FIRST DOWN: SLAY ALL DAY
"That's why they call me 'Big Play' Slay," Lions cornerback Darius Slay said with a smile during his postgame press conference after his late interception set up Matt Prater's game-winning field goal in Detroit's 16-13 win over the Vikings Thursday.
Slay's certainly lived up to that moniker this season.
He sloughed off his man and stepped in front of a Sam Bradford pass at the Minnesota 33-yard line intended for Adam Thielen with just 38 seconds left in a 13-13 game. Slay returned it 13 yards down to the Vikings 20-yard line, putting Prater in perfect position for the game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired.
The win puts Slay and the Lions in sole possession of first place in the NFC North at 7-4.
"I hadn't gotten the ball too much all day and I was surprised they threw it to that side," said Slay.
It was the second time this season Slay's helped win a game for Detroit late. His forced fumble and interception against Philadelphia helped win that game earlier this year.
"He's kind of got a knack for it," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Slay after the game. "He's one of those guys who is a little bit of a riverboat gambler, he'll take a chance when he sees it's there. Doesn't he have a nickname for himself or something like that?"
The Lions rewarded Slay with a big contract before this season. He's rewarded them by living up to his nickname.
SECOND DOWN: CLUTCH PRATER
When it comes to late-game kicks, there's no one in the NFL better than Prater.
After his game-tying and game-winning field goals in the final two minutes Thursday, Prater is now 25-for-25 on game-tying/go-ahead field goal attempts in the fourth quarter or in overtime in his career.
"I don't know if I'd say ice cold veins, just, you know, I have a lot of confidence in what we're doing as far as a unit," Prater said after the game. "I just have a lot of confidence where I don't doubt myself.
"I try not to over-analyze it."
Prater now has 12 career game-winning kicks with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter or overtime.
"Can't say enough about Prater," Stafford said. "The guy is as clutch as they get."
THIRD DOWN: THE BOLDIN FACTOR
Late in July, right before the Lions kicked off training camp, general manager Bob Quinn signed veteran receiver Anquan Boldin to be Detroit's third receiver with Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate.
It might be one of Quinn's best signings to date.
Boldin has been so clutch for this Lions offense through 11 games. He's caught 17 passes on third down alone for Stafford, becoming somewhat of a go-to receiver on the money down.
"Yeah, he's been really good," Stafford said of the 14-year veteran Boldin. "He's a really smart player. Played for a lot of years, has a lot of experience, a tough guy, a physical guy, puts a ton of work in during the week and then goes out there and plays on Sunday and it shows.
"You know, made some big catches for us and he and I are on the same page the majority of the time, which is good."
Boldin caught seven passes in the win over the Vikings Thursday for 69 yards, including Detroit's only touchdown of the game.
Boldin leads the Lions with six touchdown receptions this season.
FOURTH: DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
Detroit's defense was good once again Thursday. Not only did they come up with the key interception down the stretch to win it, but Minnesota scored just 13 points total, had a little over 300 yards of offense, and was 2-for-10 on third down.
After a rough start to the season, Detroit's held their last five opponents to 20 points or less. The Lions are 4-1 over that stretch.
This is a defense that's grinding and finding a way to make plays, especially late in games and on third down. They should only get better with linebacker DeAndre Levy on the mend.
Young players like A'Shawn Robinson, Miles Killebrew and Antwione Williams are getting better and better every week the more they play.
"We're just playing together, man," Slay said of the defensive performance the last five weeks. "You know, we agree as a team that everybody will do their job, we'll handle business."