Wide receiver Kenny Golladay wasn’t the only one who benefitted from what proved to be his good and bad luck when the Detroit Lions drafted him deep in the third round in 2017.
As the Lions prepare for Sunday’s road game against Golladay’s hometown Chicago Bears, Golladay was asked if it bothered him that the Bears passed on drafting him. They could have taken him in the second round.
“A lot of teams passed on me,” Golladay said, referring to being drafted 96th overall.
“It’s all right ... I’m with Matthew Stafford.”
Good point by Golladay. The way his career has played out, he was unlucky not to be drafted higher, but he had the good luck to be on the receiving end of one of the most prolific passers in NFL history.
That stroke of draft-day fortune works both ways. From the first game of Golladay’s career – when he had two fourth-quarter touchdown catches in an opening-day win over the Cardinals -- he has given Stafford a big target at 6-4 and 214 pounds who is an ascending player that makes contested catches down the field.
Golladay has 35 catches for 640 yards and seven touchdowns. He is tied with the Bucs’ Mike Evans – who has 50 catches – for the league lead in TD catches. His average of 18.3 yards per catch is the highest for receivers with at least 30 catches.
“Big, physical guy – really good player down the field,” Stafford said this week when asked about Golladay. “Contested catch guy. I think he’s done a really good job of getting better every year.
“I’m just happy to watch him progress and the way he works, and obviously a guy that loves to go out and compete.
“When he’s on Sunday, he’s out there trying to make every play he possibly can.”
A lot will ride on the Lions’ passing game for whatever run they make in the second half of the season, starting Sunday against a Bears team that has one of the NFL’s top defenses.
Jones has a team-high 42 catches, with six TDs and an average of 12.7 yards per catch. Amendola has 31 catches, one TD and 12.1 yards per catch. Hockenson has 22 catches, two TDs and 13.5 yards per catch.
Golladay likes the competition among the team’s receivers to make big plays.
“I’m not going to lie, me and Marvin compete at that kind of stuff,” Golladay said. “That just makes it fun. Even Danny gets in on it -- who’s going to make the next play.
“Within the receiver room, just competing with each other, it makes us all get better.”
Series history: The Bears have a 99-75 series lead, with five ties. They swept both games last season, ending the Lions’ three-game winning streak. Also before last year, the Lions had won nine of the last 10 games with the Bears.
2018 games rewind: It was no contest in the Bears’ 34-22 win at Soldier Field in the first game. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky passed for 355 yards and three TDs and ran for a TD. In the Thanksgiving Day rematch, the Bears intercepted two of Stafford’s passes in the fourth quarter in a 23-16 win. The first one was returned for the go-ahead TD.
Bears’ focus – defense: It’s still one of the best in the NFL, but it’s not like last season when at times it seemed like there was a contest between the Bears’ offense and defense for which unit would score the most touchdowns.
The Bears have not been as lethal on turnovers, with 11 takeaways – five interceptions and six fumble recoveries. Safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix scored the only defensive TD on an interception return.
Last year the Bears led the NFL with 36 total takeaways – 27 interceptions and nine fumbles – and they turned them into six defensive touchdowns.
“That’s really hard to do,” Bears had coach Matt Nagy said in a conference-call interview this week.
“Not only did we have that many turnovers we had a bunch of touchdowns as well. Any time you get a touchdown on defense or special teams, your percentages go up pretty good for winning that game.
“We had that last year, and it doesn’t mean that in the next eight games that can’t happen.”
Prediction: From what both teams have shown in the first half of the season, the game boils down to the Lions’ offense – mostly the passing game -- vs. the Bears’ defense. The unit that plays up to its form should win. The loser starts planning for next year.
Pick: Lions 23, Bears 16.