The Detroit Lions held on for a 24-23 win over the Los Angeles Rams to celebrate their first play-off victory in 32 years.
Some of the long-suffering Lions fans, who included rapper Eminem, were in tears as Dan Campbell’s team won the first post-season game to be played in Motor City for 30 years.
That also brought an end to the NFL’s longest-ever losing streak in the play-offs, with Detroit having suffered defeat in their previous nine.
Earlier on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers pulled off the first shock of this season’s play-offs, claiming a stunning 48-32 win at the Dallas Cowboys.
As the lowest seed in the NFC Conference, the Packers are now guaranteed to visit the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers in next week’s divisional round.
And the Lions will be at home again – against either Philadelphia or Tampa Bay, who meet as the wildcard weekend concludes with two games on Monday.
Detroit’s win was also the first play-off game in which both starting quarterbacks previously played for the opposing team as the Rams traded for Matthew Stafford in 2021, in exchange for fellow quarterback Jared Goff and three draft picks.
Stafford won the Super Bowl in his first season in LA and the 35-year-old was booed on his first return to Ford Field while Goff, who fell out of favour after leading the Rams to Super Bowl 53, has revived his career in Detroit.
The 29-year-old has helped the Lions transform their fortunes, and despite playing in front of an expectant home crowd, they hit the ground running, literally – David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs crashed into the end zone in the first quarter, either side of a Rams field goal.
The two quarterbacks – both former number one draft picks – then had a shootout in the second quarter, after which Detroit led 21-17 at half-time.
LA receiver Puka Nacua continued his record-breaking rookie season with a 50-yard touchdown, before Goff made a touchdown pass to Sam LaPorta and Stafford found Tutu Atwell for a 38-yard score.
Detroit added a field goal in the third quarter, only for LA to kick two of their own to get within one point with eight minutes left. But the celebrations could begin after Stafford was unable to get the Rams into a scoring position on their final possession.
Packers halt Cowboys’ home run
Dallas had won 16 straight home games since last losing at the AT&T Stadium in their 2022 season opener. The Cowboys were also the second seed in the NFC Conference, with Green Bay the seventh.
Yet the Packers charged into a 27-0 lead and never looked back, finishing with seven touchdowns – three rushing scores by Aaron Jones, a pick-six and three touchdown passes by Jordan Love.
The 25-year-old has impressed in his first season since replacing Aaron Rodgers as Green Bay’s starting quarterback and also had 272 passing yards with no interceptions for an almost-perfect passer rating.
Jake Ferguson scored three of the Cowboys’ four touchdowns but that was of little consolation to ‘America’s Team’, who have not reached the Super Bowl since the 1995 season.
Dallas have finished the last three seasons with a 12-5 record but failed to deliver in the play-offs, losing three of their four post-season games under coach M
The visitors won the toss and took full advantage, producing a drive that lasted almost eight minutes and resulted in a Jones touchdown.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was then intercepted by cornerback Jaire Alexander and Jones again made the hosts pay by getting in from close range.
The Cowboys were now playing catch-up but Love made a 20-yard touchdown pass to Dontayvion Wicks before safety Darnell Savage returned Prescott’s second interception for a 64-yard score.
A Dallas touchdown right before half-time gave the hosts a glimmer of hope but their defence could not find a way to stop Love.
Further touchdowns by Jones, Luke Musgrave and Romeo Doubs put the game beyond Dallas before two late efforts by Ferguson made it a scoreline which flattered the Cowboys.