Detroit quarterback Jared Goff celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown in the Lions' win over Tampa Bay on Sunday

New York (AFP) - The Detroit Lions defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-23 to reach their first NFC Championship game in 33 years in the NFL playoffs on Sunday.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff threw for two touchdowns and 287 passing yards as Detroit set up a showdown with the San Francisco 49ers in California next Sunday for a place in the Super Bowl.

The victory extended Detroit’s emotion-fuelled playoff run, which has seen the Lions win back-to-back playoff games for the first time since their 1957 championship-winning season.

“We played together. We played hard all day, we played complementary football and were able to finish drives when it really mattered, and our defense played great,” Goff said after the victory at Detroit’s Ford Field.

Goff, who hails from northern California and grew up a San Francisco fan, is already looking forward to next Sunday’s NFC title decider.

“I get to go back home a little bit and play in front of friends and family,” Goff said. “They’re a great team and it will be a great match-up.”

Neither offense was able to get on top in the first quarter however, with Tampa kicker Chase McLaughlin’s 43-yard field goal cancelling out Michael Badgley’s early 23-yard three-pointer for Detroit.

Detroit’s offense slowly began building momentum however and made the breakthrough early in the second quarter when Goff fired a bullet nine-yard pass to the back of the end zone to pick out Josh Reynolds for the touchdown.

Tampa Bay’s offense continued to struggle thereafter, with the Lions forcing a punt before McLaughlin’s 50-yard field goal effort struck the left upright to leave Detroit 10-3 ahead.

- Touchdown flurry -

Detroit's Amon-Ra St. Brown catches touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the Lions' win over Tampa Bay

But after the Tampa Bay defense forced a punt from Detroit, the Bucs’ offense came alive in the closing minutes of the first half. Quarterback Baker Mayfield began to find his range and a floated pass was hauled in by Mike Evans near the Detroit end zone to set up first and goal.

On the next snap, Mayfield coolly popped a short pass for tight end Cade Otton to gather and cruise in for the touchdown. McLaughlin slotted the extra point to make it 10-10 at half-time.

The second half started in similar fashion with Tampa Bay punting twice either side of a Detroit punt.

But the game exploded into life with a flurry of touchdowns which began when Reynolds grabbed his second score of the game, barging over from close range on fourth down to help put Detroit 17-10 ahead.

Tampa Bay’s response was immediate, with Mayfield leading a drive that ended with Rachaad White romping into the end zone from 12 yards out.

Detroit reclaimed the lead on the next possession though with an electrifying 31-yard run from Jahmyr Gibbs, the running back splitting the Tampa Bay defense for a touchdown to make it 24-17 after the extra point conversion.

After another Tampa Bay punt, Goff then stretched Detroit’s lead to 31-17, picking out Amon-Ra St. Brown for a nine-yard touchdown score.

Yet there was still time for Tampa Bay to mount a rearguard action, with Mayfield throwing his third touchdown pass for Evans to score.

But Tampa Bay’s hopes of an improbable comeback ended when Mayfield was picked off in midfield as the Bucs chased a game-winning score with 1min 35sec remaining.