DETROIT - Jared Goff threw for a touchdown and completed a game-sealing first down against the team that cast him away, and the Detroit Lions won a playoff game for the first time in 32 years, beating Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams 24-23 on Sunday night.
The Lions (13-5) ended a nine-game postseason losing streak — the longest in NFL history — that dated to a victory over Dallas on Jan. 5, 1992. They lost a home playoff game two years later and hadn’t hosted one since.
Detroit will have two home playoff games for the first time in franchise history, hosting either Tampa Bay or Philadelphia in the divisional round next Sunday.
The Rams (10-8) had a chance to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, but Detroit’s defense held. A holding penalty pushed Los Angeles out of field goal range, and Stafford — the Lions’ longtime quarterback who won a Super Bowl after he was traded to the Rams — threw incomplete on fourth down.
On the first play after the two-minute warning, Goff hit Amon-Ra St. Brown for 11 yards, allowing the Lions to run out the clock — much to the delight of long-suffering fans who witnessed the franchise’s second postseason victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.
Against the franchise he once led to the Super Bowl, Goff was 22 of 27 for 277 yards and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta that put Detroit ahead 21-10 midway through the second quarter. The Lions acquired Goff and a pair of first-round picks for Stafford three years ago.
Stafford, who played most of the game with a bandaged and bloody hand after he slammed it into a defender’s helmet, finished 25 of 36 for 367 yards with two touchdowns. Record-breaking rookie Puka Nacua had nine receptions for 181 yards.
David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs each had a rushing touchdown for the Lions, and St. Brown had seven receptions for 110 yards.
The Lions scored on their first two drives to take a 14-3 lead.
The Rams got within 21-17 at halftime thanks to Stafford’s 50-yard touchdown pass to Nacua and his 38-yarder to Tutu Atwell.
Michael Badgley’s season-long, 54-yard field goal gave the Lions a seven-point lead midway through the third quarter.
The Rams moved the ball at will for much of the game, but had to settle for short field goals by Brett Maher on drives late in the third and midway through the fourth to get within 24-23 with 8:10 remaining.
Stafford has made a career of fourth-quarter comebacks, a fact the fans at Ford Field were well aware of. With a chance to put the Rams ahead for the first time, he led a drive to the Detroit 34, but the Lions’ defense forced him backwards from there.
Detroit took over with 4:07 to go, and Los Angeles had only one timeout left after calling two earlier in the half to cope with a crowd as loud as a blaring siren. That allowed Goff to take a knee after his throw to St. Brown.
The Lions started strong and looked as fired up as their long-suffering fans, with rapper and Motor City native Eminem in the house along with Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson.
The fans showered Stafford with boos when he ran onto the field, where he posed for a pregame photo with his wife and their daughters, and chanted "Jar-ed Goff! Jar-ed Goff" for the Lions’ third-year quarterback.