"Winning solves a lot of issues, as we all know."
That was a line from Lions head coach Dan Campbell back in November when his team was 0-8, heading to their bye week and still searching for a way to finish close games and earn the first win of the year.
It took a few more weeks to get there, but last Sunday at Ford Field this young Lions team found a way to finish a close game and earn their first victory of the season when quarterback Jared Goff hit rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown on an 11-yard touchdown as time expired to edge Minnesota, 29-27.
The touchdown to St. Brown was Goff's third of the day and came after he led a nearly flawless 14-play, 75-yard drive with just one minute and 50 seconds on the clock and the Lions having no timeouts. Goff finished 25-of-41 passing for 296 yards with three touchdowns and one interception on the day, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
It's the kind of performance the Lions are hoping boosts Goff and the rest of the Lions' offense to a strong finish these last five weeks of the season.
"I think it can do a lot," Campbell said. "I echo the fact that – man, he had some outstanding throws in that game. I mean, really top-notch throws, particularly early in the game.
"And then, there was about a three or four-play sequence there where it was rough. And, for him to come back and get out of that and be able to drive us down the field I think was crucial. And, I think it's great for him and I think it speaks volumes and I think that will help his confidence moving forward."
It's been an up and down season for Goff in his first year in Detroit after coming over in the Matthew Stafford trade. Detroit's ranked near the bottom of the league in points scored and passing offense, and Goff's passer rating of 88.1 ranks 22nd in the NFL.
But like Campbell said, winning does solve a lot of issues, and even Goff, who's played in and won a lot of big games in this league, said Sunday's win did mean a lot to him.
"You work so hard and you do so many things right and you continue to do the right things and you just come up short over and over again," Goff said. "Having one where we were rewarded for our hard work and were rewarded for the extra hours and all of the stuff you do as a football player.
"You're not promised anything, but we were rewarded for it and felt like there were some games earlier on in the year where we could've gone either way. I think finally you get one and you feel good about it and it's exciting. For me personally, it's no different. It's the same feeling. You put in so much time and effort and you want to win games and you just come up short over and over again and able to finish one in the fashion that we did – I think it's my first walk-off in my career. With all of that combined in with even the Oxford stuff that was going on, it's really a special day for us last week."
Goff stretched the field last week against the Vikings and fit some throws into some really tight windows. He showed when he plays well and this offense scores points – Detroit's ranked 29th in average points per game at 16.9 – this team can win football games.
Right before Goff took the field for the final drive, quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell had a simple message for Goff.
"Go win the game for us," Brunell told him.
Goff responded: "Yes, sir."
Goff did it, and in doing so lifted the weight of being winless off the shoulders of this team. Hopefully it's a confidence boost for Goff and the rest of his teammates as they try finish strong and build some momentum heading into a very important offseason for this franchise.