Game by game, catch by catch, Kenny Golladay's strong hands are lifting him higher in whatever standards are used to rank the NFL's top receivers.
This is not a one-game judgment, but Golladay's performance in the Detroit Lions' improbable 23-22 road win over the Atlanta Falcons certainly added a few points to his total.
Golladay had six catches for 114 yards. He didn't score a touchdown, but what he did led directly to points – specifically one possession late in the first half and another at the end of the game.
This week's Monday Countdown looks at what made Golladay's contribution out of the ordinary. There's also tight end T.J. Hockenson's emotions after catching the pass on the winning drive, and how the Lions got on the right end of Dagger Time.
There's also a look at how the Lions are in playoff contention in the NFC, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, and what's trending with the Lions – good, bad and even.
We start with Golladay:
1. Impact: Golladay might never have triple-digit reception seasons that are often – too often, in my opinion – used to rate the value of wide receivers.
For example, Golladay made his first Pro Bowl last season with 65 catches. That made him 42nd in the league. But he also led the league with 11 touchdown catches. He made an impact.
He had six catches for 114 yards Sunday, many of which were on 50-50 balls.
In other words, the defensive back supposedly has as good a chance of catching the ball as the receiver.
In Hockenson's opinion, "50-50" balls do not apply to Golladay.
"Kenny makes plays when his number's called," said Hockenson.
"That's all you need to say about Kenny. When the ball's in the air, it's not 50-50 with Kenny. He's almost 100 percent. Kenny is what Kenny is. You can't take that away from him."
The Lions got the ball with 29 seconds left in the first half and drove 43 yards on five plays to get in position for Matt Prater to make a 50-yard field goal on the final play in the half. Golladay had an 18-yard catch on that drive.
On the 75-yard winning drive, Golladay had a catch for 29 yards. On the play after the 29-yard catch, Hockenson made his 11-yard touchdown catch as time expired.
"He made some great catches," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "When the ball's in the air, he's making a lot of catches."
Overall, Golladay had six catches for 114 years.
He didn't score any points, but he was money.
2. Hockenson's emotions, Dagger Time: The Lions erupted in celebration at the end of the winning drive, as would be expected.
"It's pure, raw emotion," Hockenson said. "Guys are stoked."
The Lions have won three of their last four games. They beat the Cardinals on a last-play field goal, lost to the Saints after taking a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes, and dominated from start to finish a week ago in a 34-16 win over Jacksonville.
Sunday's win at Atlanta was another cliffhanger.
"We talk about Dagger Time all the time," Hockenson said. "We showed it today. Just believe in what we've done in practice, and what we've done throughout the week."
3. Playoff race: The Lions are in it, at least for a wild card in the NFC, with a 3-3 record.
Their next three games are at home vs. Indianapolis (4-2), at Minnesota (1-5) and home vs. Washington (2-5).
The opportunity's there for them to make a move, but they have to do something that they've failed at of late – win at home.
They're 5-13 since the opening day of 2018.
4. Hockenson's production, TDs: The second-year tight end has become the steady receiving threat he was envisioned to be when the Lions drafted him eighth overall a year ago. He had five catches for 59 yards against the Falcons. The TD was his fourth, two more than he had through 12 games as a rookie, when his season was shortened by an injury.
5. Takeaways, offense:
- Golladay isn't scoring points, he's helping the rest of the offense score points. He had one catch for 18 yards in the last-minute drive to a field goal in the first half, and two catches for 40 yards in the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
- D’Andre Swift didn't have a big game running the ball – nine carries for 27 yards – but he scored his fifth TD of the season on a three-yard run on the Lions' first possession.
- There's been some talk about where Marvin Jones Jr. fits in the receiver rotation. He fits where he always has – available when needed. He had five catches for 80 yards.
6. Takeaways, defense:
- For the second straight game, the Lions were strong against the run. They held Jacksonville to 44 yards rushing last week, and the Falcons got 66 yards on 26 carries. The Lions actually did better than the stats indicated. The Falcons padded their running stats – regretfully for them – on Todd Gurley's 10-yard TD run when the Lions were letting him score to get the ball back.
- When the Falcons' offense got rolling, the Lions had trouble stopping it. The Falcons' three TDs were on drives of 89, 98 and 76 yards. The Falcons could have clinched the win on the 76-yard drive if Gurley had stopped short of the end zone, instead of falling across the goal line for a TD that gave the Lions a chance to win. Which it did. And they did.
- Gurley went into the game averaging 4.3 yards per carry. His average Sunday was 2.7 —63 yards on 23 carries.
7. Takeaways, special teams:
- It was a strange day for kicker Matt Prater. He made field goals from 50, 51 and 49 yards, missed once from 46 yards (wide right) – and made a 48-yard extra point in addition to two others from the standard 33 yards.
- Kickoff coverage was excellent. On their three kickoff returns, the Falcons started possessions at their 18, 18 and 15-yard line.
- Jack Fox continues to boom punts. His net average of 52.3 yards included a 67-yard suborbital launch into the end zone that was brought out to the 20.
- Up: Winning. The Lions have won three of their last four games to get to .500 after starting 0-2.
- Down: Run game. It took a step back with 21 carries for 64 yards.
- Even: Stafford. He's the leader and showed why again. It's nothing new, but sometimes some people need a reminder.