FIRST DOWN: QB1
Jared Goff put to bed any remaining doubt by beating his old team and giving Detroit its first playoff win in 30 years that he is the Lions quarterback both now and for the foreseeable future.
He was under the pressure all week of facing the Los Angeles Rams, who drafted him No. 1 and moved on from him in favor of Matthew Stafford. To come out and play the way he did to give the Lions a 24-23 win leaves no doubt Goff is Detroit's guy.
But even before the game kicked off it already seemed that way when the 66,367 strong at Ford Field chanted Goff's name as he ran onto the field pregame. In the 15 years I've been covering the Lions the only name I remember being chanted by the crowd at Ford Field is Barry Sanders. It just seemed like Lions fans knew what a win meant for Goff and were behind him 100 percent.
"It was pretty unbelievable," Goff said after the game. "The people here are pretty special, man. I'm grateful for their support and today with the circumstances that were there it meant a lot and it was special."
Goff said he's never been part of a stadium atmosphere like that.
"It made me feel pretty good. It was exciting," he said. "I don't think I've ever experienced anything like that."
Goff finished 22-of-27 passing for 277 yards with a touchdown, no turnovers and a 121.8 passer rating. He hit his favorite target, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, for an 11-yard gain on a 2nd & 9 coming out of the two-minute warning to ice the game for Detroit. Three kneel-downs from there and the Lions secured their first playoff win since 1991.
"I thought he played top-notch football," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of Goff. "He probably had two errors and everything else was on point. He looked loose. He looked relaxed. I thought he threw the ball with conviction. Was strong in the pocket. Got us in the right play and he felt that way all week.
"He was just locked in all week. Just really proud of him and what he means to us. His play today. He's one of the reasons that we won this division and he's another reason why we just won our first playoff game in 30 years."
SECOND DOWN: RED-ZONE DEFENSE
It wasn't pretty on defense all the time Sunday for Detroit. The Lions gave up 425 yards of total offense and allowed Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua to catch nine passes for 181 yards and a touchdown.
But when it mattered most, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and the Lions defenders found a way in the red zone to make a huge impact.
The Lions' defense came into Sunday ranked 29th in red0zone defense, allowing opponents to score a touchdown inside Detroit's 20-yard line 66 percent of the time.
The three times the Rams got into Detroit's red zone, the defense held up to force a field goal at the 11, 9 and 6 yard lines. That's 12 points the Rams left off the board in an eventual one-point loss.
"That was the difference," Campbell said of the Lions going 3-for-3 in the red zone and the Rams going 0-for-3. "We wanted to be disruptive today. We were going to be aggressive. It wasn't perfect, but at the end of the day we knew we had to limit the points and keep them out of the end zone. We did that. We talked about it at halftime we needed a stop."
After giving up a field goal and two long touchdown passes on the Rams' first three possessions of the game, Detroit's defense forced two punts and allowed just two field goals to help clinch the game. Defensive back Brian Branch, defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson, defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson and others came up big in critical moments for Detroit's defense in the red zone.
THIRD DOWN: ST. BROWN FOR THE WIN
Goff said the 11-yard pass to St. Brown to clinch the game for Detroit and allow Goff to take three kneel-downs to send the Lions to the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since 1991 was a play the two have run thousands of times.
"It was like every other rep we've had of that play 100 million times," Goff said. "It was him one-on-one with the nickel and go win and it was pitch and catch. That dude is as good as it gets."
St. Brown caught seven of the nine passes thrown his way for 110 yards (15.7 average). He led the NFL with 10 games with 100 receiving yards on the season. He was named an All-Pro this week and he just keeps cementing his status as one of the best receivers in the game.
FOURTH DOWN: FORD FIELD ATMOSPHERE
It's been a long time coming for Detroit Lions fans to get the opportunity to enjoy playoff football and boy did they show up in a big way Sunday. The Lions faithful packed the stadium an hour before kickoff and made Ford Field such a terrific home-field advantage.
The Rams had to call two timeouts in the second half to avoid delay of game penalties due to the crowd noise and that played a huge factor in allowing Detroit to run out the clock in the end.
"That is arguably the best environment I've ever been in," Campbell said. "That was absolutely electric. It was crazy. I was coming down for pregame warmup and you could just feel it humming. The building was humming. I swear you could feel the electricity down the tunnel from where I was coming down. It only just grew from there. Our fans showed up in a big way."
Goff said Detroit is a special place to him and that Sunday night was the best home atmosphere he's ever played in.
"It's a special place to play," Goff said.