Detroit Lions Week 18 report card: A changing of the guard in the NFC North
By Zach Payne
Coaching Staff: 5/5 stars
As mentioned earlier, the Lions hypothetically had no reason to show up for this game. But time and time again this coaching staff proves no matter what, they are going to get the players to play with heart and play to win. Not only that, but they are going to try their best to put players in a position to succeed.
Defensively this was seen best with Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph. Hutchinson was given the opportunity to rush against the Packers’ various right tackles instead of left tackle David Bakhtiari, which proved very successful. As for Joseph, he is at his best as the deep middle safety where he can just roam the field and play as a ball hawk. In this game, he had an interception, a dropped interception, and an interception called back due to a holding call while playing as a deep safety. Aaron Glenn knows how to take talented players and put them in a position to succeed.
Offensively the story has been told all year, but Ben Johnson truly is incredible. With the game on the line just before the two-minute warning, he called one of the more whacky plays he has this season. But to his credit, it worked wonderfully and helped the Lions secure the win.
If this was his last game as offensive coordinator in Detroit, it’s been a hell of a season. Hopefully, the Lions are able to retain him another year because this offense was a ton of fun this year. And oh yeah, next year they will have a fully healthy Jameson Williams to play around with all year.
Plays of the game: Kalif Raymond’s 43-yard reception and Kerby Joseph’s interception
After a three-and-out to open the second half, the Lions started driving on their second possession in the third quarter. After the run game got them over midfield, Detroit once again lined up with both Jason Cabinda and Jamaal Williams behind Jared Goff. Only this time instead of a run, Goff faked the give to Williams and rolled out to his left. As soon as he got outside the pocket he opened up his hips and threw an absolute dart to the deep right side to Kalif Raymond.
The play not only set up a touchdown., but served as a turning point for the rest of the game. Detroit’s offense ignited and was able to pick up yards a lot more consistently after the success of this drive, highlighted by this one deep shot.
As for Joseph, at this point in the game, the Lions held a four-point lead. With around 3:30 to go in the game, the Packers faced a third-and-long. It was the biggest play of the game, so Detroit went back to a familiar play call. A variation of Cover-1 with six defenders blitzing. The pressure got home and forced Rodgers to throw deep, a throw that targeted Joseph deep down the field. For the third time this season, Rodgers learned not to test the rookie.
That was the final Packers offensive play of the game, and quite possibly the final play of Aaron Rodgers’s career. If that’s the case, that is as sweet as it gets for the Lions.
After a brutal month of October, the mood surrounding the Detroit Lions was very grim. A lot of people mentally checked out, and for good reason. But this team managed to string together the most entertaining 10-week stretch in at least half a decade to not only salvage the season but provide an unbelievable amount of hope and confidence for what the future holds for Detroit. With two high picks in the first round of this year’s draft, there are more young stars on the way to bolster an already strong roster.
A 9-8 record, finishing second in the NFC North, being the only team in the division to have a positive point differential (+26), and finishing 5-1 within the division. The Detroit Lions very well could be the favorite to win the division next season. For now, the Lions head into another offseason without a playoff berth, though it’s hard to imagine that statement will be made again a year from now.