The 1991 Playoff Run: The Detroit Lions’ Journey to the NFC Championship Game

Following the 1991 season, the Detroit Lions came within one game of going to the Super Bowl.

The 1991 NFL season marked a turning point for the Detroit Lions and their long-suffering fan base. Led by head coach Wayne Fontes and a talented roster, the Lions emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the NFC Central division. Energized by the arrival of skilled players such as Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, and Erik Kramer, the Lions embarked on a remarkable playoff run that captivated the Motor City.

Detroit Lions Division II Heisman Trophy Tyree Wilson Dan Campbell 2023 Detroit Lions 53-man roster Detroit Lions vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Dominating the NFC Central: The Road to the Playoffs

Under Coach Fontes' guidance, the Detroit Lions finished the regular season with a 12-4 record, capturing their first division title since 1983. Their success was built on a potent offense led by the elusive Barry Sanders, who rushed for a league-leading 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns. Willie Green, Brett Perriman, and Robert Clark led the way in terms of receiving, while quarterback Erik Kramer led the team to a 6-2 record in his regular-season starts.

Wild Card Blowout: Lions vs. Cowboys

In the wild-card round, the Lions faced off against the Dallas Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome in a memorable showdown. The game lived up to its billing as a nail-biter, with both teams locked in a fierce battle. Erik Kramer's 31-yard touchdown pass to Willie Green got things started, and Barry's epic 47-yard run secured a 38-6 victory for the Lions. The win not only propelled them into the divisional round but also ignited the Motor City's football fever to new heights.

NFC Championship Game: Detroit Lions dominated by Redskins

Next up, the Lions squared off against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Washington Redskins, in an intense divisional playoff game. Despite a valiant effort, the Lions fell short, losing 41-10. However, the 1991 playoff run allowed the Lions to showcase their potential and gain invaluable experience on the big stage. The loss served as a catalyst for the team's hunger and determination to return even stronger the following season. Unfortunately, we all know how that played out as the Lions have not won a single playoff game since the 1991 NFL Playoffs.

The Legacy: Reigniting Football Passion in Detroit

The 1991 playoff run left an indelible mark on the Detroit Lions and their fans. It reignited a passion for football in the Motor City, with fans embracing their team's resilience and unwavering spirit. The season showcased the immense talent of Barry Sanders, who would go on to become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. It also solidified the Lions' status as a team to watch in the NFC.

As we look back on the 1991 playoff run, it stands as a cherished moment in Lions history—a testament to the resilience of the team, the passion of the fans, and the enduring spirit of the Motor City.


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