It wasn't the season overall Dan Campbell wanted in his first year as head coach of the Detroit Lions, but this has been a Lions team that has scratched, clawed and fought all season long, and they did so right down to the end Sunday.
The Lions played inspired football, dug deep into their bag of tricks on offense, and ended their season on a high note with a 37-30 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Detroit scored two touchdowns on trick plays and forced two turnovers defensively on Green Bay's final two possessions to finish the year on a strong note and head to the offseason with great momentum.
Wide receiver Kalif Raymond (85 yards), wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (2), tight end Brock Wright (36) and running back D’Andre Swift scored touchdowns for the Lions. St. Brown finished with eight receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown, making it six straight games to finish the year with eight-plus catches.
The Packers struck first on a 1-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to wide receiver Allen Lazard to cap off a 13-play opening drive where the Packers converted four third-down plays.
The Lions evened the score on their second possession after going into their bag of tricks on offense. A counter reverse with St. Brown taking the handoff and pitching to wide receiver Tom Kennedy on a reverse led to a 75-yard pass from Kennedy to a wide open Raymond down the right sideline for a touchdown.
Detroit extended the lead to 14-7 with a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jared Goff to St. Brown. It was St. Brown's fourth game in a row with a touchdown catch.
Rodgers found Lazard from 29 yards out for his second touchdown of the game right before the end of the first half, but kicker Mason Crosby missed the extra point and Detroit led 14-13 late in the second quarter.
Detroit led 17-13 at the half with a 36-yard Riley Patterson field goal in the final seconds of the third quarter.
The Lions extended the lead to 24-13 one play after cornerback AJ Parker forced a fumble recovered by cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu at the Green Bay 36-yard line. On the first play following the turnover, Goff handed the ball to Swift, who pitched it to St. Brown on a reverse, who then pitched it back to Goff, and Goff found Wright streaking down the right sideline all alone. The play pushed the Lions' lead to 24-13.
Green Bay trimmed the lead to 24-22 with a Crosby 36-yard field goal and a Patrick Taylor 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. They took a late 30-27 lead on a 62-yard catch and run from backup quarterback Jordan Love to tight end Josiah Deguara with just under five minutes remaining.
But Goff drove the Lions down to answer the score and take the lead back for good on a 14-yard Swift touchdown. Safeties C.J. Moore and Tracy Walker picked off Love on the Packers' final two possession to preserve the win.
QB comparison: Goff continued his fine play the second half of the season and ended the year on a strong note, completing 21 of his 30 passes for 238 yards with two touchdowns for a passer rating of 115.7.
Rodgers started the game for Green Bay and played the first half. He was 14-of-18 passing for 138 yards with a couple touchdowns and a 135.6 rating.
Love played the second half and completed 10 of his 17 pass attempts with a touchdown and two interceptions for a 64.0 rating.
Key moment: Trailing 30-27 with a little less than five minutes on the clock, Goff and the Lions had one more opportunity to put their final stamp on the 2021 season.
It took Goff and the Lions just six plays to go 75 yards, with the key play being a 28-yard completion to St. Brown. Swift capped it off with a 14-yard touchdown run with just under two minutes left in the game.
Injury report: The Lions lost backup center Evan Brown early in the game with an ankle injury and he did not return.
Left tackle Taylor Decker left the game in the third quarter with a foot injury and also did not return. Will Holden played left tackle in his place. The Lions were already without right tackle Penei Sewell, who was inactive due to a thumb injury and illness.