Lions waited 30 years for a division title. Now they focus on ending an even longer drought

"Jurassic Park." Michael Jordan. Whitney Houston. Cheap gas. This is what the pop culture world looked like the last time the Detroit Lions reached the apex of their division in 1993.

A lot has changed since then, but the division title finally returned to Detroit after a 30-year absence.

"This is special," head coach Dan Campbell said, "but, like I said, it's a special group."

The Lions needed every bit of the four turnovers they forced in a 30-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings, but they achieved a level of success that has been hard for this franchise to come by. As NFC North champs, they'll be hosting a playoff game for the first time since 1993, but the real streak they’re still working on is winning a playoff game for the first time since the 1991 season.

Detroit, to a degree, may be on a sliding scale where just being at this point is a major success, but with a team of this caliber the Lions need to win.

Funnily enough, if the playoffs were to start today, former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford would be leading his Los Angeles Rams squad into Detroit for a playoff game. That might be a scary sight with how Stafford and the Rams are playing right now, but it brings the Lions’ achievement into full focus.

Ifeatu Melifonwu (6) clinched the Lions' first division title since 1993 with an interception. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

They swapped Stafford for Jared Goff and draft picks in 2021, and used those assets to jumpstart a rebuild that has Detroit in this situation. Goff has been a steady hand, and the Lions have one of the best offensive lines in the league, a couple explosive skill players and a defense that can occasionally make the plays needed to win games.

It's not a bad recipe for success — and a far cry from where they were just last season when they had to rebound from a 1-6 start to make things interesting toward the end. Right now, they’re just good, which is a major step forward. Maybe they're not good enough to win the NFC this season, with the San Francisco 49ers breathing fire on everything that comes their direction, but good enough to be hosting a playoff game.

Home playoff games are the key to making any run toward the Super Bowl. Getting to the divisional round is something the Lions haven’t done since the 1991 season, when they lost to Washington in the NFC title game but the NFC is weak enough where this can be the season they get it done.

"My perception of it just doesn't really click, you know?" rookie tight end Sam LaPorta said, according to The Athletic's Colton Pouncy. "I was born in 2001, so, I've [only] been on this Earth 22 years."

The Lions should feel comfortable in their ability to take on any of the lower seeds in the NFC based on recent trends. If they don't play the Rams, they’re likely to see one of the Seahawks, Vikings or Packers in the wild-card round.

The Vikings are a good team, but have maxed out what’s possible for them this year due to their quarterback situation. Seattle is scary as long as it has its collection of top-end talent, but the defense certainly can be taken advantage of. The Packers just gave up 30 to the Panthers and gave up a game-winning drive to Tommy DeVito a few weeks ago. Detroit has a good shot to win against any of those teams, which would further cement this Lions team in the history books of their franchise.

Campbell, general manager Brad Holmes and the players they’ve acquired have the Lions back from the dead. This team isn’t a doormat for the rest of the league anymore. The Lions are one of the best-composed rosters in the league with a clear plan — with a chance to become a bona fide Super Bowl contender with one more strong offseason.

This year is ending in a Honolulu Blue bang, something the NFL hasn’t seen for the better part of three decades.

"This is just the beginning," Campbell said. "We feel that way."