Days removed from the Detroit Lions win over the Green Bay Packers, there is still a buzz in the Michigan air.
The 2022-23 Lions ended the season with a memorable performance that will live with their fans for ages.
Detroit exorcised a lot of past demons during the win, perhaps signaling that this franchise is finally starting to turn things around under Dan Campbell.
The win also may have foreshadowed a changing of the guard in the NFC North, a division the Packers have won eight times since 2011.
Here’s a look at five things that have doomed the Lions in the past that they managed to overcome in Sunday’s win. Will it start a new era in Lions’ history?
The Detroit Lions may have ended Aaron Rodgers’ career
If it feels like Aaron Rodgers has been tormenting the Detroit Lions for a lifetime, it’s because he has.
Drafted in 2005, Rodgers took over the starting quarterback job in Green Bay starting in 2008.
Among the hundreds of touchdown passes in his career, many were against the Lions. He was 18-7 against Detroit coming into Week 18.
At times it felt like Rodgers had single-handedly ruined Detroit’s franchise.
On Sunday, the Lions may have sent Rodgers into the sunset once and for all, in Green Bay at least.
Rodgers was 17 of 27 passing for 205 yards. While he still showed some of that deep-ball magic he’s had against the Lions, he wasn’t at his best.
Detroit hit Rodgers on seven different occasions, while rookie Aidan Hutchinson sacked him twice.
What Lions fans will be sure to remember is that Rodgers’ final throw of the game was an interception. Rookie safety Kerby Joseph picked off Rodgers for the third time this season. That’s something only one other player (Brian Urlacher) has done in their career.
For the guy that said you can’t lose to “that team,” Rodgers’ career may have been ended by them. He somberly left the field after the loss, embraced by longtime teammate Randall Cobb, perhaps signaling the end of his time in Green Bay. Maybe even his time in the NFL.
Dan Campbell led the Lions to a win at Lambeau Field
While Rodgers has had plenty of lore against the Lions, Lambeau Field had even more.
It didn’t matter who was quarterback for Green Bay at home, it usually meant a win. Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Don Majkowski … Matt Flynn (sorry Seattle).
Detroit was just 27-62-4 in road games at Green Bay coming into last Sunday’s contest. They, at one point, lost 24 consecutive games at Lambeau Field.
Prior to the second half of the season, just road games were an issue. Campbell had failed to win his first 12 road games as Lions head coach.
Still, the Lions battled the cold and played with the ‘grit’ that Campbell has said his team would when he was first introduced as coach.
It didn’t hurt that the Lions had a nice contingent of fans make the trip and help push them to a memorable victory.
The Detroit Lions won on Sunday Night Football
One of the big narratives heading into Week 18 was that the ‘Same Old Lions’ would appear when the lights were bright.
Playing on national television in a primetime game is different than the 1 p.m. slate the Lions had been accustomed to all season.
National pundits and tormented Lions fans expected the scene to be too big for both the Lions and Campbell. The franchise was just 1-6 in NBC Sunday Night Football games and had a pair of playoff losses that were NBC Saturday night games.
Instead, the Lions stayed consistent and went about their business all the same. They fell behind early and never panicked. They took a lead that they lost and still didn’t panic.
When the game was on the line, facing 4th and 1 at the Green Bay 15-yard line, Detroit remained poised. Jared Goff made a quick and accurate throw to D.J. Chark for a first down to seal the game and let the national audience know the Lions were changing the narrative.
Lions overcame backbreaking penalties
Talk to any Lions fan and they can list a litany of penalties and calls that have held back the franchise over the past 30 years.
Just to name a few:
- The process
- The picked-up flag for pass interference against the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 playoffs
- Kam Chancellor batting a fumble out of the end zone in Seattle
- The phantom facemask call on Rodgers that led to the Miracle in Motor City
- Two phantom hands-to-the-face calls on Trey Flowers against Green Bay on Monday Night Football
Bad calls or missed calls have been the foundation of being a Lions fan.
The overlooked part of all those memorable moments is that the Lions still had chances to win the game and didn’t. It’s always easier to blame the refs.
On Sunday, the Lions looked like they would have that luxury again.
In the second quarter, the Lions ran a flea-flicker that resulted in a 66-yard TD pass from Goff to rookie Jameson Williams. However, a holding penalty nullified the score.
In the third quarter, Rodgers threw an interception to, you guessed it, Kerby Joseph. Joseph took the ball to the Green Bay 24-yard line. However, the play was nullified by, you guessed it, hands to the face.
Previous Lions teams, or ‘SOL teams’ would have let those penalties beat them. They would have hung their head and said “here we go again.”
But Campbell doesn’t let his team make excuses. They went about their business and found ways to make stops and score points. Again, they changed the narrative.
The Packers, not the Lions, made massive mental mistakes
Mental mistakes have plagued the Lions for years.
But Sunday, the Lions let the Packers be the ones to help beat themselves.
Green Bay made some mind-boggling decisions throughout the game that helped the Lions put points on the board.
The first came just before halftime as the Lions were lining up for a 48-yard field goal, trailing 9-3 at the time. Michael Badgley had already missed a 46-yard attempt earlier in the game.
As the teams lined up, Green Bay’s Rasul Douglas walked between the offensive and defensive lines and swiped the ball from the center.
Whistles blew and some understandable bumping took place before Douglas then took a swipe at a Lions player. That drew a 15-yard penalty, allowing Badgley to kick a much easier 33-yard field goal and make the score 9-6 at halftime.
The even dumber mistake came during the Lions’ go-ahead TD drive in the fourth quarter.
D’Andre Swift was injured during a pass reception and needed medical help. As the Lions’ medical staff attempted to make their way to Swift, one trainer had to get past Green Bay’s Quay Walker.
Walker then decided to shove the trainer in the back. The confused trainer faced Walker and actually got a shoulder shove from behind by Green Bay rookie Devonte Wyatt as well.
The refs would penalize Walker and throw him out of the game, while Detroit got the ball at the Green Bay 4-yard line. Three plays later, Jamaal Williams scored a touchdown and put the Lions up for good.
It was a sign that Campbell’s aggressive, hard-nosed style hasn’t come at the expense of discipline. A very good sign for the Lions as they head into the offseason with more momentum than they’ve had in decades.
And further proof that SOL could wind up being a thing of the past.