Defense: 3.5/5 stars
The game script was not too dissimilar from the Week 16 game against the Vikings. Detroit got a lead, which forced the Vikings to throw more. The Lions then struggled to contain Justin Jefferson, and Nick Mullens was able to put up a lot of passing yards.
However, they also sacked Mullens, and picked him off twice to close out the win.
The only difference this week is they never let the Vikings have a chance to tie or win the game. The defense stepped up before that was even a possibility.
Defensive player of the game: DE Aidan Hutchinson
Back-to-back games now in which Hutchinson put on a show. Add another pair of sacks and a monster tackle for loss to his impressive season. The second-year product out of Michigan ends his sophomore campaign with 11.5 sacks after racking up five in the final two games. Based on the amount of pressures he generated this season and a multi-game sack drought, 11.5 truly feels low for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 draft.
A very quiet end to the season for Jahmyr Gibbs. The rookie running back had a chance to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards on the season. Unfortunately, he delivered a rare dud of a game as the Vikings clamped down to defend the run. He did however get in the end zone, reaching double-digit touchdowns on the ground and 11 total on the year.
Jack Campbell had a much more poised and confident-looking performance. He seemed to slow down a bit which helped with the issues of over-pursuing. He also had a couple of really effective reps as a blitzer from the linebacker position, including one that was an easy sack.
Playing the starters was always going to happen. The Lions still had an outside chance at the second seed in the NFC, and Dan Campbell wants his players to stay sharp. Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario happened, as Sam LaPorta went down with a knee injury that could be serious. Hopefully, he’s good to go for the playoffs, but there’s a chance he’s not. On a lighter note, LaPorta did break the single-season record for receptions by a rookie tight end on his 10th touchdown reception of the year
Brian Branch also had a little injury scare on Sunday. He left the game briefly due to a wrist injury, but he returned to action. However, don’t be surprised if he misses some practice time this week. As for his play in the field, he got dinged for a questionable holding call. He did not have his best day, as he was tasked with covering Jefferson a couple of times and got beat by the Vikings’ superstar.
Needs improvement: Defending the opposing team's top wide receiver
In the last three weeks, the Lions have faced Justin Jefferson twice with Ceedee Lamb in between. In those three games that duo has racked up 31 receptions, 560 yards, and 3 touchdowns. That’s an average of 10.3 receptions, 186 yards, and a score per game. That is very bad for a secondary that has a lot of questions facing it as the Lions head into the postseason.
No matter who the Lions face in the playoffs, that issue needs to get fixed.
Play of the game: Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 70-yard touchdown reception
Throughout his very young career, Amon-Ra St. Brown has not exactly been known for his big-play ability as a downfield threat. But it is something he has wanted to improve on. A couple of plays after being banged up, he returned to the field and opened the fourth quarter with a bang.