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O'HARA: Boldin competes as if every yard means everything

There is no one game or single play that accurately represents how the Detroit Lions have taken up residence alone in first place in the NFC North with a string of comebacks and last-minute heroics that are as improbable as they are inspiring.

It's not one kick or one pass or one catch or one tackle or one interception or one special teams spark or one motivational message that head coach Jim Caldwell delivers to augment his guiding hand in leading the team.

It has been a collection of those qualities at one time or another. And on days like Thursday, when the Lions played the role of poor hosts to spoil Thanksgiving Day for the visiting Minnesota Vikings with a 16-13 victory, it seems like they pack all of those things into a few minutes.

In the showdown for first place in the division, the Lions dangled a treat in front of the Vikings and then snatched it away to take first place alone with a 7-4 record. The Vikings headed home in second place at 6-5.

For the record, the Lions tied the game at 13-all on Matt Prater's 48-yard field goal with 1:45 left after getting the ball at their own two-yard line with 5:02 left on the clock.

They won it on Prater's 40-yard field goal as time ran out after Darius Slay's interception and return set the offense up at the Vikings' 20 with 30 seconds left.

The game resembled a classic from the old days when the Lions and Vikings knocked heads in the old Black and Blue division. It was a day for tough men doing tough jobs.

Nobody on the Lions roster exemplifies more how the Lions have persevered and overcome obstacles – some of them created by their own doing – than Anquan Boldin.

At 36 and in his 14th season of what eventually could be a Hall of Fame career, Boldin continues to compete as if every catch and every yard means everything.

That was the case – again – on Thursday.

Boldin had seven catches for 69 yards, with one touchdown – a two-yard catch on the first possession of the game. That made for a tidy stats line, but certainly not eye-popping in an era when 100-yard receiving games are the norm.

But within those stats were two catches on the drive to Prater's tying field goal that represent the combination of glitz and grit that have put the Lions in first place.

The glitz came on the fifth play of the possession. On a third and eight from the 18, Stafford rolled left away from trouble and lofted a pass down the left sideline that Boldin turned into a 29-yard gain to the 47.

Without that catch – and the awareness Boldin displayed to get open – the Lions likely would have been forced to lean on the defense to get the ball back.

Two plays later, after a pass to Marvin Jones Jr. for 15 yards to the Vikings' 38, Stafford found Boldin along the right sideline for what could have been a six-yard gain.

But the play wasn't over, because Boldin wouldn't let it end. With Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes clawing at him, Boldiin fought for another yard, then another yard, then another yard, then another few inches.

He was finally dragged down for what officially had become a nine-yard gain. In the grand scheme of things, it might not have meant much in terms of impact on Prater when he came out three plays later to attempt the tying field goal. With Prater's powerful leg, there's no real difference between 51 yards and 48.

But on the 1,057th career catch that would have given him 13,584 yards, Boldin wanted more – every inch he could get. So he added three yards with pure grit and determination to get to 13,587 yards.

And it did not go unnoticed by his teammates, from those in the trenches to his fellow receivers.

"It means a lot to him," said center Travis Swanson. "There's a reason he's still playing. You can tell there's a lot of passion in there."

Jones talked about how Boldin's style rubs off on others.

"He's been doing it a long time," Jones said. "He knows how to get stuff done. A lot of us feed off him.

"In this game, you have to have every inch."

It all adds up – inches, to yards, to winning.

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