Detroit receiver Golden Tate is back and the Lions are reaping the benefits.
Tate, who struggled during the Lions’ 1-3 start, has played an important role in Detroit’s two-game winning streak, finishing with a career-high 165 receiving yards Sunday in a 31-28 win over the Rams. His 23-yard touchdown tied the score at 28-28 in the fourth quarter.
“Obviously, it’s great to see him have a big game,” coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. “He had a really fine game and you know he’s capable of it. He’s a talented, talented guy. I anticipate he’s going to have more of those.”
Tate never got discouraged, despite a rough opening four games in which he had 14 receptions for 95 yards and no touchdowns. He finished with one catch for one yard in Detroit’s 17-14 loss at Chicago in Week 4.
“I’m kind of a forget-the-past guy,” Tate said. “Just keep grinding, keep working. I can’t control when the ball will be thrown to me or what side (Matthew) Stafford is looking at. When my number is called, I can control from then on.”
The Lions have been calling his number more often. In the victory over Philadelphia two weeks ago, Tate had three catches for 39 yards, including a third-down reception that helped set up the game-winning field goal. He was targeted 10 times against the Rams, finishing with a season-high eight receptions.
Tate, who averaged 20.6 yards per catch Sunday, also had a touchdown overturned in the third quarter when officials ruled he was down by contact near the end zone. The 61-yard reception set up Stafford’s scoring pass to Anquan Boldin two plays later, giving Detroit a 21-14 lead.
With the Lions (3-3) potentially saving their season with two straight wins, things don’t get easier. Detroit hosts Washington (4-2) on Sunday, and the Redskins enter on a four-game winning streak.
“The way we practiced the last two weeks, we’re hard to beat,” Tate said. “Every position played good, solid football (against the Rams). When we didn’t, it was because of mental mistakes. You’ve got to love that we kept our composure and kept fighting.”
Detroit’s turnaround has also quieted the rumors surrounding Caldwell’s job security, although the Lions’ coach was not patting himself on the back.
“The season is not over. It’s not even close to being over,” Caldwell said Monday. “We have to do better this coming week, better than we were last week. If we don’t, we’re going to have problems.”
All of Detroit’s games have been decided by seven points or fewer, including one-point and three-point wins the past two weeks.
“When games are really tight at the end, it takes a certain mindset that you don’t get nervous, don’t get out of whack,” Caldwell said. “Our guys are developing in that area. It’s not necessarily something we’d like to happen every single week, but we’ll take it any way we can get it these days.”
Stafford has been pleased with the Lions’ ability to handle adversity.
“Whether it’s Week 1 in that situation that we had to come from behind and win (against Indianapolis), or these late fourth-quarter comebacks that we had these last couple weeks, we just seem to rise to the occasion,” Stafford said. “That’s the NFL and it comes down to the fourth quarter more often than it doesn’t. You’ve got to make the plays to win it.”