Amon-Ra St. Brown darted across the middle, split the defenders, took a perfect pass from Jared Goff and zoomed to the end zone, flipping over an opposing player and landing with a boink, as if putting the dot on an “i.”
An “i” as in “winning again.”
Wait, that’s two i’s, right?
Weapons loaded. Weapons fired. If the Detroit Lions were trying to make Santa’s nice list Saturday night, they can prep the chimney this morning. Everything they needed to restore a sagging confidence after two losses in their last three games was on full display at Ford Field, before a sellout crowd that all night seemed to yell, “Try this! … Great! Now, try that!”
Protect Jared Goff? Yup. Get St. Brown back involved? Yup. Reinvigorate the running game? Establish Jameson Williams? Keep the Sam LaPorta Express Train running?
Done, done, and done some more. Go ahead, Santa. Check it twice.
Nothing naughty here.
“I think every group goes through (those ups and downs),” Goff said after the 42-17 blowout win at Ford Field. “But our superpower is how we respond.”
Saturday’s offense did look like something out of a Marvel movie. In fact, this was as close to a flawless game as that unit has played all year, considering the stakes, the opponent, and the time of year.
Real teams rise during December. They assert their will. The Lions took on a hot Broncos team and branded them like a quarter horse.
Forty-two points? Nearly 450 yards of offense? The Broncos came in wearing a D for Denver, but they left with a different meaning.
D for “Dat’s how Detroit Does it.”
Wait, that’s three D’s, right?
O is for oh my, what an offense
“Toward the middle of the game there,” Goff said, when asked about Ben Johnson’s game plan, “he felt like he could call anything and we were gonna make it work.”
Here’s what he means. The Lions scored five touchdowns on five straight drives. Their punter could have left for a pizza. Goff, turnover prone in recent losses, was as clean as a debutante’s white gloves. He threw five TDs on 24 completions, with passes to eight different receivers. A kibbutz doesn’t spread chores that evenly.
St. Brown was the most exhilarating, showing speed, power, and elusiveness. He had 112 receiving yards, and it was clear the Lions realized an explosive passing game begins with him. Williams also showed up big, with four solid catches for 47 yards; he leapt for a reception, broke some tackles, juked some defenders, and for the first time looked like he didn’t need a GPS out there.
The rushing attack was formidable, with the tandem of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs taking it 28 times for 185 yards.
And then there’s the tight end. A word about LaPorta. Ohmigosh. (Is that a word?) This rookie is what moves the offense to high octane. He is that quietly reliable option that keeps drives going and finishes them in the end zone.
On Saturday night, La Porta caught five of the six passes thrown his way: three for touchdowns, the other two for first downs. He won’t say much. He doesn’t have to.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” coach Dan Campbell cooed.
At this rate, LaPorta’s gonna hit his head on the upside ceiling.
Even the defense got in on the action Saturday, forcing sacks and a fumble, with some younger, less heralded players (Ifeatu Melifonwu, Kindle Vildor) making huge contributions. Holding Russell Wilson’s crew to 17 points is a notable feat.
And just like that, the Lions, subject of much recent worry, are one Seattle loss Monday night from clinching their first playoff spot in seven years.
One more W in their last three games will get it done as well.
That’s “w” as in “Wow.”
Wait, that’s two w’s.
The recipe for success
So what about all the hand wringing going into this affair? Well, remember, a small number of NFL teams will be very good each season, but they won’t be good the same way. The Lions haven’t reached 10 wins the way the San Francisco 49ers have, or the Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles have.
The Lions are built to win from ahead, put up lots of points and hope the defense has more good plays than bad ones. In their recent losses, that formula fizzled. They only managed 13 points against the Bears and had only two touchdowns until the final minute against Green Bay. Meanwhile their defense gave up way too many yards and big plays.
That all reversed Saturday. Campbell was emotional after beating his professional mentor, Broncos coach Sean Payton (“That’s my guy, I love him, always will,” Campbell rasped.) He was asked what he sees that lets him know the Lions are playing the type of football that lets them — not other teams, but them — come out victorious.
“When we’re efficient on first and second down, offensively and defensively, when were able to get those chunk runs, we’re getting 5 or 6 yards a pop early … and our defense, we’re getting second-and-10, second-and-8, you just feel like, ‘All right, here we go, this is the type of game we need to play … the third downs are manageable here, third downs are longer on defense.’
“I think when that happens, early and often, you get a really good feeling about it.”
It happened Saturday, early and often. And for the first time in nine years, the Lions are in double digits in the win category.
And — it says here — for the first time in 30 years, they’ll be hosting a home playoff game. Don’t believe me? Just ask Santa. It’s on his list. As sure as there’s an “o” in “count on it.”
Wait, that’s two o’s.