Detroit Lions' playoff history in Super Bowl era outlined

Lions have 1 playoff win in last 59 years


The Detroit Lions are returning to the playoffs on Saturday when they hit the West Coast to face off with the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks.

Detroit is looking for its first playoff win since 1991 and only its second playoff win in the Super Bowl era. The Lions are one of only four teams to never reach the Super Bowl, joining the Jaguars, the Texans and the current iteration of the Browns.

READ5 reasons the Detroit Lions will (or will not) beat the Seattle Seahawks

Here's a look at every postseason appearance that the Lions have made in the Super Bowl era.


Result: Dallas Cowboys 5, Detroit Lions 0

Detroit's first playoff game in the Super Bowl era came against the Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl. The Lions entered the postseason with a 10-4 record after finishing second in the NFC Central Division.

The Lions' offense mustered only 156 total yards and turned the ball over three times, allowing the Cowboys to win without scoring a touchdown. Greg Landry threw for 48 yards and Mel Farr rushed for 31 yards to lead the Lions. Larry Walton caught three passes for 39 yards.

Mike Clark's 26-yard field goal in the first quarter ended up being the deciding score in the game.

On the plus side, the Lions didn't commit a penalty in the game.


Result: Washington Redskins 31, Detroit Lions 7

This was a strange season for the Lions, who made the playoffs despite finishing just 4-5 on the season, which was delayed by a players' strike.

Detroit earned the No. 8 seed in the NFC and a matchup against 8-1 Washington, which went on to win the Super Bowl on Jan. 30, 1982.

The game was never in doubt, with Washington scoring 10 points in the first quarter, 14 points in the second quarter and going up 31-0 in the third quarter.

Luckily for the Lions, they scored their first points of the Super Bowl era when David Hill caught a 15-yard touchdown from Eric Hipple in the third quarter.

Hipple racked up 298 passing yards and 47 rushing yards, but threw two interceptions and fumbled. Detroit finished the game with five turnovers.

Leonard Thompson led the offensive charge with seven catches for 150 yards.

Joe Theismann was surgical in picking apart the Lions' defense, completing 14 of 19 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. John Riggins ran for 119 yards and Alvin Garrett caught three touchdown passes.


Result: San Francisco 49ers 24, Detroit Lions 23

The Lions returned to the playoffs the following season and took their first lead with a 37-yard Eddie Murray field goal in the first quarter.

The lead didn't last long as the 49ers answered with a touchdown in the first and another in the second quarter to take a 14-3 lead. Detroit answered with a pair of field goal drives, including a 54-yarder from Murray.

San Francisco led 17-9 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Billy Simms scored from 11 yards and 3 yards to put the Lions on top, 23-17.

Unfortunately for the Lions, Freddie Solomon caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Joe Montana last in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and Ray Wersching's extra point gave the 49ers a thrilling victory.

The NFC Central Division champion Lions fell a point short and ended the season with a 9-8 record.

Gary Danielson threw five interceptions in the game, crippling the Lions' chance to pull away. Sims rushed for 114 yards and two scores on just 20 carries.

Defensively, the Lions held Montana to 18 of 31 passing for 201 yards, a touchdown and an interception.


Divisional round result: Detroit Lions 38, Dallas Cowboys 6
Conference championship result: Washington Redskins 41, Detroit Lions 10

Detroit picked up its only playoff win in the Super Bowl era during the divisional round of the 1991 postseason. The Lions won the NFC Central Division with a 12-4 record and stomped the Cowboys in the Pontiac Silverdome.

Willie Green caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Erik Kramer in the first quarter to give the Lions the lead from the word go. Herman Moore caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter and Barry Sanders scored his first playoff touchdown in the fourth quarter when he scampered into the end zone from 47 yards out.

In the end, the Cowboys managed to score only a pair of 28-yard field goals from Ken Willis.

Kramer finished the game with 341 passing yards and three touchdowns. Sanders rushed only 12 times for 69 yards, 47 of which came on the touchdown run.

Green caught eight passes for 115 yards and two scores, while Moore made six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Troy Aikman had a forgettable day for the Cowboys, completing 11 of 16 passes but doing so for only 114 yards and an interception. Emmitt Smith rushed 15 times for 80 yards.

Detroit gained 421 yards and Dallas turned the ball over four times in the blowout.


Result: Green Bay Packers 28, Detroit Lions 24

Detroit won the NFC Central Division again in 1993, finishing 10-6 ahead of the 9-7 Packers. But Green Bay got its revenge in the wild-card round, scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown to erase a late Lions lead in front of over 68,000 fans in the Silverdome.

Jason Hanson made his playoff debut with a 47-yard field goal in the first quarter, and the Lions scored touchdowns in the second and third quarters to take a 17-7 lead.

But after pulling within three points, the Packers got a 101-yard pick-six from George Teague to turn what could have been a 10-point Lions lead into a four-point Packers lead. Despite a Derrick Moore touchdown run to regain the lead in the fourth quarter, the Packers had one more answer.

Brett Favre erased the 21-24 deficit by connecting with Sterling Sharpe for a 40-yard touchdown pass that ultimately ended the Lions' season. It was a heartbreaking finish for fans who had watched the Lions dominate for most of the evening.

Detroit outgained Green Bay 410-294 and possessed the ball for over 35 minutes, but in the end, the interception return and the late touchdown doomed the Lions.

Favre completed 15 of 26 passes for 204 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Sherpe caught five passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns.

Kramer threw for 248 yards and a touchdown, but his two interceptions were costly.

Sanders was excellent for the Lions, rushing 27 times for 169 yards.

Brett Perriman caught 10 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown.


Result: Green Bay Packers 16, Detroit Lions 12

The division rivals met again the next season, this time at Lambeau Field on New Year's Eve.

