Before taking the final snap to break his long-suffering franchise’s playoff drought, Jared Goff lifted his arms in the air, asking Ford Field fans to get even louder.
The audience responded with a decibel level approaching that of a siren.
Goff also came through.
Goff threw a touchdown and completed a pass for a game-winning first down against his former team, and the Detroit Lions won a playoff game for the first time in 32 years, defeating Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams 24-23 on Sunday night.
The Lions (13-5) snapped the NFL’s longest postseason losing run, dating back to a win against Dallas on Jan. 5, 1992. They dropped a playoff game at home two years later and have not hosted one since.
“It means a lot to this town,” Goff added. “When the season began, we knew what it meant to make the playoffs and then to win this game.” And, you know, it’s only the beginning for us. We still have some time.”
For the first time in team history, Detroit, the NFC’s third seed, will host either Tampa Bay or Philadelphia in the divisional round next Sunday. Green Bay defeated second-seeded Dallas.
The Rams (10-8) had an opportunity late in the fourth quarter to grab the lead, but Detroit’s defense stopped them. Los Angeles was out of field goal range after a holding penalty, and Stafford — the Lions’ veteran quarterback who won a Super Bowl after being traded to the Rams — fired an incomplete pass on fourth down.
Goff connected Amon-Ra St. Brown for 11 yards on the first play after the two-minute warning, allowing the Lions to run out the clock, much to the pleasure of long-suffering supporters who witnessed the franchise’s second postseason triumph since capturing the NFL championship in 1957.
“That’s the best home atmosphere I’ve ever played in, and I expect next week will top that,” he remarked.
Goff went 22 of 27 for 277 yards and a 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta to put Detroit ahead 21-10 midway through the second quarter.
Three years ago, the Lions traded Stafford for Goff and two first-round selections.
“Jared was quite effective. “You could see his command,” said Rams coach Sean McVay, whose relationship with Goff had strained prior to the move. “A lot has been made of it, but I’m really happy for him.” We wanted to win, but he did an excellent job.”
Stafford went 25 of 36 for 367 yards and two touchdowns despite playing most of the game with a bandaged and bloodied hand from slamming it into a defender’s helmet.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else as our quarterback other than Matthew Stafford,” McVay stated at the time. “He was fantastic. He was tough. He was brave and made difficult throw after difficult throw. The surge was coming down on him, and he stood there all day dropping dimes.”
Detroit chose Stafford first overall in 2009, and despite putting up impressive numbers, he never won a playoff game in his 12 seasons. After the game, Stafford hugged several of Detroit players and staff members.
“I’m really happy for the players,” he remarked. “I’m happy for those guys.”
The Rams’ record-breaking rookie Puka Nacua recorded nine receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown.
The Lions’ running touchdowns came from David Montgomery and youngster Jahmyr Gibbs, and St. Brown had seven receptions for 110 yards.
Stafford’s 50-yard touchdown pass to Nacua and his 38-yarder to Tutu Atwell helped the Rams close the halftime deficit to 21-17.
Midway through the third quarter, Michael Badgley’s season-long, 54-yard field goal — the longest of his playoffs career and tied for the best in Detroit playoff history — gave the Lions a seven-point advantage.
For much of the game, the Rams moved the ball at will, but had to settle for short field goals by Brett Maher to come within 24-23 with 8:10 remaining.
“The difference in the game was the red area,” he remarked.
Stafford has made a career out of fourth-quarter comebacks, which the Ford Field crowd was well aware of. He drove a drive to the Detroit 34, with a chance to put the Rams ahead for the first time, but the Lions’ defense forced him backwards from there.
With 4:07 remaining, Detroit took over, and Los Angeles had only one timeout remaining after calling two earlier in the half to deal with crowd noise. This allowed Goff to kneel after his pass to St. Brown.
With rapper and Motor City native Eminem in the house, as well as Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, the Lions opened strong and looked as fired up as their long-suffering supporters.
“When we came out for pregame warmups, it was already buzzing,” Campbell told reporters.
Fans booed Stafford as he ran onto the field, where he posed for a pregame photo with his wife and girls, and screamed “Jar-ed Goff! Jar-ed Goff” for the Lions’ quarterback.
“I went into this game with two goals in mind: to win for my teammates and to win for the city,” said Hutchinson, who grew up in suburban Detroit and played at Michigan. “This city has been so deserving of this for so long, and we’re going to keep it up.”
Stafford’s right hand was wrapped up after being sliced in the second quarter, and he walked off the field slowly after being struck by two Lions late in the third quarter. On the play, he said he damaged his ribs and head. Kyren Williams had a hand injury in the fourth quarter. After receiving a low hit in the fourth, Tyler Higbee walked off the field, injuring his right leg. Jordan Fuller, the team’s second-leading tackler, was ruled out with an ankle injury after being listed as questionable.
Inactive Lions: WR/KR Kalif Raymond, TE James Mitchell, and CB Jerry Jacobs.
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