June 12, 2024

It’s been more than seven decades since the Rams played the Detroit Lions in the only playoff matchup between the teams.

In 1952 a Rams team featuring stars such as Norm Van Brocklin, Bob Waterfield and Tom Fears lost 31-21 to a Lions team led by Bobby Layne and Doak Walker.

On Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit, the sixth-seeded Rams play the third-seeded Lions in an NFC wild-card game between teams with multiple connections. Some are obvious, others less so. Here is a look at five:

The Matthew Stafford-Jared Goff trade

This is a rare case where a blockbuster deal worked out well for both teams.

In 2021 the Rams sent Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Lions in exchange for Stafford.

The deal paid off instantly for the Rams: Stafford led them to a 12-5 record and then masterfully directed a playoff run that included victories over the Arizona Cardinals, the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers before the Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

This season Stafford has passed for 24 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. His play in the second half of the season fueled his run to a Pro Bowl selection.

Goff’s payoff has been more gradual.

In 2021 he nearly engineered a victory over the Rams in his return to SoFi Stadium. Last season he helped lead the Lions to a 9-8 record and made the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts.

This season Goff passed for 30 touchdowns with 12 interceptions as the Lions finished 12-5 and won the NFC North.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes

Holmes, 44, worked nearly two decades in the Rams’ scouting department before the Lions hired him as executive vice president and general manager in 2021.

Holmes was the Rams’ director of college scouting from 2013 to 2020. When he left to join the Lions, he hired Ray Agnew, the Rams’ director of pro scouting, to be assistant GM.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes, left, talks with quarterback Jared Goff after a preseason practice last July.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes, left, talks with quarterback Jared Goff after a preseason practice last July.

(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Holmes parlayed the Goff trade into multiple picks that brought the Lions key players such as cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, receiver Jameson Williams, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, defensive lineman Josh Paschal and tight end Sam LaPorta.

Lions receiver Josh Reynolds

The Rams selected the rangy Reynolds in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft, the same year they chose receiver Cooper Kupp in the third round.

Kupp went on to become a rookie starter alongside Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. The 6-foot-3, 194-pound Reynolds spent three seasons in a rotational role after the Rams added deep threat Brandin Cooks before the 2018 season.

Reynolds became a starter in 2020 and caught a career-high 52 passes for 618 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams, however, drafted Van Jefferson and opted not to re-sign Reynolds.

Reynolds signed with the Tennessee Titans but was waived in November 2021 and claimed by the Lions.

Amon-Ra St. Brown and LaPorta have been the top receivers this season, but Reynolds has 40 catches for 608 yards and five touchdowns. He is averaging 15.2 yards per catch.

Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds reaches for a pass while defended by Broncos cornerback Fabian Moreau.

Former Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds, reaching for a pass while defended by Broncos cornerback Fabian Moreau, had 40 catches for 608 yards this season for the Lions.

(David Dermer / Associated Press)

Rams defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant

Pleasant, a member of coach Sean McVay’s first staff, worked for the Rams for four seasons before he was hired to be part of first-year coach Dan Campbell’s Lions staff in 2021.

After seven games of the 2022 season, the Lions were giving up 265 yards passing per game. Campbell fired Pleasant.

Pleasant worked for the Green Bay Packers as a consultant for the offense the rest of the season before McVay rehired him.

This season the Rams gave up 231.1 yards passing per game, which ranked 20th in the NFL. The Lions gave up 247.4 yards, which ranked 27th.

Jimmy Lake, the Rams’ assistant head coach, was the Lions’ defensive backs coach in 2008.

Lions long snapper Jake McQuaide

McQuaide, 36, played for the Rams from 2011 to 2020 and, along with kicker Greg Zuerlein and punter Johnny Hekker, was part of a special teams unit that enjoyed uncommon group longevity under former special teams coordinator John Fassel.

McQuaide made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017 and by 2020 had become too expensive for the Rams.

He joined Fassel with the Dallas Cowboys and played two seasons before signing as a free agent with the Lions.

The Lions cut McQuaide during training camp but re-signed him in November after Scott Daly suffered a season-ending knee injury.

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