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March 1, 2024

Lions End Playoff Drought, Clinch NFC North for First Time in 30 Years

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Dec 25, 2023

The Detroit Lions have finally ended decades of futility, defeating the Minnesota Vikings 30-24 on Christmas Eve to clinch their first NFC North division title since 1993. After going through most of the 2000s and 2010s as one of the NFL’s laughingstocks with just three playoff appearances in 20 years, the Lions are headed back to the postseason under second-year coach Dan Campbell.

Lions Build Lead, Withstand Late Rally from Vikings

The Lions set the tone early, forcing a three-and-out on the opening Vikings drive and then marching down the field for an opening touchdown – a 4-yard pass from Jared Goff to Brock Wright. Detroit would extend the lead to 14-0 in the second quarter on an incredible one-handed touchdown catch by former Pro Bowl receiver DJ Chark.

The Vikings began to rally late in the first half with a Nick Mullens touchdown pass, cutting the Lions lead to 17-7. But Detroit responded right away, as running back Jamaal Williams pounded in his league-leading 16th touchdown of the season to make it 24-7 Lions at the half.

Minnesota kept chipping away in the second half, but the Lions always had an answer to maintain a multi-score cushion. The Vikings closed to within 30-24 with 3:30 remaining on a Justin Jefferson touchdown grab, giving them one last chance to drive for the tying score. However, safety DeShon Elliott sealed the division-clinching win with an interception of Mullens in the final minute.

Key Stats

Stat Lions Vikings
Total Yards 398 395
Turnovers 0 2
Time of Possession 36:47 23:13

Detroit Snaps NFL’s Longest Active Playoff Drought

The Lions’ playoff drought was the longest active one across the league, with Detroit last qualifying for the postseason in 2016 as a wild card team under former coach Jim Caldwell. But new general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Campbell have quickly rebuilt the roster through stellar drafting, while maintaining a much-improved culture that clearly has Detroit playing inspired football.

There were certainly doubts that the pair could lead an effective rebuild when first hired after the 2020 season. The Lions went just 3-13-1 last year in Campbell’s first season at the helm. But they now have undergone a worst-to-first turnaround in the NFC North in Year 2 thanks to elite play on both sides of the ball.

Second-year players like offensive lineman Penei Sewell, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson have developed into Pro Bowl-caliber talents that make up the foundation of this rising squad. Detroit is now set up for sustainable success rather than the quick fixes and rebuilds that defined its 2000s and 2010s.

Last Lions Postseason Appearance

Year Playoff Result Season Result
2016 Lost NFC Wild Card at Seattle Seahawks 26-6 9-7 Record, 2nd Place NFC North

Division Title Caps Incredible One-Year Turnaround

The Lions already made significant progress with their nine-win playoff push last season that just fell short. But jumping all the way to division champions in one year with a chance for the NFC’s No. 1 seed shows just how quickly Holmes and Campbell have engineered this turnaround.

After starting 1-6, Detroit has gone 8-2 over its last 10 games since acquiring tight end T.J. Hockenson at the trade deadline. An improved defense and the emergence of backups like WR Josh Reynolds, CB Will Harris and RB Justin Jackson has complemented stars like St. Brown, Hutchinson and Sewell perfectly during this sizzling stretch.

Detroit entered the day tied for first place with Green Bay, but needed to beat Minnesota and get some help. The Packers fell to Miami, while Kirk Cousins and other key injuries left the Vikings vulnerable. Still, the Lions had to go on the road and beat a division rival to lock up the crown – and they answered the bell in impressive fashion.

This young squad has clearly established the right identity under Campbell with its mix of smash-mouth offense and aggressive defense. After finally getting over the hump Sunday despite key injuries of their own, the sky appears to be the limit for these Lions with at least one home playoff game on tap.

What This Means for the Lions’ Playoff Position

By taking care of business versus Minnesota, the Lions have not only clinched the NFC North but also currently hold the No. 2 seed in the conference standings. That means they would earn a coveted first-round playoff bye if current standings hold entering Week 18.

Detroit is now set to host at least one home playoff game at Ford Field. But its final regular season matchup against division rival Packers with Aaron Rodgers now looms enormously, with major seeding ramifications in the balance.

Here is what is at stake for the Lions in Week 18:

  • A win over Green Bay would clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed and homefield advantage.
  • A loss drops Detroit to the No. 2 seed, forcing to play on Wild Card weekend.
  • With a win and some help, Lions could still earn first-round bye even with loss.

Riding a five-game win streak, Detroit is firing on all cylinders entering this epic NFC North showdown with the Packers. After finally snapping their division title drought, the Lions have a chance to keep this storybook season rolling all the way to Super Bowl contention on their home turf.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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