FIRST DOWN: ROOKIE REPORT
With the playoffs no longer in the cards, one of the things to watch Sunday vs. Green Bay was how Detroit's rookie class would finish off their seasons.
The Lions have received a number of important contributions from their rookies this season, and that continued Sunday in Detroit's 35-11 win.
First-round pick Jarrad Davis thwarted a Packers' early scoring drive by recording the first interception of his career. Davis finished with 12 tackles to lead the Lions in the game, along with recording that early pick. Davis finished the year with 96 tackles, two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble in 14 games.
Wide receiver Kenny Golladay caught a 54-yard touchdown from quarterback Matthew Stafford in the second quarter. He caught a beautifully thrown ball on the post pattern and stiff-armed Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and raced to the end zone. It was Golladay's first touchdown since Week 1. He made a terrific back-shoulder catch for 26 yards later in the second half that helped set up Detroit's last touchdown. He had 80 yards on two catches and finished with 28 receptions for 477 yards (17.0 average) with three touchdowns in 11 games.
Cornerback Jamal Agnew has excited all year with his punt-return ability, but an injury to fellow rookie Teez Tabor (arm) forced him into an extended role in the nickel cornerback spot. He did some good things in that role, particularly playing physical against the run. Agnew is already one of the best young punt returners in the NFL.
The biggest leap in development for a player is typically between their first and second seasons. It's good to see these youngsters head into their offseasons on a good note.
SECOND DOWN: TWO-POINT PLAY
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and the offense have been working on a trick play to be used down around the goal line for a few weeks now if they got the proper look.
It wasn't until Sunday that the Packers gave Cooter and Stafford what they were looking for, and the trickery resulted in a nice cap on Detroit's season sweep of the Packers.
"Guys have been working on that for a number of weeks," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said after the game.
"It's been something we've been working on for a long time and Jim Bob and the offensive guys thought this would be a good game to utilize it. We thought we'd get the kind of look we needed."
The play came with the Lions leading 33-11 following an Ameer Abdullah touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The Lions wanted to extend the lead to 24 to make any Packers comeback attempt need three touchdowns and then three two-point conversations.
Stafford pretended he was changing a play and was walking around communicating with the receivers when the Lions direct snapped the ball to Abdullah, who went right with it. Abdullah pitched it back to Golden Tate on the reverse, who then threw the ball to a wide-open Stafford in the end zone.
"We practiced it a bunch, so I've caught it a bunch," Stafford said after the game, when asked what was going through his mind when the ball was in the air. "I was just happy he called it. Guys were fired up in the huddle that he called it. Fun way to end it."
In the locker room after the game, Tate was quick to point out he is now 2-for-2 throwing the football in his NFL career with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
THIRD DOWN: ONSIDE SURPRISE
Consider Detroit's late two-point conversion a reply to an early wrinkle by the Packers.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 17 game vs. Green Bay Packers.
Don't tell Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy Sunday's game didn't mean anything.
The Packers won the opening coin flip and decided to defer to the second half. But they had a surprise in store for the Lions' special teams.
Green Bay caught the Lions sleeping and went with an onside kick to open the game. Kicker Mason Crosby booted a nice one-bouncer 14 yards into the hands of safety Jermaine Whitehead at the Green Bay 49-yard line.
The Packers would move the ball to the Lions 21-yard line before quarterback Brett Hundley had a ball bounce right off the hands of Jamaal Williams and into the hands of Davis at the Detroit 8-yard line.
McCarthy and the Packers coaching staff obviously saw something on field they thought they could exploit and did. Coaching doesn't stop just because the there's nothing to play for beyond Week 17.
FOURTH DOWN: DEEP THREATS
Last season, Stafford and the Lions' offense struggled to push the ball down the field in the passing game for chunk plays.
"Last year, we couldn't buy a big play," Stafford said. "We were 10-, 12-, 14-play drives for touchdowns."
This year, the big play was back in a big way.
The Lions entered Sunday's game with the fourth-most completions of 20-plus yards (57) in the NFL. Add four more catches to the list as Stafford hit Tate for a 71-yard touchdown, Golladay on a 54-yard touchdown, Marvin Jones Jr. for a 51-yard bomb and Golladay for a terrific 26-yard grab along the sideline in the fourth quarter.
The two touchdowns to Tate and Golladay are the 14th this season for the Lions from 20-plus yards. They had seven all of last year.
Cooter's done a better job this year dialing up some plays for a talented receiving corps to make more plays down the field.
"It was a lot of fun throwing the ball down the field some this year and those guys going and making big-time plays for me," Stafford said. "It was a lot of fun."