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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: How the Lions stayed the course to clinch division

Check all the boxes for what finally let the Detroit Lions wear the title of champions of the NFC North.

Take your choice.

Quarterback leadership fits. So does opportunistic defense, running game, offensive line, clutch receivers and special teams.

Just don't forget head coach Dan Campbell, GM Brad Holmes and their staffs for how they acquired and developed the players that have become the Lions' stars of today.

Sunday's 30-24 win over NFC North rival Minnesota clinched the Lions' North title with a won-loss record of 11-4.

It's not the final resting point in this season for the Lions. There are still two more games left – on the road with the Dallas Cowboys and a rematch in the final game with the Vikings at Ford Field.

But for now, it's a heck of a place for the Lions to take a short break on what they've accomplished so far this season.

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

"It feels incredible," Campbell said in a postgame interview with 97.1. "When you set out on a mission like we did, you feel like this is what you believe in, this is what it takes.

"You've got to acquire the right people, the right coaches, the right personnel department, the right players.

"And it all falls into place. And all the hard work that really started three years ago has come to fruition."

This week's Monday Countdown looks at Sunday's game as a microcosm of how the Lions have reached this position. There were ups and downs, as there is in every game, but they were more pronounced because of what was at stake for the Lions and Vikings.

There's a look at two players who stood out on both sides – offense and defense – and takeaways on offense, defense, what's trending and the bottom line.

We start with Campbell and how the Lions stayed the course to beat the Vikings.

1. Grit: It's more than a saying with Campbell. He likes tough challenges, and his players have come to adopt that same work ethic.

Playing the Vikings on their home field was not an easy chore.

They had a plan on both sides of the ball and it worked. They rushed for 143 yards and three TDs, and had 257 yards passing and one TD.

Defensively they gave up 411 yards passing. But they gave up only two TDs in all that yardage and intercepted four passes and sacked the quarterback four times. It was a winning tradeoff.

2. MVP: A steady hand is valuable in the big game and Sunday's game was a big game for the Lions.

The veteran players knew how much it means to the franchise and the community for the Lions to win the North title and host the first playoff game at home.

Jared Goff played that steady role, as a quarterback should. He completed 30 of 40 passes for 257 yards with one TD and no turnovers.

He got the ball to the playmakers to make plays.

3. MVP - Defense: Ifeatu Melifonwu's value started to show last week in the win over the Broncos, and it was in full display against the Vikings.

He had five solo tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two of the Lions' 11 quarterback hits, two passes defended and a game-clinching INT.

4. Takeaways, offense:

  • Offensive line: Another big game for the starting five – 257 yards passing with only one sack allowed in 40 dropbacks and 143 yards rushing with three TDs on 36 carries.
  • Typical Amon-Ra St. Brown – there when needed. He had 12 catches on 14 targets for 106 yards and a TD.
  • Jameson Williams' stats weren't spectacular – five receptions on six targets or 43 yards. But he took care of what came his way. That is pretty much how the Lions play. They take care of the little things.

5. Takeaways, defense:

  • Brian Branch: The rookie defensive back had some miscues early, but he bounced back to get a sack, a quarterback hit, two passes defended, a forced fumble, and an interception.
  • Aidan Hutchinson had four quarterback hits. He was relentless, which is how the Lions play. He also had a pass defended.
  • Kerby Joseph led the Lions with nine tackles and two interceptions. It pays to get around the ball a lot.

6. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Jack Fox averaged 47.7 yards on three punts. He had a net of 46 yards.
  • Michael Badgley made his only field-goal attempt, but one of his four extra point attempts was blocked.

7. What's trending:

  • Up: The Detroit Lions. We don't care about anything else this week.

8. Bottom line: Campbell had a vision of how to build a team when he took over as head coach of the Lions in 2021, and he never faltered in his belief.

The results of that are obvious – a division championship, and a young team with the ability to be good for the long term.

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