Detroit Lions Week 18 report card: A changing of the guard in the NFC North

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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They didn’t make the playoffs, but the Detroit Lions were able to end the season on a high note with a 20-16 win over the Green Bay Packers. Here is our report card for the season finale.

Knowing they were eliminated from the playoffs before kickoff, the Detroit Lions had nothing to play for. That was the narrative all week long, and the fear of having them on Sunday Night Football. Maybe Green Bay Packers would cruise to a victory over a team lacking motivation. But not these Lion. Not a team led by Dan Campbell.

"We don’t want (the Packers) to go, that’s our motivation,”"

That’s what Campbell said after the first quarter to NBC’s Melissa Stark Sunday night. It’s a sentiment that rang throughout the city of Detroit. If the Lions couldn’t make the postseason, they weren’t going to let the Packers do so without putting up a fight.

Which is exactly what happened. The Lions stuck around all game, keeping things close. Then in the fourth quarter, the team found another level to close the game out. The win pushed Detroit’s record to 9-8, the first winning season for the franchise since 2017, and they eliminated the Packers from the playoffs. Aside from actually making the postseason, this was about as good an end to the year as anyone could have hoped for.

Detroit Lions Week 18 report card: Closing out the season on a high note

Rushing offense: 3/5 stars 

It was a slow burn to get the run game going Sunday night. Early on the Packers shut down pretty much every rushing attempt by the Lions. Through the first 20 or so minutes of play, the ground game was a non-option.

Eventually, the Lions broke through. In the fourth quarter, it became the driving force of the Lions’ offense. Highlighted by a 13-play drive that featured 40 yards and a touchdown on the ground which proved to be the game-winner. While it was a struggle early, the run game was good when it needed to be.

Pass offense: 3/5 stars

Jared Goff wearing gloves became a major talking point in the first half, as he was quite frankly not good through the first 30 minutes. But like the run game, the passing attack started to pick up steam in the second half. When it came down to it, the Lions were able to pass the ball when they needed to the most. Two key fourth-down conversions to DJ Chark pushed the Lions over the top.

The touchdowns through the air weren’t there, but they were close. Kalif Raymond fell just short of the end zone on a big play, and Jameson Williams had a 65-yard touchdown called back on a holding call. The narratives of Goff’s ineffectiveness in the cold won’t go away after Sunday night’s performance, but he was clutch in the second half.

Best offensive player: RB Jamaal Williams

Williams cements himself in the record books as he scored multiple rushing touchdowns on Sunday night to pass Barry Sanders for the most rushing touchdowns in a season in Detroit Lions franchise history. The second touchdown not just being a record breaker, but a game-winner against his old team.

It wasn’t just the touchdowns either, Williams finished the game with 72 yards while averaging 4.5 per carry. His play between the tackles helped the Lions’ offense sustain drives when they needed it in the fourth quarter. Consistently picking up extra yards after contact due to his physicality, which seemed to catch the Packers off guard.

Worst offensive player(s): Lions’ interior offensive line

Part of the reason the Packers were so successful against the run early on was due to the poor play of the Lions’ interior offensive line. Kenny Clark was incredibly disruptive, especially when matched up against Evan Brown.

Guard is a sneaky need for the Lions this offseason, especially considering Halapoulivaati Vaitai didn’t even suit up this season and his contract situation remains murky at best. Sunday night proved one thing. For as good as the Lions’ offensive line is, there’s still a weak link in the chain that needs to be addressed at right guard.