Kenny Golladay has made a mark with big plays in his rookie season with the Detroit Lions. More accurately, they are long plays – long receptions.
He made another big play in Sunday's 24-21 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the stat sheet, it was recorded as a simple six-yard catch on third and two for a first down.
What we learned on that play – and many others like it in a season – is that big plays aren't always measured in yards. Importance, the time in the game and what the plays lead to also determine what big plays are.
By head coach Jim Caldwell's description, there was no doubt that Golladay's six-yard catch qualified as a big play.
"Crucial, crucial catch, in a tough situation," Caldwell said after the game.
The play was at the top of the list of things we learned in a win that put the Lions' above .500 with a 7-6 won-loss record.
Among others: Matt Prater has a short-term memory that allows him to come through in the clutch; football instincts travel for Quandre Diggs; fans travel, too, and make their presence felt; a player's value can be demonstrated by his absence.
Golladay, coming up big: It had been a nondescript day for Golladay for a little more than 58 minutes. Matthew Stafford had targeted him three times, and Golladay had two catches for 11 yards, with a long catch of seven yards.
There were no long gains on catches over the top or down the sideline, as we've been accustomed to in recent weeks.
The Lions began their last possession at their 23 just before the two-minute warning, with the score 21-21. In four plays, the Lions had moved to the Bucs' 41 with third and two and 1:02 left at the snap.
Stafford dropped and threw high to Golladay, who went up, juggled the ball, and gained possession as he hit the turf for a six-yard gain and a first down. After three plays – and a false start on right guard T.J. Lang -- Prater kicked a 46-yard field goal to win the game.
Golladay described the catch as a case of just doing his job. He used his 6-foot-4 height and long reach to his advantage over 5-11 Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith.
"I just knew it was third down," Golladay said. "I was trying to make a play – keep the offense on the field. Just fight for it.
"They brought me here to make that play. I've got to make that play."
And he did.
Prater power: There were no lingering effects for Prater after having an off game the previous week. He was wide left on a field-goal attempt from 43 yards, and he was wide left again on a missed extra point.
He was deadly – again – on his only field-goal attempt Sunday. The 46-yarder split the uprights.
It closed out another episode of the Matt and Matt Show – Matthew Stafford driving the offense in range, and Matt Prater finishing it off with a field goal.
Fan reaction: Some people who did not have a good angle on Prater's kick thought he missed it because of fan reaction in the stands. There was a big cheer.
But those weren't Bucs fans celebrating a miss. A large group of Lions fans were at the game. It was similar to the atmosphere after the Lions' road win over the New York Giants in Week 2 on Monday Night TV. Fans were cheering the Lions as they left the field.
Diggs' move: In his 41st game with the Lions – and second as a starting safety – Quandre Diggs got his first career interception when he picked off a throw down the middle by Bucs QB Jameis Winston.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Diggs looks at home at safety. He was the Lions' nickel back before moving to safety when Tavon Wilson went out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Playing nickel back requires a variety of skills, including being a sure tackler. A lot of that transfers to safety. Diggs played 67 of 71 defensive snaps against the Bucs and 59 of 64 the previous week against the Ravens. He looks just as much at home at safety as he did at nickel back.
Return void: Big returns – primarily on punts – have been missing with the absence of rookie Jamal Agnew because of a knee injury. Agnew went out early in the Lions' road win over the Bears and did not play in the last three games.
He practiced on a limited basis last week. Like a lot of players, his value is highlighted by his absence.