Sports

Lions miss playoffs, but head into offseason with optimism

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Getting eliminated from playoff contention about an hour before their season finale didn’t alter the Detroit Lions’ approach.

The Lions delivered a performance on Sunday night that enables them to go into the offseason believing their playoff drought will end very soon.

Ending the postseason hopes of a longtime nemesis made it that much sweeter.

Jamaal Williams rushed for two touchdowns against his former team as the Lions capped their late-season surge with a 20-16 victory at Green Bay, eliminating the Packers from playoff contention.

Detroit (9-8) needed the Los Angeles Rams to beat Seattle earlier in the day and then beat Green Bay to earn its first playoff berth since 2016. But the Seahawks dashed those hopes when they beat the Rams 19-16 in overtime.

The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season. But coach Dan Campbell’s team has reason to believe brighter days are ahead after rebounding from a 1-6 start to win eight of its final 10 games.

Detroit posted its first winning record since a 9-7 finish in 2017. While the Packers were crumbling down the stretch, the Lions were making winning plays to complete a regular-season sweep of their NFC North rivals.

Kerby Joseph picked off Aaron Rodgers on the final pass of what could be the four-time MVP’s last game at Lambeau Field. Detroit quarterback Jared Goff, meanwhile, ended the season by going nine consecutive games without getting intercepted.

Goff threw a pair of critical fourth-down completions to D.J. Chark, one of them coming on the winning drive and the other enabling the Lions to run out the clock.

The Lions didn’t turn the ball over Sunday. They finished the season with a league-low 15 giveaways.

Williams finished the season with 17 rushing TDs, breaking the Lions single-season record that Barry Sanders had set in 1991. Williams became the first Lion to exceed 1,000 yards rushing since Reggie Bush in 2013.

Detroit didn’t make the playoffs in part because of a defense that entered the final week having allowed the most yards in the NFL. But the Lions came up big on that side of the ball Sunday.

Joseph, who picked off two passes in the Lions’ 15-9 victory over the Packers in Detroit, intercepted Rodgers again Sunday as the Packers tried to rally in the fourth quarter. Joseph became the first player even to intercept Rodgers three times in the same season.

And while Packers first-round pick Quay Walker got ejected from the game after shoving a Lions staffer attending to an injured Detroit player in the fourth quarter, Lions first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson continued his sensational rookie season with another big performance.

Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick from Michigan, recorded two sacks to finish with 9 1/2. Lions rookies combined for 20 1/2 sacks, the most ever by a rookie class. The 1999 Tennessee Titans got 19 sacks from their rookies.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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