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East Rutherford, N.J. — Lions tight end Eric Ebron had the best game of his young career in Sunday's 24-17 win over the New York Jets, but he showed in multiple ways that he's still a rookie.

Luckily for the Lions, those rookie mistakes had nothing to do with the game.

Ebron, who finished with three catches for 34 yards, caught a 16-yard touchdown near the end of the second quarter. It was his first career score, but he forgot to go hang on to the ball.

"I think he got caught up in the moment and kind of just left the ball on the ground," Lions wide receiver Golden Tate said. "So I picked it up and gave it to our equipment guys and hopefully he does something special with that ball."

After the game, Ebron said he plans to put it in a display case at home. He walked out of the locker room cradling the ball, but he made another error, leaving his pregame suit hanging in his locker.

All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson did the rookie a favor and grabbed it, even though the young guys are supposed to go out of their way to help the veterans.

"It won't happen again," Johnson said of carrying Ebron's clothes.

That's the end of the ball tale, but the Lions hope this is the beginning of a regular story about Ebron continuing to improve his game.

With Joseph Fauria suffering an ankle injury last week away from the facility, one bad enough for him to miss Sunday's game, Ebron had an expanded role. But he didn't look at it that way.

"This was my game plan the whole time, and we went with it," he said.


Detroit News sports writers discuss Lions 24-17 victory over the N.Y. Jets.

If this was the plan, then Ebron should continue to play more. And if Johnson isn't hobbled like he was Sunday and Tate can produce as he did with eight catches for 116 yards, then Ebron being a threat over the middle can make the Lions even more dangerous on offense.

The touchdown seemed easy, but it wasn't. Matthew Stafford made a perfect throw to Ebron's back shoulder in the end zone.

"He adjusted well, opened his hips and caught a ball that a lot of guys might not catch," Tate said.

But Ebron made it seem par for the course, showing an I've-been-here-before mentality that the entire team has been carrying this season during its 3-1 start.

"They ran a coverage that we knew they would," Ebron said. "We ran a play that we knew we would run to beat that coverage. And we executed."

Geno apologizes

Jets quarterback Geno Smith let his temper get the best of him Sunday, shouting an expletive at a heckler after a game in which fans chanted for his backup Michael Vick multiple times to enter the game.

"Before we start this off, first of all I want to apologize if any kids saw me saying any negative remarks walking off the field," Smith said after the game. "I kind of let my temper get the best of me in that situation, and it's a part of my learning process."

Extra points

In addition to Fauria, right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, cornerback Cassius Vaughn, linebacker Travis Lewis, defensive back Don Carey, quarterback Kellen Moore and defensive end Larry Webster were inactive for the Lions.

… Wide receiver Ryan Broyles made his debut this season and caught a 21-yard pass. Broyles was coming off an ACL injury suffered last season.

… For the Jets, cornerback Dee Milliner, wide receiver Jalen Saunders, linebackers Ikemefuna Enemkpali and A.J. Edds, offensive linemen Dakota Dozier and Ben Ijalana and defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis were inactive.