MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: What we learned from Week 10

Posted Nov 14, 2017

Mike O'Hara takes a look at what we learned from Week 10 of the 2017 season.

Golden Tate couldn’t have sounded happier for a teammate to make the go-ahead touchdown catch in the Detroit Lions’ win over the Browns Sunday than he was for Eric Ebron.

The way Tate talked after the game, he might have been happier for Ebron than if he had made the catch himself.

What we learned from Tate’s postgame session with the media after the nail-biter 38-24 win was really an affirmation of Ebron’s popularity with teammates. That might be contrary to what many people think, but regardless of what shortcomings Ebron might have, it’s obvious that teammates want him to do well for the team’s benefit and his own.

In a game when the Lions had to fight from behind much of the way to beat the winless Browns, there were a lot of things to learn. Among them: Rookie returner Jamal Agnew is not a fluke as a threat; performance is rewarded on the offensive line; perception is not always reality in the run-pass ratio of play-calling; the strength of Detroit’s defense is in the back end and a reference to Mike Tyson on a TD drive engineered by Matthew Stafford.

Here’s what we learned, starting with Ebron:

Tie-breaker: Ebron’s 29-yard catch with 10:52 left in the game broke a 24-24 tie. Ebron lined up wide left, with Browns rookie safety Jabrill Peppers in man-to-man coverage. Ebron got behind Peppers to catch Matthew Stafford’s pass and outrun Peppers to the end zone. 

“I loved it,” Tate said of Ebron’s play. “It was a great route by him. Great ball (by Stafford).  Great protection. He made it look easy.”

It was one of two catches in the game for Ebron. They gained a total of 39 yards. Tate isn’t surprised that Ebron has produced. He had three catches for 35 yards in the road win over the Packers on Monday night, and two for 58 yards in the fourth quarter of the loss to Pittsburgh in the previous game.

“Eric’s last few weeks have been tremendous,” Tate said, referring to the way Ebron has practiced. “He’s worked his tail off, studying film and practicing at a high level.

“We’ve seen over the last few weeks that he’s a dangerous player. He’s got some agility. He’s got speed. He’s got size. When he shows up, he makes it easy on everyone. I expect Eric to keep building on what he’s doing and keep proving himself right.”

Return flagged: Jamal Agnew continues to be a threat on punt returns, showing that he wasn’t a two-hit wonder with his two returns for TDs.

He returned four punts for a 14-yard average against the Browns, with a long return of 29 yards. A 49-yard return in the fourth quarter was called back on a penalty for an illegal block. It was a marginal call. Instead of starting a possession at the Browns’ 15, the Lions got it at their 37, a difference of 47 yards. Agnew said he never saw the flag until he got up after the play. He was disappointed by the penalty, but not with the effort of his blockers.

Snaps count: As expected, Taylor Decker played most of the snaps in the rotation at offensive left tackle in his first game of the season, but Brian Mihalik wasn’t forgotten. And he shouldn’t have been for the way he played as the starter in the previous two games.

Decker played 36 of the offense’s 52 snaps in his season debut delayed by a shoulder injury. Mihalik played the other 16 snaps and had one of the key blocks on Ameer Abdullah’s eight-yard TD run in the second quarter. Decker no doubt will play all the snaps when he is deemed to be at full strength.

Secondary is primary: A handful of plays made Sunday showed again how talent and depth makes the secondary the strength of the defense. They include the following:

Nevin Lawson’s strip, fumble recovery and return for a touchdown; Darius Slay’s interception to end the Browns’ last real threat; a big  -- and legal -- hit by nickel corner Quandre Diggs that forced Browns starting quarterback DeShone Kizer to leave the game for part of the second half; and a blitz by safety Tavon Wilson for his second sack of the season.

Run-pass perception: There were some grumbles that offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter might have leaned on the running game too much, but that’s more perception than reality. The Lions actually had 15 called runs – 11 by Abdullah for 52 yards, four by Theo Riddick for 35 yards. Four other statistical runs were two scrambles by Stafford and two kneel-downs at the end of the game.

On the other side, the Lions had 32 called pass plays – 26 attempts by Stafford (with 17 completions), four sacks on drop backs and the two scrambles.

Four-bagger: Stafford is fun to watch, and lethal to defend, when he’s rolling. And he was rolling in the second half Sunday. A four-play possession that ended in a TD pass to Theo Riddick with a minute left in the fourth quarter broke down as follows: 

1. Pass to Kenny Golladay for 14 yards. 

2. Pass to Golladay for 50 yards.

3. Short pass to Abdullah for 3 yards.

4. 8-yard TD pass to Riddick.

Bottom line: Four plays, four passes, four completions, 75 yards.

Possession time: 91 seconds – which is exactly the time it once took heavyweight champ Mike Tyson to knock out Michael Spinks. Stafford was just as lethal.

If that didn’t leave the Browns’ heads spinning, then maybe they never saw what was coming.