Lions hang on to beat Vikings 30-24 and clinch 1st division title since 1993

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Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell talks with quarterback Jared Goff (16) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, in Minneapolis. The Lions won 30-24. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

MINNEAPOLIS – Dan Campbell towered over the podium in a black T-shirt commemorating Detroit's first division title in 30 years, reveling in the moment as the bass from the locker room next door pulsated through the walls.

When the Lions played at Minnesota two years ago in Campbell's first season, the 6-foot-5 head coach cried during his postgame news conference in the emotion of a crushing loss.

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Jahmyr Gibbs had two rushing touchdowns, Amon-Ra St. Brown had 106 receiving yards and a third-quarter go-ahead score and Ifeatu Melifonwu had the game-sealing interception at the 5-yard line with 49 seconds left to lead the Lions past the injury-ravaged Vikings 30-24 on Sunday.

“I’m proud of all the Lions fans out there who’ve been dying for this for years,” Campbell said. “That was for you, too.”

Nick Mullens was intercepted four times to offset two touchdowns on 411 passing yards, none more crushing or cringe-worthy for Minnesota than the underthrown ball to an open Justin Jefferson three plays after his leaping grab in double coverage on third-and-27 kept the last-minute drive alive.

“Losing the turnover battle, you’re most likely going to lose every time,” Jefferson said.

Jared Goff passed for 257 yards without a turnover and David Montgomery had a rushing touchdown for the Lions (11-4) in another prolific performance by one of the NFL's most potent offenses. Detroit secured a home playoff game for the first time in 22 seasons at Ford Field, where an NFC North champions banner will soon hang. The last one was for winning the NFC Central in 1993.

“I can’t even imagine it because I’m only 24,” Melifonwu said.

As the players danced and the music blared in the raucous locker room afterward, Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp joined the celebration. Campbell gave a shoutout to offensive linemen Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow, and the team's two longest-tenured players teared up.

“You don’t realize how much it means to you until it happens," Ragnow said.

The Lions reached 11 wins for the first time in nine years. Their 20 victories since the start of the 2022 seasons are the most in franchise history in a two-year span.

“This was the chance,” St. Brown said. “We couldn’t let it slip.”

Mullens threw for two scores, a diving 26-yard catch by Jefferson with 29 seconds left in the first half and a 6-yard toss to K.J. Osborn that gave the Vikings a 21-17 lead early in the third quarter one play after a 47-yard heave to Osborn.

But like the week before in an overtime loss at Cincinnati, the turnovers weighed heavily on the outcome. Kerby Joseph’s first of two picks gave the Lions the ball at the Minnesota 33 in the second quarter, and they reached the end zone in three plays.

Goff was sharp in a redemptive game for him against Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores, whose schemes had given him plenty of trouble in previous matchups with New England and Miami when Goff was with the Los Angeles Rams, including Super Bowl 53.

Jefferson played at home for the first time since Oct. 8, when he hurt his hamstring and missed seven games, but the Vikings have had their depth tested more than ever. Wide receiver Jordan Addison (ankle, second quarter), tight end T.J. Hockenson (knee, third quarter), cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (shoulder, third quarter) and edge rusher D.J. Wonnum (quadriceps, fourth quarter) left with injuries. That's on top of the torn Achilles tendon suffered on Oct. 29 by quarterback Kirk Cousins, a problem the Vikings have yet to solve.

“Proud of our guys for the way they battled,” Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said. “Got to tip your hat to Dan and his group over there.”


The Vikings wore all-white uniforms as part of their annual winter-themed promotion, which fell on a 54-degrees-and-rainy afternoon outside U.S. Bank Stadium. That made the yellow flags on the field stand out even more, particularly during a pivotal sequence in the second quarter.

One play after he sacked Goff for an 11-yard loss, Patrick Jones was called for a dubious roughing-the-passer penalty that made the Vikings livid. The crowd howled when Blackmon took a hand to the facemask that wasn’t called.

Then later on that same drive, when Jordan Hicks hit Goff as he tried to let a pass go, the ball tumbled out and Cam Bynum scooped it up for what would have been an 82-yard touchdown return. The call was overturned to an incompletion, and the Lions continued on for a field goal.


Jefferson (5,648 in 58 games) passed Michael Thomas (5,512 in 63 games) for the most receiving yards in a player’s first four seasons in history.

St. Brown (2022, 2023) joined Herman Moore (1995, 1996, 1997) as the only players in Lions history with multiple seasons of 100-plus receptions.


Lions: Joseph walked off woozily in the fourth quarter after an unnecessary roughness penalty on Jefferson during a 28-yard reception. Joseph tried to go back in two plays later, but the officials sent him back to the sideline because he was in the concussion protocol.

Vikings: Blackmon started in place of CB Byron Murphy (knee), who was hurt in the previous game.


Lions: Visit Dallas next Saturday night.

Vikings: Host Green Bay next Sunday night.



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