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Detroit – Lions receiver Golden Tate is as sure-handed and dependable as they come.

That’s why it was all the more surprising when Tate fumbled the ball untouched following a big gain in the fourth quarter, leading to a backbreaking turnover in Sunday night’s 20-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field.

“That was a great play by everybody but me,” Tate said bluntly.

Trailing by five and facing a second-and-11 at their own 40-yard line, Matthew Stafford hit Tate deep down the left side for a 34-yard gain and appeared to have the Lions threatening just outside the red zone.

But as Tate went to tuck the ball, it slipped off his pads and onto the turf, where it was recovered by Steelers cornerback Artie Burns at the Steelers’ 24 with 9:43 to play.

More: Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Coaches fall short

“It got away from me. I don't know what it was whether I thinking about my next move or what,” said Tate, who finished with seven catches for 86 yards. “End of the day, I got to hold onto the ball. This team looks to me to make plays. (Offensive coordinator) Jim Bob (Cooter) looks to me to make plays...They shouldn't have to worry about is No. 15 going to make the play or fumble or not catch it.

“For me, that kind of breaks me. It motivates me to work a little bit harder, but it's just one of those balls that just got away from me.”

It was one of the “silly, knucklehead, stupid” mistakes Tate lamented that held the Lions back and led to their third straight loss. It’s also one of the few plays Detroit wishes it could’ve had back that might’ve helped crack the game open in its favor.

Instead, the giveaway quashed Detroit’s momentum and squandered an opportunity to potentially take the lead.

Entering the prime-time showdown, Tate hadn’t fumbled all season. And in 113 career regular-season games, the eighth-year pro had lost just 11 fumbles as a receiver, runner and return man.

While Tate was a game-time decision with a shoulder injury he suffered two weeks ago at New Orleans, he didn’t use it as an excuse. Rather, he said his shoulder wasn’t an issue and didn’t affect his grip at all on the play. It was simply a careless turnover unlike any other he can remember.

And in a game where the Lions’ offense was left frustrated after failing to produce a touchdown and finishing 0-for-5 in the red zone, Tate said he was more disappointed with himself not taking care of the ball.

“It's just unacceptable,” he said.

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/jamesbhawkins

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