June 16, 2024
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The Detroit Lions dream playoff run got here to a heartbreaking finish by the hands of the San Francisco 49ers Sunday within the NFC Championship Sport, ending a season that shall be remembered by these in Detroit for years to return.

The Lions opened the 2023 NFL season with a Thursday night time showcase in opposition to the defending Tremendous Bowl champion Kansas Metropolis Chiefs and practically closed out the NFL season the identical manner, with all eyes on the Lions and the Chiefs, this time for the Tremendous Bowl. 

The Chiefs will play in that recreation as soon as once more after dispatching the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s AFC Championship Sport, whereas the Lions will watch from residence after their second-half collapse in San Francisco. 

However earlier than the heartbreak of the NFC Championship, the Lions gave their followers motive for hope within the season’s opening week, going into Kansas Metropolis and beating the defending champions 21-20.

“I didn’t be taught something,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell would say after the opening night time victory. “I bought verification on what I already knew.”


Head coach Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions reacts through the NFC Championship Sport in opposition to the San Francisco 49ers at Levis Stadium on Jan. 28, 2024, in Santa Clara, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Pictures)

That opening night time recreation fueled a rising optimism in Detroit that the Lions, who had not made the playoffs since 2016, had been on a path totally different from the “standard Lions” of years previous. Coming off the excessive of profitable eight of their final 10 video games in 2022, narrowly lacking the playoffs with a 9-8 file, Lions quarterback Jared Goff outplayed Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and introduced that the 2023 Lions could be totally different.

Regardless of struggling an extra time loss to the Seattle Seahawks of their residence opener the subsequent week, the Lions would rapidly make good on that optimism by rattling off 4 straight wins and racing out to a lead within the NFC North, a division that they had by no means received.

However that optimism was examined after an embarrassing street loss by the hands of the Ravens in Week 7, who jumped out to a fast 28-0 earlier than halftime and by no means appeared again en path to a 38-6 win.

“They kicked our a–,” Campbell would say after the Ravens recreation. “No person thinks that’s enjoyable, however I do know that motivates me for subsequent week, it motivates our crew. I do know you’ll do any and all the things you cannot to have that feeling once more, in order that’s all I imply by that.”

The Lions wouldn’t have that feeling once more for one more 4 weeks, which noticed the crew rebound from the blowout loss and begin a streak of three consecutive wins, together with an exhilarating shootout victory in Los Angeles in opposition to the Chargers in Week 10. The win streak got here to an finish by the hands of the rival Inexperienced Bay Packers in Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day recreation, a stretch that might see the Lions drop two of three video games after they suffered one other double-digit defeat by the hands of the Chicago Bears in week 14.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff leaves the field

Jared Goff of the Detroit Lions celebrates as he walks off the sector after beating the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Nov. 12, 2023, in Inglewood, California. (Harry How/Getty Pictures)


The mini-skid raised doubts that the Lions may end the job and win their first division championship since 1993, however Detroit would rapidly ease such fears with a convincing residence blowout win over the Denver Broncos in Week 15. A street win in opposition to the rival Minnesota Vikings the subsequent week clinched the Lions’ first-ever NFC North crown and assured the first-ever residence playoff recreation at Ford Discipline, the place the Lions started play in 2002.

Week 17 introduced a essential street check with seeding on the road in opposition to the Dallas Cowboys, a recreation that resulted in controversy after officers claimed that Lions offensive deal with Taylor Decker had not reported eligible earlier than catching a possible game-winning two-point conversion move within the recreation’s last minute. Replays after the sport of Decker having a dialog with the officers seemingly advised a unique story, although it was too late to forestall the season’s most stinging defeat.

Lions successful 2 point try

Detroit Lions offensive deal with Taylor Decker catches a move for a two-point try ultimately zone through the Dallas Cowboys recreation on Dec. 30, 2023, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire through Getty Pictures)

Regardless of the controversial loss, the Lions closed out the season with one other win in opposition to the Vikings and completed 12-5, the primary 12-win season for the franchise since 1991.

The Lions storybook season grew to become much more surreal the subsequent week of their first residence playoff recreation in a long time, when Detroit welcomed again former franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, who would try to finish his former crew’s dream season as an opponent taking part in for the Los Angeles Rams. However Goff, the opposite centerpiece of the commerce that additionally noticed a number of draft picks head to Detroit, would shine in opposition to his former crew, finishing 22 of 27 passes for 277 yards and a rating because the Lions secured a slim 24-23 victory, their first playoff win since 1991.

A Packers upset of the Cowboys in one of many different NFC wild-card video games meant Detroit would get one more alternative to host a playoff recreation within the divisional spherical, a possibility the Lions would make good on with a 31-23 victory over Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


Lions touchdown pass

Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Lions catches a move for a landing in entrance of Zyon McCollum of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through the NFC Divisional Playoff recreation at Ford Discipline on Jan. 21, 2024, in Detroit.

The Lions carried that momentum into San Francisco Sunday, racing out to a 24-7 first-half lead earlier than a sequence of mishaps by the Lions and large performs by the 49ers despatched the NFC’s primary seed to the Tremendous Bowl and upstart Detroit packing their baggage after a historic run.

Alongside the way in which, the Lions benefited from sturdy offensive line play, noticed Goff enter the MVP race, acquired sterling first-team All-Professional seasons by large receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and offensive deal with Penei Sewell, and witnessed the promising rookie seasons of draft picks resembling working again Jahmyr Gibbs, linebacker Jack Campbell, tight finish Sam LaPorta, and security Brian Department.

The crew will now stay up for 2024 and the holes that must be crammed to provide the Lions one more shot at a Tremendous Bowl run subsequent yr. However the 2023 Lions shall be savored for years, and Campbell is aware of there are not any ensures at second possibilities in soccer.


“I advised these guys, this may increasingly have been our solely shot,” Campbell advised reporters after Sunday’s crushing defeat. “Do I feel that? No. Do I consider that? No. Nevertheless, I understand how arduous it’s to get right here. I’m properly conscious. And it’s gonna be twice as arduous to get again so far subsequent yr than it was this yr. That’s the truth. And if we don’t have the identical starvation and the identical work – which is an entire ‘nother factor as soon as we get to the offseason – then we bought no shot of getting again right here.”