Brandon Powell never stopped running, never stopped looking for cracks of daylight in the tumultuous football slam dance known as a punt return – and never looked back until he was sure he was in the clear.
This all happened in a moment late in the fourth quarter of Friday night's preseason game that the Detroit Lions had been hopelessly behind in but would more surprisingly win.
Powell was one of the surprising heroes who rallied the Lions from a 27-6 deficit to a 33-30 victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs at Raymond James Stadium. What we learned Friday night is that what represents mop-up time for a large segment of the fans and media in a one-sided game is a job opportunity for players like Powell, who are fighting for roster spots.
Powell didn't guarantee anything about his future with his 80-yard punt return for a touchdown with 4:53 left that further reduced the Bucs' withering lead to 30-26.
Powell's punt return, and his overall performance in the preseason and training camp, is only one of the things we learned.
Among the others: That rookie Frank Ragnow is a special player on the offensive line who had a difficult test Friday night; that stats are misleading; that scoring problems still persist and that there are small communication lessons to be learned that are misleading to outsiders looking in.
We start with Powell: The undrafted rookie receiver from Florida no doubt strengthened his chances to some degree to win a roster spot, but that was not foremost in his mind.
"I don't look at that," he said before he departed the locker room. "It's always good (to make a play), but there's still stuff you can work on."
The punt return was a gem. He didn't do it all on his own. His blockers gave him running room.
"Everybody was going out and doing their job on that one play," he said. "Everybody was out there trying to make a play."
Even when he got in the clear, he didn't really begin to enjoy scoring his first touchdown as a pro until he was in the end zone.
"I wanted to make sure I got in the end zone, then man ... " he said, letting out a deep breath. "I just made a punt return for a touchdown. My first one in the NFL. I congratulated those 10 guys blocking for me."
He was asked if he was looking at himself on the stadium video board when he looked back.
"In college, we didn't have the Jumbo Trons like that," he said. "I was looking back to see if anyone was chasing me."
Powell did more than return a punt for a TD. He led the Lions with six catches for 45 yards, giving him 15 catches in the three preseason games.
Frank Ragnow's role: The Lions' first-round draft pick had a tough assignment, blocking defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the Bucs' six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle. It was made even tougher by the fact that Ragnow made his first start at right guard after starting the first two preseason games at left guard.
Ragnow had a feeling for how good McCoy is from watching videos, but facing him gave him an even greater appreciation for his ability.
"Every team's players, you see the real thing," Ragnow said. "He's the real deal. Elite. I can't say enough compliments about him."
McCoy beat him for a sack, the first one Ragnow has given up as a pro – and the first since high school. He never allowed a sack at Arkansas.
"It's not a good feeling," Ragnow said. "Luckily, it's preseason."
Talking point: Matthew Stafford jogged to the sideline after being sacked on a third-down play in the third quarter and went up to talk to rookie running back Kerryon Johnson. Had the rookie missed a block or failed to run the right route?
None of the above. Johnson was blameless on the sack.
It was about almost missing the connection on a handoff on a previous play.
Surprise stats: It didn't look like the Lions did much on the ground, but they actually rushed for 122 yards and an average of 4.4 yards per attempt. LeGarrette Blount (4.1), Ameer Abdullah (4.3) and Johnson (6.3) all averaged more than four yards per carry. Theo Riddick's one carry was for a 10-yard touchdown.
The Lions had 28 first downs for the game and a 19-7 advantage over the Bucs in the second half. They were moving the ball but not finishing drives – or stopping them – when they were behind.
With three more sacks, Stafford has been sacked five times with 28 pass attempts in two games.