GREEN BAY, Wis. — As happy as Dan Campbell was to lead the Detroit Lions to their first winning season since 2017, the second-year head coach was even happier to put the Same Old Lions narrative to rest.
At Lambeau Field, on the prime-time stage, the underdog Lions ended the regular season on an emotional high with a 20-16 win over the Green Bay Packers — spoiling their hopes of reaching the postseason.
Now that the Lions have bounced back from a 1-6 start to finish 9-8 and gain respect, Campbell is embracing a different moniker: Brand New Lions.
The next step of the rebuild is reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
“Look, certainly I don’t want to hear that anymore, the Same Old Lions. That’s what all this is about,” Campbell said after the win Sunday night. “There’s so many things and it all comes with winning, but yeah, I wanted to be part of building a brand-new brand.
“So, I like that and that’s the point, but I also know if you want to do that, you’ve really got to get in the dance, you’ve got to get in the tournament and then you’ve got to make some waves in the tournament so that’s the next step,” he continued. “We’ve improved every year. We improved last year. That was a special group, even though we only won three games and we kept a lot of those guys and guess what? We got nine wins this season. And we were 5-1 in the division, and we got better and next year we will be better. But next year’s about let’s get in the dance and let’s see what we can do when we get in there.”
Entering Lambeau Field on Sunday, there was a slim chance of Detroit reaching the playoffs. They needed the Seattle Seahawks to lose and also needed to beat the Packers to earn the NFC’s seventh seed.
But even when Lions players found out during pregame warmups that they would be left out the playoffs, after Seattle beat the Los Angeles Rams in overtime, Campbell said they were “unfazed.”
“We knew what we were coming in here for and it was to gain some respect and show what we’re capable of, no matter what happened,” Campbell said. “And we knew the only way to do that was to win. And so, our guys were locked in. They were unaffected by that because we knew what the objective was.”
Lions quarterback Jared Goff earned his first win in three career starts at Lambeau Field and took a victory lap, slapping hands with Detroit fans at the stadium after the game. So did Lions second-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who caught six passes for 49 yards.
Entering Sunday, Detroit was just 3-27 on the road against Green Bay, losing their last three visits. From 1992-2014, the Lions lost 23 games in a row to the Packers.
Running back Jamaal Williams, who surpassed Hall of Famer Barry Sanders’ record for the most single-season rushing touchdowns in franchise history (17), hopes the organization is now being viewed differently.
“I don’t care, but at the same time you’re gonna have to stop disrespecting us like that,” said Williams, a former Packers running back. “I don’t watch TV, I really don’t, but (Dan Campbell) was the one who showed all of the clips of people picking the Packers over us because it’s (like) a playoff game. Everybody picked the Packers because nobody trusted us.”
St. Brown didn’t mince words either when he said, “We want that respect from everyone,” as he was among the last to leave the visitor’s locker room.
Like Campbell, he feels that beating the Packers and closing the season with a winning record will change the Same Old Lions narrative. They’re both motivated to help the Lions improve moving forward.
“They can keep doubting us. Everyone’s entitled to whatever they want to do. But as a team, we’ve got to keep winning, we’ve got to keep showing people that we can win those games,” St. Brown told ESPN. “The more you win, the more respect you’re given, the more respect you get and at some point, you can’t keep saying it’s the Same Old Lions if you keep winning. We’ve got to take care of our business, which I think we can do here, but I’m excited for next year.”