Detroit was immediately playing from behind, as Dorsey Levens and Chris Jacke gave Green Bay a 10-0 lead at halftime.

Hanson made a 38-yard field goal to put the Lions on the board in the third quarter, but it wasn't until Perriman caught a 3-yard touchdown from Dave Krieg in the fourth quarter that Detroit really got within striking range.

But Green Bay held on, eventually winning 16-12.

The Lions finished the game with just 171 yards and nine first downs. Krieg threw for 199 yards, hitting Perriman four times for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Sanders had 13 carries for negative one yard.


Result: Philadelphia Eagles 58, Detroit Lions 37

Detroit made a third straight playoff appearance in 1995 after winning 10 games and finishing second in the NFC Central Division under Wayne Fontes.

The Lions earned a wild-card round matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, who had an identical 10-6 record after finishing second in the NFC East Division.

The teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter, and everything went downhill from there for the Lions.

Sharply downhill.

In one of the worst quarters in Detroit Lions franchise history, they allowed 31 unanswered points in the second quarter, giving up a field goal, a 22-yard touchdown pass, a 24-yard pick-six, a 1-yard rushing touchdown and a 43-yard passing touchdown.

The Eagles didn't stop there, opening the third quarter with another touchdown pass and two field goals to take a 51-7 lead.

Despite four late touchdowns and two two-point conversions for the Lions, the Eagles won in a 58-37 blowout.

Detroit lost the yardage battle only by a 452-422 margin, but it turned the ball over an incredible seven times.

Scott Mitchell completed just 13 of 29 passes for 155 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions, while Don Majkowski completed 14 of 23 passes for 206 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Sanders was held in check again, carrying the ball 10 times for 40 yards and no scores.

Moore caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. David Sloan caught a pair of touchdown passes in the loss.

Rodney Peete was the hero for Philadelphia, throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout.


Result: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, Detroit Lions 10

Detroit's playoff streak ended in 1996, but it returned to the wildcard round after winning nine games and finishing in third place in the Central in 1997 under Bobby Ross.

The Lions were out of the game by halftime, as the Buccaneers scored 13 unanswered points before the break and iced the game with a Mike Alstott touchdown run to make it 20-0 in the third.

Tommy Vardell scored the Lions' only touchdown with a 1-yard rush in the fourth quarter.

The Lions had more first downs than the Buccaneers, only 9 fewer yards and one fewer turnover, but still couldn't get back within a score.

Mitchell completed just 10 of 25 passes for 78 yards and an interception. Frank Reich came in to throw for 129 yards on 11-of-15 passing.

Trent Dilfer led Tampa Bay with 181 passing yards in the defensive battle.


Results: Washington Redskins 27, Detroit Lions 13

It was the same story in a different year for the Lions in the 1999 postseason. They slipped into the playoffs despite an 8-8 record and earned another matchup with Washington.

For three quarters, the Lions failed to score, while Washington got into the end zone three times and added a pair of field goals. The 27-0 lead was cut to 27-6 when Ron Rice returned a blocked field goal 94 yards for a touchdown, and the final score was 27-13 after Ron Rivers caught a 5-yard touchdown pass at the end of the game.

Gus Frerotte was ineffective for Detroit, completing just 21 of 46 passes for 251 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Detroit's leading rusher was Cory Schlesinger, who gained just 23 yards on seven carries.


Result: New Orleans Saints 45, Detroit Lions 28

After more than a decade-long drought, which included an 0-16 season and a slew of unsuccessful head coaches, the Lions returned to the postseason in 2011 under Jim Schwartz.

Matthew Stafford was coming off an amazing statistical season, having thrown for over 5,000 yards and completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Unlike the 1990s teams, Stafford got the Lions off to a hot start, finding Will Heller for a 10-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Detroit led for most of the first half and went into the break with a 14-10 advantage.

A pair of touchdowns gave the Saints a 10-point lead late in the third quarter, but Stafford's first rushing touchdown brought the Lions within three points heading into the fourth quarter.

That's when the Saints went off, scoring a trio of touchdowns to cruise past the Lions by a final score of 45-28.

Drew Brees was the hero of the game, throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns on 33 of 43 passing. Marques Colston caught seven passes for 120 yards and Robert Meachem caught four passes for 11 yards and a touchdown. Darren Sproles gained 51 yards on 10 carries and found the end zone twice.

Stafford threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns, but also had two interceptions.

Calvin Johnson was a monster in his first playoff game, catching a game-high 12 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.


Result: Dallas Cowboys 24, Detroit Lions 20

Detroit's most recent trip to the postseason came under the current regime two seasons ago, when Jim Caldwell's Lions went 11-5 and clinched a wildcard berth.

The Lions visited the NFC East champion Cowboys at AT&T Stadium and got off to a red-hot start, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Stafford hit Golden Tate for a 51-yard score fewer than five minutes into the game and Reggie Bush scored from 18 yards out to grab a two-score lead.

Even after the Cowboys got a 76-yard touchdown catch from Terrance Williams, the Lions responded with a last-second field goal drive to go up 17-7 at the half.

The lead was stretched to 20-7 midway through the third quarter as the Lions continued to roll.

But Dallas' inevitable last push started late in the third, as DeMarco Murray's touchdown run pulled the Cowboys within a score. Early in the fourth quarter, a Dan Bailey field goal made it a 20-17 Lions lead.

With a chance to put the game away, the Lions drove into Dallas territory and appeared to have a first down near the red zone. But a pass interference flag was picked up on an incomplete pass to Brandon Pettigrew, forcing the Lions to punt.

Sam Martin, who has been one of the best punters in the league, shanked a 10-yard punt, giving Dallas the ball on its own 41-yard line. The Cowboys drove 59 yards and scored with fewer than 3 minutes remaining, which was good enough for the win.