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Lions clinch NFC North title with victory over Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS – The 30-year drought is over.

It will be a very Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays in Metro Detroit this year because for the first time since 1993 the Detroit Lions have clinched a division title with a 30-24 win in Minnesota against the Vikings Sunday.

The victory gives the Lions 11 wins on the season for the first time since 2014 and guarantees they will play at least their first playoff game in the friendly confines of Ford Field. The win also guarantees them at least the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs.

"That's a hell of a win," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said. "I'm proud of a number of people in this organization. Certainly, proud of the coaches and the players. Man, this is special. It's something you don't get to do all the time. It's always special to win the division, I don't care how many of them you get because of the work that goes into it.

"To do something that hadn't been done in 30 years for a team is special. It's a special group of men back in there."

It's the first NFC North title for the Lions since the division was created in 2002. They last won a division title in 1993 when they were playing in the NFC Central.

Go inside the Detroit Lions locker room following the team's division-clinching victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Two touchdown runs by rookie Jahmyr Gibbs (14 & 3), a 1-yard touchdown run by David Montgomery and a 1-yard touchdown catch by Amon-Ra St. Brown helped the Lions secure the win.

Lions safety Kerby Joseph had two key interceptions and safety Ifeatu Melifonwu and rookie defensive back Brian Branch also had an interception each for the Lions' defense. Melifonwu's iced the game for the Lions in the final minute at the Lions' 5-yard line.

This has been a long time coming for some veteran players like left tackle Taylor Decker, who's in his eighth season and has seen a lot of tough times over that stretch.

"It's been a long time coming," Decker said. "A lot of pent-up emotion. Just to want to be respected as a team and looked at as a winner. I've cried more today than I have probably in my whole career."

St. Brown had a monster game for Detroit with 12 catches for 106 yards and a 1-yard touchdown. It was his eighth game over 100 yards receiving this season and also gives him over 100 receptions on the year, becoming the fifth player in history to produce two seasons with 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards within their first three career seasons.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff finished 30-of-40 passing for 257 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and a 99.7 passer rating.

Detroit built a 17-7 lead late in the first half on touchdown runs by Montgomery (1) and Gibbs (14) but surrendered a 26-yard touchdown to wide receiver Justin Jefferson right before the half and a 6-yard touchdown reception to wide receiver K.J. Osborn on Minnesota's first possession of the second half to find themselves trailing for the first time, 21-17.

Detroit wouldn't trail for long though. Goff led Detroit on a 13-play, 75-yard drive culminating with a 1-yard touchdown pass to St. Brown. Detroit converted two 4th & 1 plays on the drive. Michael Badgley's extra point was blocked, so Detroit led 23-21.

A 3-yard touchdown run by Gibbs early in the fourth quarter gave the Lions a 30-21 lead. The Vikings added a late field goal but that was it thanks to Melifonwu's interception.

The division title has been the goal for Campbell and this team dating back to the spring. They'll no-doubt celebrate this win, but it's only the first step in what the Lions hope are more accomplishments to come their way this season.

They can still potentially improve their playoff seeding the next two weeks with wins in Dallas and at home to finish the regular season vs. Minnesota.

"This is special. This is a special group," an emotional Campbell said. "This is just the beginning. We feel that way."

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