They call the NFL a copycat league, but the Detroit Lions insist they didn’t steal a play call from the Minnesota Vikings after the teams’ game two weeks ago, when the Vikings ran tight end Rhett Ellison on an end-around late in the contest for a touchdown.
No, the nearly identical play the Lions ran with Eric Ebron for the game-winning touchdown against the Jaguars has been in the playbook for a while.
“Yeah, when the Vikings ran it, (offensive coordinator) Jim Bob (Cooter) was pretty upset and I was like, ‘Man, we need to run that damn play because obviously it works,'” Ebron said. “So we greased it up and we got it going.”
Ebron said the team actually stole the concept from the New Orleans Saints, who ran it in Week 6 against the Panthers.
The Lions had been working on the play in practice for weeks, and after a career-long 61-yard reception got the team into the red zone, it was the perfect time to bust it out.
“They kind of told me throughout the week so I kind of was dealing with that pressure all week,” Ebron said. “I was just happy to get that play over with. Now I don't have practice it no more. I can go about doing something else.”
Lions coach Jim Caldwell preaches a meritocracy -- those who perform well will continue to play and those who don’t will be benched. We’ve seen that philosophy come into play a number of times this season, with wide receiver Golden Tate riding the pine the second half of a game and guard Laken Tomlinson getting replaced by rookie Graham Glasgow a month back.
This week, defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker was a victim of his own underwhelming performance. After losing his starting job two weeks ago, Walker was a healthy scratch against the Jaguars.
This move hits Walker’s bank account after he re-signed this offseason to a contract heavy with playing-time bonuses. But with 18 tackles (three for a loss) and no sacks, the team wanted to give Stefan Charles a longer look. A run-stuffer, he’s been playing well in recent weeks, and delivered one of the Lions’ four stops behind the line against the Jaguars.
Safety Miles Killebrew has been sprinkled into the lineup during his rookie season and has probably made more mistakes than tackles, but the fifth-round draft pick delivered his first meaningful performance against Jacksonville.
Killebrew recorded five stops in the victory, with all five coming on third down. The Jaguars converted on just one of those plays, and the rookie’s final tackle, a solo effort, saw him bring down tight end Julius Thomas just short of the sticks in the fourth quarter, forcing a punt.
The Lions scored the winning touchdown with the ensuing possession.
Sunday’s victory was the 50th regular-season win of Jim Caldwell’s career. He’s now 50-40 with a 28-20 mark with the Lions.
“I haven’t even thought about it and probably won’t think about it beyond this second,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got a really, really good football team coming in here on Thursday (Minnesota). That’s the win that I’m really looking at and I’ve got to get prepared for. That’s the one that’s the most important to us.”
While Caldwell is obviously no Bill Belichick, his .556 regular-season winning percentage is on par with more-praised peers, including Mike Shanahan (.552), Jimmy Johnson (.556), Brian Billick (.556) and Mike Ditka (.560).