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O'HARA: What we learned from Week 14

Special teams and all its phases make up the most diverse of the three units on a football team because of the different body types and skill sets of its players.

With the exception of quarterbacks, who seldom are used on special teams with the exception of holding for kicks, players from every position from 350-pound linemen to 175-pound slot receivers can be used in some way on special teams.

What we have learned about the Detroit Lions' special teams is that a brotherhood has developed among this diverse group of athletes, and they band together to be ready when an opportunity comes their way.

The Lions' special teams gave them one last chance in Sunday's 31-24 loss to the Packers when Jamal Agnew returned a kickoff 71 yards. The Lions had to settle for Matt Prater's field goal that closed out the scoring.

Among the other things we learned Sunday are that great beats good when there is competition, trouble is coming when it looks like the defense has Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the run, and trick plays don't have to be long plays to make an impact.

We start with special teams.

The Lions needed a big play after the Packers extended their lead to 31-21 on Mason Crosby's 57-yard field goal with 3:35 left.

They got it from Agnew's 71-yard return of the subsequent kickoff. Agnew broke through a gap down the left sideline and accelerated toward the end zone. He was knocked out of bounds at the Packers' 33-yard line.

"We needed a play," Agnew said Monday, reliving his return. "We huddle before every play. We talk about staying ready. You never know.

"Just be ready for the opportunity. When opportunity comes, don't be surprised by it. Everybody stayed locked in during the game. We got the opportunity. 'We' made a play. I didn't do it on my own."

Special teams have been a strength for the Lions in every area – returns, coverage, Jack Fox's punting and Prater's field goals in the clutch. The Lions have blocked four kicks, two more than any other team.

"We're a tight knit group," Agnew said. "A lot of us have played together for a while. We've just been making plays all year. We're creating a hype. We're creating a juice.

"We get excited about that. We just kind of feed off each other.

"The whole team usually feeds off that, too."

Great vs. Good: As it often does, "great" won for the Packers in a one-one-one matchup in the first quarter.

Rodgers' 14-yard TD pass to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to break a 7-7 tie in the first quarter was an example of that.

On the play, Valdes-Scantling was split wide right, with cornerback Amani Oruwariye on him in tight coverage.

The two players ran almost stride for stride down the right sideline, with Oruwariye still in tight coverage.

Rogers released the pass with perfect timing. It allowed Valdes-Scantling to make the catch – with Oruwariye on him – at about the one-yard line and continue into the end zone for the touchdown.

Valdes-Scantling also helped out on the play by holding the ball high out of Oruwariye's reach as he tumbled into the end zone.

It was good coverage by Oruwariye, but a great throw by Rodgers that enabled the receiver to make the catch.

"Nightmare" relived, again: Dan Orlovsky spent seven seasons with the Lions in two stops as a backup quarterback, and he saw Rodgers develop from his first season as a starter in 2008 until he reached his status as one of the all-time greats.

Orlovsky, now working as an analyst, often said that the "nightmare" begins when Rodgers is forced out of the pocket and uses his instincts and athleticism to make big plays.

That happened again Sunday when Rodgers scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter to give the Packers a 21-14 lead.

On third and goal at the six-yard line, Rodgers dropped back to pass. When he couldn't find an open receiver, Rodgers rolled left out of the pocket and beat the Lions' defenders to cross the goal line at the left front corner of the end zone, just inside the pylon.

As we've learned, there are many sequels to the Aaron Rodgers "Nightmare on Lions Turf" franchise.

We saw another one Sunday – and there are no doubt are more to come.

Lions trick Packers: We think of trick plays and gimmicks as flea flickers and other plays that are designed to gain big yardages.

That's not always the case, as we learned Sunday.

The Lions scored their first touchdown on a one-yard shovel pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to tight end T.J. Hockenson. The play caught the Packers' defense off guard.

With Hockenson lined up to the left, Stafford took the snap and dropped back to pass, with his eyes focused to the right as if he were looking for an open receiver in the end zone.

Actually, he was waiting for Hockenson to come across in front of him, from left to right. Stafford shoveled the ball in front of him to Hockenson, who caught the ball in stride and made a quick cut through an opening into the end zone.

The play might not have been as thrilling as watching a wide receiver beat the secondary on a 50-yard play, but it did the job.

One yard or 99 yards, all touchdowns count the same.

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