Detroit Lions survive thriller against Jets to stay in playoff contention

Lions head to Bank of America Stadium to take on the Carolina Panthers

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 18: Brock Wright #89 and Jared Goff #16 celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) (Al Bello, 2022 Getty Images)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Detroit Lions survived a thriller in MetLife Stadium as they took down the New York Jets 20-17, improving to 7-7 while staying in the hunt for the seventh and final playoff spot.

The victory is their sixth of seven games, and December’s current three-game winning streak is the first since 2014. While on the cusp of the playoffs, the Lions are currently viewed as a dangerous team, as their defense has been the leading factor in their success.

Earlier in the season, it was their offense catching everyone by surprise, but lately, they’ve been cold, especially on the road, which was difficult at times to watch Sunday (Dec. 18), as their red zone offense was stagnant all-day.

They were either turning the ball over on downs or settling for field goals against the vaunted Jets defense.

“I wasn’t playing my best ball certainly there in the second half,” said quarterback Jared Goff. “But you know, ok, here’s a drive that can make up for all (that was) lost previously, but Brock made a great play, but yeah, I was fired up, and our whole team was fired up.”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 18: Brock Wright #89 and Jared Goff #16 celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, as the Lions put together an electric game-winning drive with 4:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“It was a great call,” Goff said. “It’s an easy read and an easy completion, If you do it right, and we did it right. Again, hitting a guy with some speed like Brock, I didn’t know it would be that open, but when they are, it’s pretty good.”

Jared Goff

Goff put the team on his back as he led the seven-play, 78-yard scoring drive in two minutes and 52 seconds.

Goff went three for five for 66 yards as he connected with tight end Brock Wright on fourth and one for 51 yards for the game-winning score.

“You got to know you’re in four down mentality,” said head coach Dan Campbell. “You just find a way to get the next first down. You end up in a fourth and one, and you don’t think that that play is a touchdown. I thought it could be a big play, but Brock turned it up and got a good block by (Josh) Reynolds, and it was great.”

The score is the longest by a tight end since David Sloan scored on a 74-yard catch and run in 1999 against the Green Bay Packers.

18 Nov 2001: Charlie Batch #10 of the Lions celbrates with David Sloan #86 of the Lions after his touchdown during game 8 of the NFL, between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals, at Sun Devel Stadium, Phoenix Arizona. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Adam Pretty/ALLSPORT (Getty Images North America)

Goff finished the day tossing 23-38 for 252 yards and one touchdown to get his team back to .500.

Defense

The Lions scored with a minute and 49 seconds remaining in the game, but the new-look defense, which gave up massive third-fourth and longs during the final drive of the game, bent but didn’t break as they forced Greg Zuerlein to kick and miss a 58-yard field goal as time expired.

“A win feels great, and they believed, and now here we go,” Campbell said. “This is another win, and it was a different win as we had to find a different way to win and another way to win. Every time that happens, you just continue to grow, and you start figuring things out and your confidence grows.”

One player whose confidence is starting to grow is pass rusher James Houston who picked up his fifth sack in as many games.

“You know what it is,” said Houston. “We came to New York, and we got the dub, and now we’re on our way back to Detroit, baby.”

Houston is a massive problem for offensive linemen, and the NFL world is starting to take notice as his five sacks in four games to begin his career puts him in prestigious company as he joined Baltimore Ravens legend Terrell Suggs (2003) and Suber Bowl champion Santana Dotson (1992) to have as many sacks to start their career.

Special teams

Although all of the focus is on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, it was the special teams play Kalif Raymond, who the Jets know very well as they cut him a few years ago for too many muffed punts.

Raymond showed his former team that he’s now riding in style as he galloped down the left sideline and leaped over some defenders for the first score of the day.

“He is a tremendous receiver as well as a punt returner,” Goff said. “When you have a guy who’s supposed to be your gadget guy or your punt returner, and you can call a choice route to him, that’s rare as he can understand coverage. He knows where to be and is always on time. Him and I have so many reps together, and now he’s slid back in the depth chart a little bit because he’s a punt returner and JMo’s (Jameson Williams) back. But when he’s out there, I feel more comfortable with (him), and that gives us a whole lot to have four or five guys now six that we really feel good about.”

Raymond was the ultimate Swiss Army knife as he not only did his job in the return game but also showed flashes as a receiver as he caught five receptions for 53 yards.

“I just gave him the game ball,” Campbell said. “He’s our iron man as he does everything for us. He’s been there every day, every game, and every practice. He’s selfless, he’s disciplined, and a hard worker. He’s smart, he’s productive, he dears himself to his teammates, and he’s versatile. He can block and play in the slot, and he can play outside. He’s got run after the catch; he’s a damn good punt returner; he does everything for us, and he doesn’t bat an eye. He doesn’t whine or complain as it’s never too hard; he just goes you can’t have enough of those guys.”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 18: Kalif Raymond #11 of the Detroit Lions returns a punt for a touchdown during the first quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

The Lions have a 41% chance of making the playoffs, and with a win Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, their circumstances can significantly improve to 72% if they can somehow win their final two games against the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.


About the Author:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.