Photo Courtesy of the Detroit Lions
The 2023 season was one like we had never seen before, and one that the Lions and all of Detroit had been waiting for. It’s clear that this season was headed straight for the history books.
This was the Detroit Lions' 94th season in the National Football League (NFL), their 90th in Detroit, and their third under the head coach/general manager tandem of Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes.
Starting Off Strong
After just 11 weeks, the Detroit Lions started 8–2 for the first time since 1962 following a win against the Chicago Bears (31-26). After being down 26-14, with just a little more than 4:00 remaining, Detroit rattled off 17 consecutive points to secure a masterful come-from-behind victory. After this surprising win, several members of the roster expressed to Fan Nation that the team had developed a growing camaraderie, having fought through and overcome several hurdles over the course of the last 14 months.
Head coach Dan Campbell also acknowledged that 61 years was quite a long time ago. "That’s a long time. It’s a long time, and it’s something that we talked about before the season. Not, ‘Hey let’s get some of the wins before the 1962 season,’ but just let’s make the most of this season," Campbell told reporters. "We got a chance to do something special, and let’s take it one week at a time.
The Lions also improved upon their 9–8 record from the previous season, after a Week 15 win against the Denver Broncos (42-17) that gave them their first 10-win season since 2014.
Photo Courtesy of David Rodriguez Munoz, Detroit Free Press
For the First Time in Forever
After a Week 16 win against the Minnesota Vikings (30-24), the Lions won their first division title since 1993. This also marked their first ever division title as a member of the NFC North, following the NFL's division realignment in 2002.
This was also their first playoff appearance since 2016. The win assured them their first home playoff game since 1993 and only their third since winning their last NFL title in 1957.
The Lions secured the NFC North crown with a road victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions trailed 21-17 at the beginning of the third quarter, but outscored Minnesota 13-3 down the stretch. A crucial stop inside its territory in the final minute sealed the 30-24 victory for the Lions.
While it wasn’t flawless, the Lions took care of business, just like head coach Dan Campbell said in interviews throughout the week leading up to the game.
Detroit began to celebrate like it was 1993, while also gearing up to host its first ever playoff game at Ford Field.
Photo Courtesy of USA Today
Lions Fans Not In Favor of a Familiar Face
The Lions, having lost tie-breakers to both the 49ers and Cowboys, were seeded third for the NFC playoffs. In their first playoff game at Ford Field, the Lions prepared to meet a familiar face: Matthew Stafford, QB of the Los Angeles Rams.
Eminem, a longtime Detroit Lions fan, had a message for Matthew Stafford: “You owe me.” In a promo clip on X (formerly Twitter) ahead of the Lions’ playoff game against the Rams, the iconic rapper made a desperate plea to the former Lions QB. “Stafford, what’d I say? You owe me this favor, bro,” he said in a video during the Chiefs-Dolphins game. “I was there for you when you won it. I was there for you. I was right there. I rapped for you Stafford. Bro, I rapped for you!”
From the moment he stepped on the new turf at Ford Field for a playoff matchup against his former team, the 35-year-old veteran Matthew Stafford was booed and jeered at by Lions supporters.
After the Lions defeated their former quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams 24–23 in the Wild Card game for their first playoff victory since the 1991 season, ending the longest winless postseason drought in the NFL, Matthew Stafford was not in the mood to talk positively about the fanbase that cheered him on for 12 years.
After being eliminated from the playoffs, Stafford had a brief response when asked if he was happy for the city of Detroit witnessing a playoff victory for the first time in three decades. “I’m happy for the players. Happy for those guys," Stafford said. He did not acknowledge the fanbase, but understood why the fans were supportive of Jared Goff. “He’s their quarterback," he said. "He’s playing great. He led them to a win today. I’m happy for him. I thought he played excellent today. He’s leading an offense that’s playing at a really good clip right now, and they should be proud of him. They should be cheering for him.”
Detroit vs. Tampa Bay
The Lions hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round, the first time in franchise history that the Lions hosted two playoff games in the same season. The Lions defeated the Buccaneers 31–23, and advanced to the NFC Championship for the first time since the 1991 season.
That same day, the Detroit Red Wings hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena. The Lions game ended just mere minutes before the Red Wings game began–Ford Field and Little Caesars Arena are just 3 minutes from each other.
Photo Courtesy of Emma Genig (@emmagenig on Instagram)
The Lions game was put up on the jumbotron and throughout the concourses of Little Caesars Arena, and Detroit sports fans were reeling from the anticipated win.
As the Red Wings game began, many Lions fans began to pour into Little Caesars Arena, ready to support another Detroit team as they looked to take down Tampa Bay again. “Jared Goff” chants could be heard throughout the arena, as fans in both Red Wings and Lions gear showed their “one pride” for the winning team. These chants didn’t end that night, but continued for many of the games hosted at Little Caesars Arena throughout the following week.
The Red Wings defeated the Lightning 2-1.
A Bittersweet End
The Lions played the San Francisco 49ers the following week at the 49ers’ home turf, Levi’s Stadium. The Detroit Lions and their fans suffered a devastating loss in this NFC Championship game, falling 31-34, despite holding a 24–7 lead at halftime.
Lions fans, making up about 25% of the crowd at Levi’s Stadium, took to social media to share their devastation, with many using the phrase, “same old Lions.” Others expressed their sadness, but also pride in their team for making history this season. After over 30 years of continuously crushing seasons, many Lions fans were simply grateful to have experienced the playoff excitement.
After the Baltimore Ravens loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (17-10), Kansas City and San Francisco are set to battle it out at Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, February 11th at 6:30pm at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Photo Courtesy of Jake May, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lions’ quarterback, Jared Goff, expressed his sadness but overall gratefulness for a record-breaking season, just as many Lions fans remarked.
In a post-game interview, Goff said, "I don't know, and I can probably give you a better answer later in the week. I don't know, it's hard. You're juggling a handful of emotions and knowing that getting this far is an accomplishment, but losing this game is devastating and yeah, it doesn't feel good. You walk off the field, you see them celebrating and knowing the plays to be had out there for us that weren't made, you think, 'Oh, that should be us, celebrating this win.' So, yeah, it's hard. I don't know how to best answer that, but it is hard to juggle both of them. Yeah, they're a great team and so are we. They beat us today, but we've got a lot of great pieces in there and expect to continue to play winning football for quite some time."
Overall, this Lions’ season was one for the history books. Though many players expressed their grief and guilt for such a loss as this one, there was a prevailing sense of pride and gratitude among them. Fans, just as the players, also expressed their unwavering pride and loyalty to Detroit.
The 2023 season provided a rollercoaster of emotions, leaving an unforgettable mark on Detroit fans and players, as well as fans and players across the U.S. This unforgettable journey will be remembered for years to come.
Edited by: Hadlea Lindstrom
Social media content created by: Katherine Shin