Allen Park — All rookie receiver Kenny Golladay remembers is putting his head down and running as fast as he could past Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel.
By the time he looked up, Golladay saw Matthew Stafford’s deep pass whirling in his direction — and possibly out of his reach.
That was until Golladay stretched his 6-foot-4 frame out to snag the ball and rolled into the end zone untouched for a 45-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, providing the exclamation mark on the Lions’ 35-23 season-opening win and turning Golladay into a hot commodity on fantasy football waiver wires.
“I might’ve been full extension,” Golladay said with a grin Monday when asked to relive his highlight-reel play. “I thought I was going to be able to make a good catch on it, which I did. I didn’t think it was that far ahead.”
More importantly, it was a play that signaled Stafford’s growing trust in Golladay, who became the first Lions rookie receiver to haul in two touchdown passes in an opener since Charles Rogers in 2003.
Earlier in the game, Stafford appeared to look for Golladay on a deep route down the left sideline, but Golladay couldn’t get enough separation off the line, and the play resulted in Stafford’s lone sack of the game.
In addition to being a vertical threat, Golladay also displayed his ability as a red-zone target, leaping over Bethel earlier in the fourth quarter for a 10-yard score during a 26-0 run that helped the Lions pull ahead and put the game out of reach.
“We’re still building that (rapport), you know,” Golladay said. “It’s still early. I’m new here. First game, the relationship definitely is going to grow.”
When asked Monday if Golladay resembles any other players in the league, Lions coach Jim Caldwell pumped the brakes and said it’s too early to start drawing comparisons.
“He is who he is. He’s a guy that I think — we’re a long way away from defining what he can do in this league because it’s one ball game, but I do think that he’s got the right traits,” Caldwell said. “He’s got speed, he’s got height, he’s got quickness and he’s got toughness.
“And obviously, we’ll see in the long run how many big plays he can make for us and that kind of thing, but he’s certainly capable. But I certainly wouldn’t like to compare to anybody. He is who he is, and I think he’s got his own strong points.”
Golladay showcased that to the masses at Ford Field this past weekend. On Monday night against the New York Giants (8:30 p.m./ESPN), he’ll get a chance to show the nation the type of deep threat he can be.
“I feel like I’ll be pretty good if I keep making plays like that,” Golladay said. “It’s just going to come with a good week of work.”