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O'HARA: What we learned from Week 11

Matt Prater's value to the Detroit Lions can only be measured by what he produces, not how often he performs.

That is the special quality of the NFL's elite specialists, and Prater is just that – elite. 

He won another game for the Lions with another long-range field goal – a 52-yard cannon shot in the last two minutes that gave the Lions a 27-24 road win over the Chicago Bears Sunday.

For Prater, it was a typical clutch performance – and a typical work day for a kicker.

He was on the field for five plays – three extra points and two field goals. No other Lion who was active Sunday played fewer snaps. 

What we learned Sunday about Prater is that quality and reliability count, and his track record gives head coach Jim Caldwell confidence to stretch the limits of reasonable expectation at times.

That wasn't all we learned. Among the other things: Matthew Stafford's golden arm can overcome red-zone problems; that it's too early to take the MVP Award race seriously; that Ameer Abdullah is resilient and more.

As for Prater, Caldwell didn't hesitate to send him out to kick in a swirling wind, knowing the consequences of what a miss could mean in giving the Bears good field position to mount a game-winning drive of their own.

Prater has proven his value with reliability in the clutch. The 52-yarder was the 42nd of his career and tied him with John Kasay for the third most field goals of 50 yards or longer in a career.

"He's dynamic," Caldwell said. "He's certainly one of those guys who's extremely dependable. He's clutch in every way. He's been that way for us since he's been here.

"The length of field goals he kicks at the end of ballgames – the pressure cooker. Unheard of. There are a lot of great ones in this league. He's been pretty unusual for us. 

"It's not the first time this has happened that we had him stretch the limits a little bit."

Note to John Kasay: Be prepared to be in fourth place alone in the 50-yard club soon.

Matthew Stafford, red zone bypass: Stafford has a way to avoid some of the problems the Lions have had scoring touchdowns in the red zone. 

The solution: Fly over it.

Stafford's 28-yard TD pass to Marvin Jones Jr. in the second quarter Sunday was his league-high 10th TD pass of 20 yards or longer in the first 10 games. The Eagles' Carson Wentz is second with nine. Stafford's personal high for a full season is 12, set in 2011.

MVP Award -- patience: Stafford was getting mentioned for the award about this time last year. The Lions had the same 6-4 won-loss record and were two games into a five-game winning streak.

However, Stafford sustained a finger injury that limited his effectiveness, and the Lions lost their last three games to finish 9-7. As a result, Stafford dropped out of the running.

What about this year?

The votes aren't made until the end of the regular season. For all the candidates – with Eagles QB Carson Wentz a front-runner – wait to see how it plays out. Winning doesn't hurt any candidate's chances.

Don't assume -- anything: The stereotype for teams like the Lions who play indoors at home is that they can't win on the road or on grass. Not so. The Lions are 4-1 on the road this year. The only road loss was indoors to the Saints. On the road, they've beaten the Giants, Packers and Bears on grass and the Vikings indoors.

And don't assume that the Lions have an automatic edge playing the Vikings at home Thursday. The Lions are 2-3 at home.

Ameer Abdullah bounces back: He has been resilient and diligent in his return from last year's season-ending foot injury, and also in overcoming fumbling problems that plagued him as a rookie in 2015.

He had 181 touches without a fumble going into Game 8 against Green Bay, then fumbled twice in that game, losing one.

Abdullah has been sure-handed the last two games. He's had 25 touches without fumbling – 22 runs and three receptions – and two TDs. He had a two-yard catch against the Bears and an eight-yard TD run the previous week against the Browns.

Scoreboard watching, fun but futile: For Lions fans who were disappointed that there was no help from Vikings opponents the last two weeks, the reality is that you can't count on it.

The Lions took care of their own business by beating the Browns and Bears the last two weeks to extend their winning streak to three games, but they didn't get any help from the Vikings' opponents. The Vikings beat Washington on the road two weeks ago and dominated the Rams at home on Sunday.

That kept the first-place Vikings' lead at two games over the Lions in the NFC North going into the Thanksgiving Day game.

The Lions have to take care of their business. So do the Vikings.

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