And they made sure the San Diego Chargers are out.
With their fans chanting “PLAYOFFS” for the final minutes, Detroit got there for the first time since 1999 after Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes in the first half to beat the Chargers 38-10 Saturday.
The Lions (10-5) have won three straight after a seven-game slump to earn a wild-card spot in the playoffs, turning around their franchise after the NFL’s only 0-16 season just three years ago.
“There’s going to be a time that we don’t celebrate getting to the playoffs, but it’s not going to be tonight,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
No one has been waiting longer than owner William Clay Ford.
Ford, whose first season leading the franchise was in 1964, was handed a keepsake in the jubilant locker room.
“We gave him the game ball,” said center Dominic Raiola, who endured a string of miserable seasons after Detroit drafted him in 2001.
After Raiola’s postgame news conference, he gave Stafford a bear hug.
“I’m excited for them, more than for myself and some of the other young guys,” the 22-year-old Stafford said.
The Chargers (7-8) will miss the postseason for a second consecutive year after making it five times in a six-season stretch. And that might cost coach Norv Turner his job.
“I’ve been concentrating every week as well as I can on getting this team ready to play and doing the things we need to do,” Turner said. “We all know that’s something that’s discussed at the end of the year.”
Stafford finished with 373 yards passing to give him 4,518 this year, breaking Scott Mitchell’s single-season Lions record from 1995.