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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: All hands on deck

The message delivered at the Detroit Lions' team meeting Saturday night and carried over to the playing field on Sunday could be their theme for their immediate future and beyond.

They've played through injuries, tough breaks, tough calls, their own misplays and situations that have tested their character and resolve. They've fought hard enough to get out of a hole that could have buried their season to climb to the break-even point in their win-loss record.

Sunday's 31-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field was another of the Lions' white-knuckle flights this year. Their games have been decided by a total of three points. That's a half point per game.

A 3-3 record may not seem like much – and it really isn't reason enough to put in an order to print playoff tickets. Whatever the Lions do to make a postseason run will play itself out in the last 10 games.

This week's Monday Countdown focuses on the message from Saturday night, and how it was taken to heart throughout the roster.

There's a look at how the defense leaked yards, points and pass completions but got critical plays from Tyrunn Walker, Darius Slay, Rafael Bush and others.

There's also a look at the offense and how Matthew Stafford's legs add to what he's doing with his arm, another revival day for Golden Tate, and how a patched up offensive line might have played above expectations.

There are five good things and five bad things from Sunday, a stat that shows how the Lions have been a .500 team for an extend period, and the final word – from Barry Sanders, on a question that has hung over the Lions for more than two decades, and his surprising statement.

We start with the message:

1. Body count, bodies count: Players don't have to wait for injury reports and active lists to be made public on gameday. In almost all cases, they know who they'll be lining up.

By the second quarter of Game 2, the Lions already were without DeAndre Levy, who hasn't played since Game 1, and Ameer Abdullah and Ziggy Ansah, who went out early in Game 2.

The attrition has continued. The Lions had starters in two new positions on the offensive line Sunday, tackle Haloti Ngata missing on the defensive line, another shuffle at running back and no real receiving tight end with Eric Ebron out for the second straight week.

So go win, right?

"We have guys coming in off the street the last two weeks," Stafford said after the game. "When they come in ready to play, go play.

"We had our meeting last night (Saturday) and said, 'It's all hands on deck.' We're not sitting here as healthy as can be with a bunch of guys. If you had a uniform today, you were playing.

"We knew it was going to be that way, and we rose to the occasion. We have guys who are really tough in that room. Offense, defense, special teams ... our whole team, we're banged up in spots. We're making plays."

2. On the run: Stafford's running has added a dimension to the offense this year. He won't be confused with Cam Newton or Russell Wilson, but he's given the offense a lift in key moments.

A seven-yard run on the first possession Sunday set up a fourth and one on the next play that the Lions converted on the way to their first touchdown.

Tate referred to him as "a tough Texas boy."

"As far as me running," Stafford said, "I'm just doing whatever I can to help us win."

3. Tate revival: He was at a low point in his three seasons with the Lions after running a wrong route in the loss to Chicago in Game 4, but Tate has bounced back with big plays the last two weeks.

The stats weren't big a week ago against Philly – three runs for six yards and three catches for 39 – but a 27-yard catch on third down set up the game-winning field goal.

Sunday was a breakout performance for the season – eight catches for 165 yards and a touchdown, with a long reception of 61 yards.

He was Stafford's go-to guy and looked like the player who had 99 catches in 2014 and 90 last year.

A sign of Tate's resurgence is how he posed for the camera after his fourth-quarter TD catch made it 28-28, then grabbed the pompoms from a cheerleader and shook then.

"I saw those new cheerleaders," Tate said. "Why not party with them for a little bit?"

4. Slay revival: Slay had a tough game at cornerback coming off a game the previous week that earned him the award for defensive player of the week in the NFC. He gave up catches of 47 and 43 yards to Kenny Britt, and Britt got inside him for a touchdown catch.

What to do?

Keep playing.

On a third and five after the Lions had scored to make it 28-28, Slay batted down a pass meant for Britt. The Rams punted, and the Lions drove to the game-winning field goal.

5. Saving points: Little plays add up, and the defense's stand on the last play of the first half was an example of that. Tyrunn Walker and Stefan Charles led the charge that stuffed Todd Gurley on fourth and goal at the one, leaving the score at 14-14.

"That's big, man," Walker said. "We won by three, and we took seven points off the board."

6. Coaching point: With starting right guard Larry Warford out, rookie Graham Glasgow got his first pro start on the opposite side at left guard. That's where Glasgow had rotated the previous week with starter Laken Tomlinson. Tomlinson moved to Warford's spot at right guard, where Tomlinson had played at Duke.

At least for one game, that gave the offensive line its most proficient guard combination. And in the NFL, one game can make the difference between making the playoffs or being at home for the postseason.

It's called coaching to win a game.

7. Break-even point: The Lions have a 46-46 won-loss record in their last 92 games.

It starts with going 4-0 to end the 2010 season, and regular-season records of 10-6, 4-12, 7-9, 11-5, 7-9 and the current 3-3. The Lions are 0-2 in the playoffs.

That adds up to 46-46.

**8. Five good things Sunday:


  1. Stafford hooking up with Tate for the 61-yard completion on a free play for the offense when the Rams were offside. It's a play the Lions had worked on in practice, Stafford said.
  1. Only one sack allowed by the offense line.
  1. Rafael Bush clinching the victory with an interception. It was a good read, and a good catch by Bush. That makes two straight game-clinching picks by the secondary.
  1. A catch – finally – by a tight end. Clay Harbor's three-yard catch was the first by a tight end in two games. Out of 56 pass attempts by Stafford in the last two games, it was the only one directed at a tight end.
  1. A 15-yard run by Zach Zenner on the first play of the game.

9. Four bad things Sunday (and one too bad):

  1. Rams QB Case Keenum completing 19 passes in a row to set a franchise record.
  1. Keenum's passer rating for the game was 126.7. Case Keenum? Really?
  1. Just 48 yards rushing on 18 carries by Zach Zenner (13-43) and Justin Forsett (5-5) combined after Zenner's 15-yard carry. They were the only two running backs who carried the ball.
  1. Another touchdown catch by a tight end against the Lions. A 15-yard catch by Lance Kendricks in the second quarter made it 21-21.
  1. Too bad: Tate having a 62-yard TD catch called back on replay review, when it was ruled – correctly – that he was down by contact at the one. Tate didn't do anything wrong. It's just too bad he didn't get credit for the touchdown.

10. Barry Sanders speaks: There has long been a thought that the old Lions management made a mistake by not re-signing quarterback Erik Kramer when he became a free agent after the 1993 season.

Kramer was the quarterback for the second half of the 1991 season when Rodney Peete went out with an injury. Kramer led the Lions to a 12-4 record, and he threw three TD passes in the playoff victory over the Cowboys.

Kramer took over again for the last four games in 1993 and led the Lions to a 3-1 record and first place in the old NFC Central.

After the season, Kramer signed with the Bears when he was unhappy with the contract the Lions offered. The Lions signed free-agent Scott Mitchell instead of locking up Kramer.

At Saturday night's dinner honoring the 1991 Lions, Sanders spoke up forcefully on the issue in a round table discussion.

"We were worse off when he went to the Bears," Sanders said.

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