The Detroit Lions, with their sights set on a coveted 2nd seed in the NFC playoffs, knew that their fate in Week 18 hinged on more than just their own performance. While they needed a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in their 1:00 PM game, their playoff positioning also depended on the outcomes of the Eagles and Cowboys’ 4:25 PM games. Undeterred by these external factors, the Lions took to Ford Field, determined to end their regular season with a statement win.
They delivered a commanding performance, dominating from the outset and maintaining a steady lead against the persistent Vikings. Bolstered by the return of key veterans, the Lions showcased a blend of tenacious defense and dynamic offense, wrapping up their regular season with a 12-5 record and setting a spirited tone for the upcoming playoffs.
1st Quarter: Detroit Lions Offense Takes Charge with Commanding Start
The opening quarter of the game saw the Detroit Lions quickly shake off a lukewarm start. Despite an initial three-and-out, the Lions rapidly regained their footing. Punter Jack Fox’s impressive 61-yard punt pushed the Vikings deep into their territory, setting the stage for a Lions’ defensive stand that forced Minnesota to punt after a brief advance.
Amid the on-field action, a moment of levity arose. Dan Skipper’s check-in and subsequent declaration as an eligible receiver drew roaring laughter from the Ford Field crowd, a playful nod to a controversial call in the previous week’s game against the Cowboys.
Refocused and determined, the Lions’ offense then hit its stride. Quarterback Jared Goff connected with wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for successive gains of 34 and 13 yards. The drive culminated in a historic moment as rookie tight end Sam LaPorta made an impactful 2-yard touchdown reception. It set a franchise rookie record for tight ends. This achievement not only highlighted LaPorta’s growing stardom, but also put the Lions ahead 7-0.
The Lions’ defense, not to be outdone, continued to apply pressure. Linebacker Jack Campbell sacked Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens, leading to another quick turnover. Capitalizing on this momentum, the Lions’ offense orchestrated another impressive drive. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond’s remarkable 41-yard catch brought the team tantalizingly close to the end zone. Although ruled out at the three-yard line, the stage was set for running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who powered through for a three-yard rushing touchdown. A subsequent missed extra point by Michael Badgley brought the score to 13-0.
2nd Quarter: Vikings Narrow Gap, Lions’ Defense Stands Tall
As the second quarter unfolded, the Minnesota Vikings began to claw back into the game. They marked their first score with a 39-yard field goal from kicker Greg Joseph, trimming the Lions’ lead to 13-3 with just over nine minutes left in the half.
Though the Lions’ offense continued to advance the ball with relative ease, their efforts to reach the end zone were thwarted. Punter Jack Fox contributed significantly during this quarter, delivering two more exceptional punts that kept the Vikings at bay.
Defensively, the Lions shone brightly, particularly through the efforts of defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson, already having a Pro Bowl season, took control in the quarter with two crucial sacks in the game. His impact didn’t end there; he also recorded a significant tackle for loss, dragging down Vikings’ star wide receiver Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard loss on an end-around play. This defensive dominance was not a solo act, as rookie linebacker Jack Campbell also stood out. His first-half performance was nothing short of stellar, tallying seven tackles, one sack, a quarterback hit, and a tackle for loss.
As the quarter neared its conclusion, the Vikings managed to add another field goal to their tally. Greg Joseph successfully connected from 43 yards out as time expired, bringing the score to 13-6.
3rd Quarter: Intense Competition as Lions and Vikings Exchange Offensive Strikes
The third quarter of the game showcased a spirited exchange between the Lions and the Vikings. The Lions, reenergized and focused, initiated the quarter with a defensive stand, halting the Vikings’ first drive with a critical turnover on downs.
With momentum on their side, the Lions’ offense seized the opportunity. Quarterback Jared Goff immediately connected with his go-to receiver, Amon-Ra St. Brown. He maintained the offensive rhythm by finding wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones for two successive plays, covering a total of 25 yards. Adding a twist to the drive, Goff completed a 4-yard pass to offensive lineman Dan Skipper, who had reported as an eligible receiver, showcasing the Lions’ creative play-calling and referee trolling. Goff’s attempts to connect with receiver Josh Reynolds for a potential touchdown bonus fell short, but the drive remained productive. Running back David Montgomery capped the effort with a 1-yard touchdown run, extending the Lions’ lead to 20-6.
As the quarter progressed, the Vikings found their rhythm offensively. Quarterback Nick Mullens orchestrated a pivotal drive, completing a 9-yard pass to star receiver Justin Jefferson on a crucial third down. Not settling there, Mullens targeted Jefferson again on a fourth-and-one situation, connecting for a dramatic 38-yard touchdown catch. This score closed the gap in the Lions’ lead, bringing the game to a more competitive 20-13 as the quarter drew to a close.
4th Quarter: Detroit Lions Seal Victory
In a dramatic final quarter, the Detroit Lions sealed their victory with a series of decisive plays. The quarter began when quarterback Jared Goff connected with Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown, showcasing his agility and speed, scampered 70 yards for a breathtaking touchdown, extending the Lions’ lead to a more comfortable 27-13.
The Minnesota Vikings responded resiliently. Quarterback Nick Mullens tossed a precise 42-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Addison, cutting down the left side of the field. This pivotal play narrowed the Lions’ lead to a mere seven points, with the score at 27-20.
Not to be outdone, on the ensuing drive, running back David Montgomery surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season, an impressive feat in his first season with the Lions. Goff, maintaining his efficiency, targeted key receivers including St. Brown and tight end James Mitchell, who made a remarkable catch. Despite these efforts, the Lions were unable to secure a touchdown and opted for a field goal. Kicker Michael Badgley delivered with a successful boot from 39 yards out, extending the Lions’ lead to 30-20.
The Lions’ defense then stepped up to further cement the team’s lead. Defensive back Cam Sutton intercepted a pass from Mullens, regaining possession for the Lions and allowing them to start running down the clock. As the Vikings attempted a comeback, the Lions’ defense delivered yet another blow. C.J. “Ceedy Duce” Gardner-Johnson, in his first game back from a pectoral injury, intercepted Mullens’ pass for his first interception of the year.
In the closing moments, the Lions’ offense expertly managed the clock, denying the Vikings any further scoring opportunities. The game concluded with a well-deserved 30-20 victory for the Lions in front of an elated home crowd at Ford Field.
Marching Towards the Playoffs: A Historic Season for the Detroit Lions
As the regular season curtain falls, the Detroit Lions have etched their name in history with remarkable achievements. Their emphatic win propels them to an impressive 12-5 record and a commendable 4-2 record in the NFC North. This season marks the Lions’ first division title in three decades, a milestone that resonates with both the team and its passionate fan base.
The Lions now turn their gaze to the playoffs, with anticipation building around their playoff seeding. One thing, however, is already set in stone. Ford Field will host its first playoff game, a moment Lions fans have eagerly awaited.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © David Rodriguez Munoz – USA TODAY NETWORK