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NOTEBOOK: Division-clinching INT highlights Melifonwu's stellar performance

MINNEAPOLIS – In just his third game since taking over for Tracy Walker in the starting lineup, third-year safety Ifeatu Melifonwu made the biggest play of his young career Sunday in Minnesota.

Melifonwu's interception of Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens at the Lions' 5-yard line in the final minute of the fourth quarter was also the biggest play to date in a Detroit Lions season that will now have a NFC North title attached to it for the first time ever.

Melifonwu stepped in front of a pass intended for Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson that preserved a 30-24 Lions win and their first division title since 1993.

Melifonwu had a monster performance Sunday. Not only did he have the clinching interception but he also chipped in two sacks, five tackles and two passes defended. That coming off a game last week where he had a sack, nine tackles, a forced fumble and two passes defended.

"Another outstanding performance," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said after the game of Melifonwu. "He's not just out there playing football and solid performance. He's a factor.

"He's just getting better and better. He's instinctive and you see the athletic ability. He's plays physical. He's just getting better and better, he really is. We're going to have a good problem when Ducey (C.J. Gardner-Johnson) comes back."

The Lions are expected to get Gardner-Johnson back as early as next week in Dallas. That would give defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn the ability to create some fun three-safety packages with Kerby Joseph, who had two interceptions Sunday, Melifonwu and Gardner-Johnson.


When it was all said and done Sunday, third-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had 12 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.

It was his 14th career 100-yard receiving game which is already the fifth most in team history. It also gives him 102 receptions on the season as he joined Herman Moore as the only players in franchise history to have multiple 100-catch seasons.

"He means a ton to this team," quarterback Jared Goff said. "He means a ton to this culture and to our offense, certainly. A ton to me. He's getting himself open and running great routes. He's got great hands and communicates great with me, tells me what he likes and doesn't like. And yeah, I can trust him on every single throw you can ever make I trust him.

"He's a hell of a player and is only going to continue to get better and that's exciting."


Frank Ragnow grew up in Minnesota as a Vikings fan and had 20 family members at the stadium to watch him win his first division title in his lifetime – including high school, college or NFL.

"I was a diehard fan growing up and this is my first win here in Minnesota," he said. "So, for it to be for the division it's really special. My family and my wife's family are here so it's pretty cool."


Rookie quarterback Hendon Hooker was in uniform for the first time this season on gameday. He served as the Lions' emergency third quarterback. Hooker has been on the Non-Football Injury list all season but was elevated to the active roster this week.

He didn't play in the game, but got to dress and go through warmups. There's value in that for a young quarterback.


  • The hope is the hand injury suffered by defensive lineman Josh Paschal in the second half of Sunday's win over Minnesota isn't serious, but he wasn't able to return to the game. Paschal was playing the best ball of his young career the last couple weeks.
  • Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs had 80 rushing yards on 15 carries (5.3 average) and also caught four passes for 20 yards. He passed running back Mel Farr (1,177 yards in 1967) for the fifth most scrimmage yards produced by a rookie in a single season.

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