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NOTEBOOK: Lions could look to Tate to boost offense

Posted Oct 12, 2017

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Thursday's practice including Golden Tate's history vs. the Saints, Nick Bellore the fullback and more.

Golden Tate seemed a little taken aback in the locker room Wednesday when he was read his three-game statistics against the New Orleans Saints the last three years.

The Lions and Saints have squared off every year since Golden Tate joined the Lions via free agency in 2014. In those three games, Tate has combined to catch 24 passes for 344 yards with four touchdowns and 212 yards after the catch.

“It’s not something I think about all that much, but over the past years I’ve definitely enjoyed playing them,” Tate said.

“I think every year I’ve been here we’ve beat them, right? So, hopefully we keep that streak going. There’s a few teams on our schedule I’ve enjoyed playing in the past. I just feel like I’ve had their number and just excel.”

Since 2014, Tate’s four touchdowns are the most the Saints have given up to any one receiver. His YAC are the second most, receiving yards third most and receptions fourth most. Don’t forget the Saints have played the likes of Julio Jones (six times) and Mike Evans (five times) as division foes during that stretch, but it’s been Tate who’s really been their biggest killer.

Tate is Detroit's leading receiver through five games. He's recorded 29 receptions for 267 yards with a touchdown.

Detroit’s struggled with consistency on offense really all season long. They currently rank 29th overall and 23rd in passing.

They’ll square off against a Saints' defense that enters the contest ranked 29th overall (274.8) and 28th against the pass (265.2).  

For a Lions' offense looking for some kind of spark, feeding No. 15 the football might not be a bad strategy this week. He’s had the Saints number over the years, and could be just the spark plug Jim Bob Cooter and Co. need to get things back on track..

FB ROLE

Veteran linebacker Nick Bellore saw his reps increasing the last couple weeks playing fullback at practice, but wasn’t quite sure when the look would be implemented into a game.

Last week vs. Carolina, he got the call. On his very first NFL play as a fullback, he stoned All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly in the hole, springing running back Zach Zenner for a 13-yard gain.

“It’s kind of a blur out there,” Bellore said of the play. “They’re kind of just all numbers to me. It’s kind of the first one that shows up in the hole happened to be him and I was just happy to be out there.”

Bellore played three snaps on offense and made two key blocks, one on the Zenner 13-yard run and the other on Zenner’s 1-yard touchdown run later. He was also on the field for Detroit’s failed 4th and 1 attempt in the third quarter.

Without a true fullback on the roster, expect Bellore to continue in that role in short yardage and goal line situations.

“(Nick) Bellore was good,” Cooter said Thursday. “I thought he had some productive blocks. He did his job. We sort of had a couple of guys play that role this year. It’s been an interesting year from that standpoint. But Nick Bellore did a nice job. Whatever we ask him to do, he seems to do a pretty good job with and we’ll sort of keep him coming.”

STEPPING UP

Detroit’s defense will be missing a key component in veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata moving forward. Ngata was placed on IR this week after suffering a bicep injury in last week’s loss to Carolina.

Akeem Spence, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Datone Jones and Caraun Reid will try and fill Ngata’s void, but defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will need more from starting defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, too. Robinson is averaging two tackles per game. He also has one forced fumble and one defended pass.

“I think A’Shawn’s played well,” Austin said. “We all want guys to play better, but I think he’s played well. He’s very competitive, he hustles hard. Looking for maybe a few more splash plays, a few more stats, which I think will come.

“But it’s like anything, he’s doing the things right, so those plays will come. I don’t worry about it when guys are doing the things we’re asking them to do. Maybe the plays aren’t coming right at this particular time, but as long as they stick to it, we usually feel like the play will come to them. So, I feel good about where A’Shawn is.”

With Ngata out, this is an opportunity for Robinson to make a few more of the splash plays Austin is looking for. The Lions could certainly use them in Ngata’s absence.