For the first time since 1992, the Detroit Lions will be playing in the NFC Championship game after taking down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-23 on Sunday afternoon. The offense came alive, the defense got timely stops, and as a result, the Lions were able to clinch the franchise’s second playoff win in the last week. Below are key takeaways from Detroit’s first Divisional round win since the 1991 campaign.
Lions Advance To NFC Championship
Won The Turnover Battle
The Lions were able to get consistent pressure on Buccaneers’ quarterback Baker Mayfield all afternoon, forcing him into difficult throws that resulted in two interceptions.
On Tampa Bay’s first drive, Detroit safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson backed up his trash talk from earlier in the week, intercepting Mayfield in Buccaneers territory that led to a Lions field goal. In the final quarter, the Lions’ defense came up with the biggest play of the season when linebacker Derrick Barnes recorded his first career interception to seal the game for Detroit and ensure they’d be playing next week. Quarterback Jared Goff and the rest of the Lions’ offense played a clean game and for the second consecutive week finished with zero turnovers. Goff threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and in the fourth quarter completed 92% of his passes en route to a historic victory.
Frank Ragnow’s Toughness
One of the longest-tenured Lions and All-Pro center Frank Ragnow got rolled up on in the first half on a play where Goff was sacked, but that wasn’t going to prevent him from playing with a trip to the NFC Championship on the line.
Not only did Ragnow play through the pain of the knee injury he suffered, but he came up big for the Lions, notably on Craig Reynolds‘s one-yard touchdown run on fourth down late in the third quarter. Ragnow took on Tampa Bay’s Vita Vea, pushing the 350-pound Pro Bowl defensive tackle back as Reynolds ran through the hole to put the Lions ahead.
The Lions’ offensive line was already thin with left guard Jonah Jackson suffering a knee injury, but Ragnow stuck it out. The Arkansas product has dealt with several injuries this season, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher player across the NFL who continues to show up week in and week out for his team.
Dan Campbell’s Anniversary
On January 21st, 2021, the Lions introduced Dan Campbell as the franchise’s next head coach. Exactly three years later, Campbell led Detroit to its first conference championship appearance in 32 years.
Of course, everyone’s heard Campbell’s famous “knee cap” speech from that day in 2021. He was heavily criticized and left many people wondering who exactly Detroit hired. The team started slow under its new head coach; Detroit won three games in Campbell’s first season and started 1-6 in the 2022 campaign. Since then, the Lions have won 20 of their last 27 regular season games. This season, they captured their first division title in 30 years. In the last week, Detroit’s won more playoff games than they did in the previous 67 years. With a win next weekend, they’ll appear in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. Campbell, general manager Brad Holmes, and the rest of the front office have done an incredible job in turning the franchise around in just three short years.
Detroit will be on the road next week, heading out west to take on the San Francisco 49ers in what will be one of the team’s most challenging tests this season. There’s much at stake, more than there ever has been for this organization. But one thing’s for sure: Campbell will have his team ready to play, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
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