It was by need more than immediate design, but for one game the Detroit Lions saw their plan of the future for the offensive line implemented in the present with a potential carryover to the future.
Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl – all drafted in 2016 in the first, third and fifth rounds respectively – started together for the first time in Saturday's 20-10 victory over the Chicago Bears.
What that means for the future remains to be seen, but for now it was another installment in what has been a season-long makeover of the offensive line. What teams hope will be a stable unit – with five players starting all 16 games – has been anything but stable for the Lions.
"We've had more guys in and out on our offensive line than probably anyone, I would assume," head coach Jim Caldwell said at his Monday press conference.
What we learned from Saturday's game is that there are no guarantees of stability – from the start of a game to the finish. Saturday's game was an extreme example of that on the offensive line.
Among other things we learned: The value of players such as TJ Jones and Jamal Agnew; how fans agonize on Sunday when the Lions are off; that we'll never forget Calvin Johnson and the "process catch," and that celebrations by players have added fun to the game.
As for the offensive line, the adage of "next man up" has been upgraded to "next unit up" for the Lions.
Right guard T.J. Lang was the only starter who was at the same position Saturday as on opening day, and Lang didn't finish the game. Don Barclay played the second half when Lang went out with a foot injury.
Glasgow was an opening-day starter at left guard. He has started every game this year. Saturday's start was his third at center in place of Travis Swanson, who was out with a concussion.
With Decker at left tackle, Dahl at left guard and Corey Robinson at right tackle, the Lions had three players who did not start on opening day. All three spent extended periods on the injured list this year.
Celebrations: My cellphone pinged with this message from a long-time friend in Chicago moments after Golden Tate caught a pass in the fourth quarter:
"Did Tate III just do a pirouette???"
Yes, in fact, Golden Tate did do a pirouette – with both hands raised in a circle over his head -- when he spun going out of bounds after a 19-yard reception. There was no harm, no foul – and more good entertainment for fans at Ford Field and those watching on television.
The more we see of players celebrating – including the clever mimicking of the Rockettes by five Lions after TJ Jones' first-half touchdown catch -- the more we learn that it is adding enjoyment to the game for fans and players.
And it's taking away nothing.
Rockettes vs. Lions: Too bad the Rockettes discontinuation of their national tour a couple years ago means they aren't making their immensely popular holiday stop at the Fox Theatre.
A cameo appearance by the Lions Fab Five of Theo Riddick, TJ Jones, Marvin Jones Jr., Eric Ebron and Golden Tate would have been spectacular.
TV Sunday – Lions impact: Fans can ride a maddening emotional roller coaster trying to project playoff possibilities late in the season when their team is off on Sunday, and that was the case in Detroit with the Lions-Bears game on Saturday.
There were numerous games that had potential impact on the Lions' wild-card hopes. From the Packers-Panthers at 1 p.m. to the Seahawks-Rams at 4:05 to the Cowboys-Raiders Sunday night, it was another wild ride. The net result: The Lions were in slightly better shape after all the results, but with the same mandate of having to win their last two games to have any chance.
TV Sunday – deja view: The first thing most Lions fans think of when there's a "complete-the-process" ruling on a catch is the play involving retired Lion Calvin Johnson on opening day of 2010. A potential game-winning TD catch was overturned on replay when officials ruled he did not complete the process.
There have been numerous similar rulings over the years, and another big one Sunday when a catch by Steelers tight end Jesse James that was ruled a touchdown on the field was ruled no catch on instant replay. Instead of a winning catch, the Steelers wound up with a loss to the Patriots.
Detroit Lions fans feel the pain – many times over.
Keeping up, TJ Jones: He has been a good, reliable option, regardless of where he is on the wide receiver depth chart. Matthew Stafford went right to him on a third and one at the Bears' three for the touchdown that boosted the Lions' lead to 13-0. Jones had three catches in the game to raise his season total to a career-high 30.
Jones ranks 12th in the league among receivers with at least 30 catches with 73.3 percent of his catches resulting in first downs.
Lift from Jamal Agnew: He raised the level of expectations in his first game back after being out with a knee injury. Agnew averaged 11.5 yards on four punt returns and came close to breaking a long one but was brought down by a desperation shoestring tackle. On Agnew's one reception, he slipped when he made a cut in the open field, which limited him to a six-yard gain.
In the zones: What can seem like a never-ending rut can be part of the ups and downs of the season, and that's been the case for the Lions' offense in the red zone and goal-to-go situations.
They had struggled somewhat in midseason in both areas, but in the last three games they're 8-for-9 in the red zone and 6-for-6 in goal to go. That includes 2-for-3 in the red zone and 1-for-1 in goal to go against the Bears.