After two up-and-down seasons to start his career, as he transitioned to being a linebacker after being an edge rusher in college at Purdue, Derrick Barnes carried a strong offseason into a prominent role in the Detroit Lions' defense this year. The coaching staff believed in him, and stuck with him, knowing it would pay off.
Barnes finished the regular season third on the team in tackles with 82, while playing 68 percent of the snaps in the 16 games he played. Other than a highlight reel for the wrong reasons play against the Dallas Cowboys, when whiffed on an chance to sack Dak Prescott for a safety and a 92-yard touchdown to CeeDee Lamb followed, Barnes had a strong season.
Barnes played 55 percent of the defensive snaps in the Wild Card Round win over the Rams, and that ramped up to 75 percent against the Buccaneers in Sunday's Divisional Round game. But it was the last snap of the game that will stick in his memory, and the memory of Lions' fans.
Lions stuck with Derrick Barnes all along, and he stepped up in the biggest moment of the season
As the Buccaneers tried to mount a final drive to tie the game, Barnes made the play that ended their hopes.
Barnes gave the "football" answer for why he was in position to make that game-sealing play on the field with NBC after the game, rooted in his film study to know where Baker Mayfield would want to go with the ball. Via the Lions' Twitter, he repeated the coaching point that allowed him to make the play.
Quite a time for Barnes to get his first career interception, sealing the Lions' second trip to the NFC Championship game in franchise history. It was also his two-week old son's first game, which gave him a little extra to process in the moment (via MLive).
"What the hell just happened? Did I just sew this game? First career interception? My son’s first game, a lot of emotions going through,” Barnes said. “I can’t really explain it. It’s amazing.”
Barnes had been easy to set aside, but wherever his career goes from here Lions' fans will never forget him now. "What the hell just happened?", indeed.