It was a well-deserved game ball delivered to Detroit Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond from head coach Dan Campbell after Sunday's 20-17 victory over the New York Jets.
"He's our iron man," Campbell said of Raymond after the game. "He does everything for us. Some of the injuries we've had at receiver, he's been there every day for every game and every practice. He just goes. He is selfless, he's disciplined, he's a hard worker, he's smart, he's productive, he endears himself to his teammates and he's versatile."
Raymond showed off that versatility against the Jets Sunday, returning a punt 47 yards for his first career punt-return touchdown and then catching five passes for 53 yards. Three of the five grabs were good for first downs.
With all the injuries the Lions endured earlier this season at the receiver position, quarterback Jared Goff might have the most practice reps all year with Raymond, who's been available for every game. He's made some big grabs all season long, and is one of Detroit's biggest unsung heroes of the year.
"He's a tremendous receiver as well as a punt returner," Goff said. "When you have a guy that's supposed to be a gadget guy or punt returner and he can run choice routes, that's rare. He understands coverage. He knows where to be, he's always on time doing his thing."
Raymond might have slid back in the depth chart a little bit with the return of DJ Chark and Jameson Williams, but when he's out there, Goff feels extremely confident throwing his way. With Raymond, the Lions can throw five different receivers in the game they feel confident can make plays for them. Not many teams can say that.
"He does everything for us and he doesn't bat an eye," Campbell said of Raymond. "He doesn't whine. He doesn't complain. It's never too hard. The job is never too much. He just goes. 'What do you need me to do and I'll go.' You can't have enough of those guys."
With a first quarter sack of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson on a third-down pass attempt, Lions rookie linebacker James Houston recorded his fifth sack through his first four career games. He is now just the third player in NFL history to produce a sack in each of his first four games, joining Terrell Suggs (2003) and Santana Dotson (1992). His four-game sack streak ties the Lions franchise record and he's the first Lions rookie to accomplish the feat.
Houston is quickly approaching the 7.0 sack mark that currently paces the Lions and all NFL rookies by teammate Aidan Hutchinson.
- The Lions have won three straight games in December for the first time since Weeks 14-16 of the 2014 season.
- Only one team all time has made the playoffs after starting 1-6 (1970 Bengals), per NFL Research. Could the Lions be the second? We'll see.