The taste of victory was sweet inside the locker room Sunday afternoon.
For Detroit, it was a taste long awaited. For its first 11 games, it was the ugly stench of defeat.
However, on Sunday, the Lions conquered the doubt, and defeated the Minnesota Vikings, thanks to a last-second touchdown from quarterback Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Here are the positional grades from the Lions’ first victory of the season.
Goff will go down in Lions lore for the final drive, a 14-play, 75-yard odyssey that culminated in the game-winning touchdown. However, he made two crucial mistakes earlier in the quarter that nearly cost the team the win.
First, it was an interception thrown to Cameron Dantzler. Replays showed that St. Brown was running open across the field, meaning there were other options on the play. Later in the quarter, Goff was strip-sacked on a fourth-and-1 deep in Lions territory, which set up Minnesota’s go-ahead touchdown.
It was a good start for the Lions’ signal-caller, who finished with 296 yards passing. He hit T.J. Hockenson and Brock Wright for second-quarter touchdowns, as part of a 20-point stanza. Goff’s 296 passing yards is his most since Week 4.
Running backs: C
Without starter D’Andre Swift, the Lions were forced to restructure the offense. On a traditional week, so much goes through Swift. Without him available, coach Dan Campbell turned to Jamaal Williams, Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson.
The offense didn’t get its usual production from this unit, as the backs weren’t as much of factors in the passing game. Williams had just one catch, to go with 17 carries for 71 yards and a fumble.
Jefferson carried the ball five times for just 18 yards.
Igwebuike made perhaps the second-biggest play of the day when he caught a crossing route on the Lions' final drive. Instead of moving forward and going down, he sprinted across the field and got out of bounds to stop the clock.
Wide receivers/tight ends: B+
Minnesota entered the game without Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, meaning it would be playing with backup linebackers. Detroit took advantage by drawing up plays for its tight ends. Both Hockenson and Wright caught touchdowns.
Hockenson finished with four catches for 49 yards, while Wright had two for 28. Wright’s score was the first of his career.
Out wide, it was a breakout game for St. Brown. He finished with 10 catches for 86 yards and his first career touchdown, a surprisingly open snag on the final play of the game. Josh Reynolds was also effective, catching four passes for 69 yards.
Offensive line: B-
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On the Lions’ first drive, Goff was stopped short on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak, due to a lack of push from the offensive line. He tried running between center Evan Brown and right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, neither getting the necessary movement to advance the chains.
Taylor Decker was beaten to the outside on the second drive for a sack by D.J Wonnum. Brown had a tough afternoon against the Vikings’ interior line, and Penei Sewell was beaten for a sack.
On the Lions’ final drive, however, the unit kept its quarterback on his feet. The line didn’t see heavy pressure until it entered the red zone, but the front five weathered the storm and held strong as Goff fired the game-winning pass.
Defensive line: B
EDGE rushers Julian Okwara and Charles Harris teamed up to create an early turnover. It was Harris who sacked Kirk Cousins and forced a fumble, while Okwara scooped it up off the turf. Okwara would later get a sack of his own.
Harris was later penalized for roughing the passer. On the interior, it was a solid afternoon for Alim McNeill. He played a part in stuffing the Vikings’ two-point conversion attempt, and played a part in holding them to 3.7 yards per carry.
Derrick Barnes had another promising afternoon, as did Alex Anzalone. The longest run allowed by the defense was 11 yards, thanks in large part to the guys at the second level of the defense. Barnes had a tackle for loss, and teamed up with Anzalone and McNeill to get the two-point stop.
The unit did a modest job in pass coverage. Barnes contributed his TFL on a Cousins pass to running back Alexander Mattison, but Anzalone was beaten on another Cousins-Mattison connection that went for 16 yards.
Jerry Jacobs stole the show with his two early tackles for loss. He left briefly with a neck injury, but returned and finished with seven tackles. Tracy Walker led everyone with 11 tackles, and was in coverage on a Minnesota second-and-goal late in the fourth quarter.
Amani Oruwariye struggled to keep up with Justin Jefferson, who finished with 11 catches for 182 yards. He did finish with seven tackles, but was beaten multiple times by the Vikings’ emerging star.
Special teams: B+
The Lions may have finally found their reliable option at kicker in Riley Patterson, who went 3-for-3 on field goals Sunday. He hit from 31, 41 and 49 yards, and made all his extra points, as well.
Jack Fox punted only three times, averaging 55.3 yards per punt. There wasn’t much to speak of from Detroit’s return men, as Kalif Raymond and Igwebuike had just one return each.
Campbell was back to his old gambling ways Sunday, going for it on fourth down twice in his own territory. Both plays failed, including the second attempt that ended with a strip sack and Minnesota taking the ball deep in Lions territory.
The one area that can’t be questioned is the team’s belief and willingness to fight for its coach. The offense was unfazed on the final drive, and marched all the way down the field. He had an up-and-down day calling plays, as several good calls were offset by ill-timed runs.
Once again, the Lions were flagged for a pair of delay of game penalties. One of these came on the final drive, which set the team back. Yet, they ultimately overcame it all, and Campbell has his first win with the Lions as a result.