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Lions Trickerate Their Way To Inspiring, Slightly Pyrrhic Victory

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 09: Tracy Walker III #21 of the Detroit Lions celebrates after an interception against the Green Bay Packers during the fourth quarter at Ford Field on January 09, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The first overall draft pick was the Jaguars’ to, uh, lose. But they won! They beat the Colts, who could’ve clinched a playoff spot with a win, but Carson Wentz may have spared America his usual playoff meltdown by giving us a regular-season meltdown. With Jacksonville’s victory, that seemingly handed 2022’s top pick to the Detroit Lions. The Lions had other ideas.

And thankfully so, because there’s nothing less interesting than talking about or thinking that a team should try to lose a game for draft positioning. Who cares? There’s no obvious No. 1 pick this year, certainly no can’t-miss QB, and even if there were, that’s not the current players’ problem. Many of them won’t even be here next year, inshallah. Play hard, try to win, and give fans a reason to feel good. After a spectacularly entertaining 37-30 win over mostly the Packers’ understudies, Lions fans are currently pumping their fists on a January afternoon. That’s the whole point of the sport, right?

We expected that a Dan Campbell–coached team would treat a mostly-for-fun Week 18 game as seriously and aggressively as they would any other game including a Super Bowl—early on in this one the Lions set the NFL record for most fourth-down conversion attempts in a season—but we did not expect the creativity. Detroit, which is reportedly firing offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, emptied the playbook.

That’s Jared Goff faking a toss to wideout Kalif Raymond (lined up in the backfield), handing off to Amon-Ra St. Brown, who tosses it to WR Tom Kennedy on the reverse, who fires a bullet on the run to a wide-open Raymond. Just a beautiful, beautiful play design and execution all around.

The Lions weren’t done.

This one was the ol’ triple handoff, from Goff to Jamaal Williams to St. Brown back to Goff, who then found TE Brock Wright for 36 yards and the score.

This is great. Why the hell not use all the trick plays you have left, because you can’t use ’em after today. Season’s over, no more games to play, there’ll be new personnel and a new OC next year—it’s now or never. That’s Dan Campbell’s motto!

Now isn’t this better than losing, meekly or heartbreakingly, just to move up one measly draft slot? Never underestimate the very real value of having a team be watchable and likable. There are Giants fans who’d kill to remember what that feels like.