The Detroit Lions won their first game of the season on Sunday, but the significance of the occasion reached well beyond the walls of Ford Field.
As the nearby city of Oxford, Michigan, continues to recover from a mass shooting at a local high school that claimed the lives of four students and left six students and a teacher wounded, Lions head coach Dan Campbell opened his postgame press conference by dedicating the game ball to the victims, listing each by name, and everyone affected by the tragedy.
"I just wanted them to know exactly what we were going to represent today," said a visibly emotional Campbell of his message to the team. "The shirts, the hats, the decals, the people that are affected. Some of our players know of someone that was affected. To me, my thought was, 'Hey, man, if we can, for three hours, just ease their suffering a little bit, that's worth it.' So, that's kinda how I thought of this and we did a great job, players responded and played well."
On the heels of an inspirational win by the Michigan Wolverines football team over the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday in the Big Ten championship game, the Lions entered Sunday with a chance to provide a devastated community with another feel-good moment in front of their faithful fans. And they delivered.
Trailing the Vikings, 27-23, with less than two minutes left in regulation, Jared Goff and the offense orchestrated a 14-play, 75-yard drive that concluded with an 11-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown to win it as time ran out. The series was Detroit's best of the afternoon.
"You never hope for a tragedy like this, but you hope to be a light for those people and a positive thing that they can have fun watching," Goff said. "I hope they were all watching today and were able to enjoy that win and we can take their minds off it for whatever it may be, three hours. I think any time that we can do that, it's a lot bigger than our sport, it's a lot bigger than us and I think today was one of those special circumstances that we were able to rise to the occasion and make something special happen."
The shooting occurred on Nov. 30 at Oxford High School, which is located less than an hour from the Lions' home stadium. The suspect, a 15-year-old student at the school, was arrested the day of the shooting and faces multiple charges. The suspect's parents were arrested Saturday and charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.