’ defense with 24 yards on five carries, culminating in a one-yard touchdown run. Goff, in perfect harmony, completed all five of his pass attempts, adding 51 yards to the drive. This well-orchestrated drive ate up 5:30 minutes and put the Lions up 7-0 after Michael Badgley’s successful extra point.

The Rams’ subsequent drive almost ended quickly, but a controversial pass interference call on Brian Branch extended their opportunity. Matthew Stafford, the former Lion, skillfully maneuvered the ball down the field, completing 4 out of 7 passes for 40 yards. Puka Nacua, the rookie Pro Bowl receiver, was pivotal all day, grabbing 25 of those opening drive yards. The Lions’ defense, resilient as ever, intensified their pressure. Brian Branch’s critical play on 3rd and goal led to a tipped pass and near-interception, limiting the Rams to a 24-yard field goal by Brett Maher, narrowing the Lions’ lead to 7-3.

However, the Lions offense was just getting started.

Goff, determined to prove he’s the man in Detroit, drove the team downfield once again. His adept distribution of the ball, notably to Josh Reynolds and Jahmyr Gibbs, kept the Rams’ defense guessing. In a swift, under-three-minute drive, they covered 75 yards, ending with Gibbs’ 10-yard dash into the endzone. This extended their lead to 14-3 as the first quarter neared its end.

On the Rams’ ensuing play, Stafford tripped over his running back and fell prey to Detroit Lions DL Aidan Hutchinson, who snuck through for a sack. Although the Rams managed to recover with Stafford’s sharp 19-yard throw to Demarcus Robinson, the quarter closed with the Lions firmly in command, leading 14-3.

2nd Quarter: Intense Back-and-Forth Shootout

The second quarter kicked off with the Lions’ defense, particularly linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jack Campbell, making an immediate impact by halting Rams RB Kyren Williams for a loss. This early play suggested a growing momentum for the Lions, but the Rams, led by Stafford, quickly turned the tide. The Stafford-Nacua duo ignited, first with a ten-yard pass and then a stunning 50-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Lions’ lead to 14-10.

Undeterred, Detroit responded with their signature balanced offense. David Montgomery’s runs and Jared Goff’s sharp passing pushed the Lions downfield. Facing a first-and-goal, the Lions attempted three running plays without success. In a bold move, Coach Dan Campbell opted to go for it on fourth down. From the shotgun, Goff found rookie tight end Sam LaPorta in the endzone with a perfect throw, extending the Lions’ lead to 21-10.

Stafford and Nacua didn’t wait long to strike back. A quick 21-yard completion was followed by a defensive holding penalty against the Lions, keeping the Rams’ drive alive. Despite a tough stance by the Lions’ defense, the Rams converted a crucial fourth down. A miscommunication in the Lions’ secondary allowed Stafford to connect with Tutu Atwell for a 38-yard touchdown, closing the gap to 21-17.

The Lions’ next drive, however, was marred by controversy. Despite successful plays, including a key first down from St. Brown, a debatable false start call on Taylor Decker stalled their momentum. This call, argued to be a mistake as it seemed triggered by the Rams’ movement, led to a Lions punt, pinning the Rams deep in their territory. The Rams ran down the clock to end the half.

As the teams headed into halftime, the score stood at 21-17.

Goff’s impressive first-half stats included 16 completions on 18 attempts for 194 yards and a touchdown, while Stafford countered with 12 completions for 196 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions’ running game, featuring Montgomery and Gibbs, proved vital, combining for 69 yards and a touchdown each. The challenge for both teams in the second half is clear: find a way to contain the opposing offense.

3rd Quarter: Defense Starts to Come Alive

As the third quarter began, the Rams initially took possession but were quickly shut down by the Lions’ defense, leading to a three-and-out and a punt. This tight defense seemed influenced by a perceived makeup call for an earlier false start against the Lions.

Capitalizing on this opportunity, the Lions swiftly moved downfield. An initial run from Jahmyr Gibbs and an incomplete pass to Josh Reynolds set the stage for a pivotal 30-yard completion from Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Lions continued their advance with further completions to St. Brown, but eventually, their drive stalled, leading to a field goal attempt. Kicker Michael Badgley lived up to his nickname of the “Money Badger” by successfully hitting a 54-yard field goal, pushing the Lions’ lead to 24-17.

Not to be outdone, the Rams, under Stafford’s leadership, orchestrated an efficient counterattack. Stafford skillfully connected with receivers Nacua and Kupp, navigating towards the end zone. However, the Lions’ defense held firm, limiting the Rams to a field goal. Brett Maher’s successful kick narrowed the Lions’ lead to 24-20.

As the quarter progressed, the Lions regained possession but faced a quick stop, resulting in a punt. Jack Fox, the Lions’ punter, delivered a 52-yard punt, pinning the Rams back at their own 10-yard line. The quarter concluded with the Lions maintaining a slim lead, setting the stage for a dramatic final quarter.

4th Quarter: A Tense Finish 

The final quarter began with the Rams in possession, meticulously driving the ball downfield over a span of nearly seven minutes. As they approached the end zone, a pivotal moment came on a third-down play: Stafford aimed for Cooper Kupp, but Lions DB Ceedy Duce’s tight coverage led to an incomplete pass. The Rams managed to narrow the gap with a 29-yard field goal by Maher, making the score a nail-biting 24-23, still in favor of the Lions.

However, the Lions’ subsequent possession was less than fruitful. The drive stalled when Goff’s third-down pass to Josh Reynolds fell incomplete, leading to a punt. Jack Fox’s impressive 60-yard punt pinned the Rams back at their own 9-yard line.

With the Ford Field crowd at its loudest, the Rams began another push. Initially, they seemed poised to continue their smooth offensive flow. But the Lions’ defense, demonstrating remarkable resilience, forced a crucial stop on a 3rd-and-14 play. The Rams had to punt, returning the ball to the Lions with just over four minutes left in the game.

Starting from their 17-yard line, the Lions began what would be the final drive of the game. Montgomery opened with a three-yard run, then, on the next play, made an impressive juke in the flats to scamper for an 11-yard gain and a first down. Goff then connected with Mr. Reliable, receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for another 11 yards, effectively clinching the first down that sealed the game.

In the closing moments, Goff led the Lions into the victory formation. He took a knee while the crowd exploded, running down the clock to secure a 24-23 victory in a thrilling finale to a historic game.

Conclusion: Lions Clinch Historic Victory at Ford Field

Quarterback Jared Goff was instrumental in this historic win, throwing for 277 yards and delivering a crucial touchdown pass to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta. David Montgomery was a force in the backfield, rushing 14 times for 57 yards and scoring a touchdown, while Jahmyr Gibbs added 25 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries, complemented by 43 receiving yards on four catches. Amon-Ra St. Brown, the first-team All-Pro wide receiver, dominated the receiving game with seven catches for 110 yards.

Looking ahead, the Detroit Lions are set to host the winner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles Wild Card matchup. This next game, scheduled for Sunday, January 21 at 3:00 PM at Ford Field, promises more excitement in what has become a historic season for the Lions. As they continue their remarkable journey, the team and its fans are united in anticipation.


For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21


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Original Photo Credit: © Eric Seals / USA TODAY NETWORK

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By Published On: January 15th, 2024Categories: Detroit Lions, NFL

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