Lions' Golden Tate on slump: 'It's all in my head'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Golden Tate and Matthew Stafford

Allen Park – Mired in a season-long slump, Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate believes the root of his issues are mental and he’s digging deep to rediscover the player who averaged more than 90 catches the past two seasons.

“I think it’s all between my ears, all in my head, how I perceive different situations, myself at times, and even others,” Tate said. “I need to control what I can control. I need to control how I show up to work every day, I can control when the ball comes my way, I can control what I do it. That’s what I need to focus on.”

Tate’s always been a hard worker, but he’s turning it up a notch after his one-catch performance against the Chicago Bears last weekend, which saw him benched most of the second half following a route-running gaffe resulting in an interception. He’s spending more time studying film and more time working with quarterback Matthew Stafford this week trying to get his season on track.

The quarterback and receiver sound as if they’ve both moved on from the interception, and more importantly, the public undressing Stafford gave Tate on the sideline after the mistake.

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During a Wednesday news conference, Stafford said he regretted with how he reacted, and behind closed doors, he apologized to Tate. Not that the receiver felt he deserved that kindness.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t think he needed to apologize,” Tate said. “I screwed up at a crucial point of the game. Him and I both have a lot of passion and we show a lot of emotion during the game. I’d almost be worried if he didn’t get on me.

“I appreciate the apology, but I feel like I owe him an apology.”

Tate arrived in Detroit as a free agent two years ago and established himself as one of the league’s premier No. 2 receivers, a perfect complement to Calvin Johnson. When Johnson retired after last season, it was assumed Tate’s role would increase to help bridge the production gap.

But through four games, he has 94 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. He’s on pace for his worst season since 2011, when he caught 38 balls for 382 yards in Seattle.

While Tate looks inward, his teammates and coaches continues to express a belief that the receiver will get going sooner than later.

“Any chance we can get him the ball in space is a good play for us. He’s a really talented player, really good after the catch,” Stafford said. “When he touches the ball usually positive things happen for us, so the more we can get him touches, the better for our team.”

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More touches could be on the horizon. After targeting him 26 times through four games, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter hinted this week’s game plan could spark the receiver’s reemergence.

“Golden’s going to step up and have a huge week this week,” Cooter said. “I think Golden’s going to step up and have a big rest of the year. I’m excited about where he’s going from here.

“I’m confident in what we’ve got going this week.”

Tate has taken a back seat to Marvin Jones this season. The free-agent addition has been Stafford’s go-to target. His 482 receiving yards rank second in the NFL, behind only Atlanta’s Julio Jones.

Tate isn’t sweating his role within the offense as much as he’s struggling with the Lions’ 1-3 record.

“At the end of the day, it’s about winning,” Tate said. “I came here to win. The personal stats will come as we win, no doubt. Right now, we’ve just got to find a way to win and I think I can be one of the reasons we do win.”

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