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The trade deadline came and went back in October, and Eric Ebron stayed. But the Lions’ tight end hasn’t been the same player since then. He has been decidedly better, nearly doubling his production and emerging in recent weeks with a bigger role in the offense.

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Sunday, the fourth-year pro posted career highs with 10 catches for 94 yards to lead all receivers in Sunday’s 24-21 victory over the Buccaneers. And in the six games since the trade deadline, when even Ebron talked openly about the possibility he might get dealt, he has 27 receptions.  Prior to that, he had just 15 catches — on twice as many targets — in the Lions' first seven games.

The issues with drops have receded, though Ebron was kicking himself for a first-quarter fumble Sunday  — "My first fumble (in the NFL), and hopefully my last fumble ever," he said -- as well as a diving catch he couldn’t come up with in the fourth quarter.

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“He had a great game today,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who took the blame for the fourth-quarter miss. “Shoot, he’d have had a bigger day if I’d hit him on that one third down on the cross. There’s still room for improvement on my end helping those guys out. But Eric did a great job. When we get production out him like that it’s a big boost for our offense.”

Ebron said he goes into every game thinking he’ll play a big role in the offensive gameplan. But the early targets Sunday certainly helped.

“Getting involved early, stay involved and good things happen,” he said.

But asked if he found any sort of personal vindication in this, especially given the reaction from Lions fans earlier this season, he shrugged.

“No, because I bet they can't wait to talk about how I dropped a ball,” Ebron said. “I mean, I'll never make this fan base happy. Which is cool with me. I'll just go out there and continue to do what I do, and go from there.”