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THE SPECTATOR

The Student News Site of Berkley High School

THE SPECTATOR

The Student News Site of Berkley High School

THE SPECTATOR

A Recap of the Best Season in Detroit Lions’ History

67 years ago, the Detroit Lions made the NFL championship before it was even called the Super Bowl. They defeated the Cleveland Browns, 59-14. Since the 1957 championship, the Lions have been the worst franchise in professional sports.

The 2023 Lions season, however, felt different from the start. Detroit entered the season with the most hype since Barry Sanders was on the team in the 90s. Even the NFL noticed this, sending the Lions to Kansas City to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Thursday Night Football to open the season. The Lions fought hard and made an early statement by beating Patrick Mahomes in his home stadium, 21-20.

Riding the high from their impressive early win, the Lions returned home to take on the 0-1 Seattle Seahawks. Ford Field was electric, but Detroit suffered a devastating loss in overtime, dampening excitement and immediately raising questions about the legitimacy of this team.

The Lions responded to this adversity by cruising through a four-game winning streak where they defeated every opponent by 14 or more points. In that win streak, the Lions crushed their rival Green Bay Packers, 34-20, taking over first place in their division. The Lions rode the high of their streak into a huge game against the then 4-2 Baltimore Ravens, but hit a major bump in the road. The Ravens simply outmatched the Lions, crushing them 38-6. The Detroit hype screeched to a halt and the legitimacy questions resurfaced.

The Lions returned home for an exciting game on Monday Night Football against the quickly collapsing Las Vegas Raiders. They won 26-14 and went into their bye week with a 6-2 record.

After the bye, Detroit flew out to LA to take on the Los Angeles Chargers. At this point, the Lions defense was becoming a major concern because they had struggled consistently against good offenses. The Chargers had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, and the Lions defensive struggles continued. Similarly, though, the Lions offense also outmatched the Chargers defense, allowing them to squeak out a 41-38 victory. The following week, the Lions faced their divisional rival Chicago Bears. The Bears were a struggling 3-7 team, so the Lions were heavily favored, but Chicago held control for the majority of the game. Detroit was losing 23-14 with about five minutes left in the game. The Bears were simply outplaying them on offense and defense. However, in the last bit of the game, the Lions mounted an incredible comeback capped off by a game-sealing strip sack (a sack in which the quarterback fumbles) from former Michigan Wolverine Aidan Hutchinson. With the 31-26 victory over the Bears, the Lions advanced to 8-2.

Despite the thrilling comeback, the Lions looked like they were struggling. Since the Ravens game, they had not looked as crisp as they had earlier in the season. The struggles continued on Thanksgiving as they played the Packers for the second time. Early mistakes and turnovers allowed Green Bay to take a massive 23-6 lead at halftime. The Lions couldn’t muster any resistance and they ended up dropping their seventh straight Thanksgiving game, 29-22. The Lions bounced back the following week and beat the New Orleans Saints, 33-28 before they headed to Chicago to take on the Bears for their second matchup of the season.

The concerns and defensive struggles were on full display as the Lions collapsed to an inferior Bears team, losing 28-13. All eyes were on Detroit now as they hit their lowest point of the season. They held an 8-4 record and maintained first place in their division but were flailing in what was supposed to be their easiest stretch of the season. Even worse, their final four games were against difficult opponents.

The first of those opponents was the surging Denver Broncos, who had won 6 of their previous 7 games. The Lions hosted the Broncos on Saturday Night Football at home. They needed a statement. And a statement they got. Detroit steamrolled the Broncos, 42-17. This was their first step back on track. They were 9-4 and had put themselves in position to clinch their division the following week.

Detroit traveled to Minnesota for their first of two games against the Vikings. If the Lions won this game, they would win the NFC North for the first time in 32 years. Although they maintained control for most of the game, Detroit slipped up and gave the Vikings an opportunity to win the game in the final moments. They were up 30-24, but the Vikings had the ball and were driving with about a minute left in the 4th quarter. Vikings QB Nick Mullens had targeted star receiver Justin Jefferson throughout the final drive, and Lions safety Ifeatu Melifonwu picked up on this, intercepting Mullens and sealing the division for the Lions.

The Lions then traveled to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, one of the best teams in the NFL. The Cowboys had not lost a home game in nearly 2 years, so the Lions faced a difficult challenge. They held their own, though, scoring a touchdown in the final seconds to make the score 20-19. Head coach Dan Campbell elected to go for a 2-point conversion to win the game, and the Lions succeeded. However, the conversion was reversed after a screwup by the referees, causing Detroit to lose the game and costing them a higher spot in the playoffs.

The Lions played the Vikings again the following week and eased by them, 30-20.

They then hosted their first playoff game at Ford Field against the Los Angeles Rams, led by former Lions QB Matthew Stafford. All eyes were on the Lions this year to see if they could truly take a step forward and win their second playoff game ever. More storylines were focused on Stafford and his return to Detroit as well as current Lions QB Jared Goff facing off against his former team. The game was a back-and-forth chess match. Stafford shredded the Lions defense, but Goff held his own against the Rams defense. In the end, the Lions prevailed, 24-23, winning their first playoff game since 1991.

The second round of the playoffs came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom the Lions had defeated earlier in the season. The Bucs were an improved team, however, but the Lions were still favored. Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield put up another good performance against the still weak Lions defense, but Detroit outmatched them on the offensive side of the ball. Again, however, the Lions failed to put the Bucs away, and Tampa had a chance with a minute left. But Detroit managed to win on a final interception by linebacker Derrick Barnes, advancing to their second NFC championship ever and their first (again) since 1991.

The storybook season sadly came to a close in San Francisco, where the Lions faced the surging 49ers for a place in Super Bowl LVIII. Detroit shot out of a cannon in the first half, beating up on the Niners and getting a comfortable 24-7 lead at halftime. However, miscues and fluke plays allowed the 49ers to regain momentum. In the blink of an eye, the 49ers scored 27 straight unanswered points, taking a 34-24 lead with three minutes left in the game. A late touchdown from the Lions wasn’t enough, and their season ended in a heart-breaking 34-31 defeat.

Despite the disappointing end, the Lions blew past expectations this year. This has been the greatest and most successful season of Lions football in the Super Bowl era. The city of Detroit rallied behind this team, and, while they may have not made the big dance, this season was special. Things finally look bright at Ford Field, and next year will be even better.

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About the Contributor
Aiden Aronoff, Copy Editor
Hey everyone! My name is Aiden. I’m so excited to be your copy editor this upcoming year! I am a senior and this is my third year on the staff of the Spectator. I’m a huge movie nerd and Detroit sports fan! I have my own movie blog, Sweet n' Sour Movie Blog, where I do movie reviews. I love hanging out with friends, watching movies (obviously!), being active, and reading/writing. Can’t wait for this year!

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