DETROIT -- Ameer Abdullah got his second rushing touchdown in as many weeks. Golden Tate took a screen and turned it into a game-clinching touchdown. The two plays -- coming at different points in the Detroit Lions' win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday -- meant a lot.
Abdullah’s touchdown tied the game at 10-10 in the second quarter after Detroit got off to a horrific start. Tate’s score in the fourth quarter gave the Lions a two-score lead.
Both of them transpired, though, because of strong blocking.
With the Lions up, 31-24, with 4:36 remaining, Matthew Stafford lined up in shotgun with Theo Riddick at his left. There were trips on the right -- TJ Jones lined up inside, Tate in the middle, Marvin Jones lined up wide right -- and tight end Eric Ebron on the left side in the slot.
Stafford said the Lions saw the Browns "showed an eight-up threat from a split mug," -- a look he said the Browns had shown a few times throughout the season. So Stafford said he "had a feeling," and changed the play from the original call to the wide receiver screen for Tate.
“Matthew made an incredible call, something we hadn’t really practiced this week, either,” Tate said. “But we were all on the same page.”
Both Joneses ran straight downfield while Tate paused almost immediately at the 41-yard line. Stafford immediately turned and threw to Tate, whose blocking was already being set up.
Right tackle Rick Wagner was already free, heading downfield to help. Right guard Corey Robinson blocked Joe Schobert, who was in pursuit, into a running Rick Wagner, effectively taking him out of the play while Tate outran Nate Orchard.
At this point, Marvin Jones had his man sealed outside at the 31-yard line, giving Tate the path. TJ Jones was almost 10 yards beyond that, setting up his block. Jones didn’t get the most effective block on, but that’s in part because Tate saw an opening in the defense.
He cut inside and Jones got some hands on Briean Boddy-Calhoun, but not a full-fledged block. It was enough to give Tate what he needed to outrun Christian Kirksey and Jabrill Peppers, who almost caught Tate from behind after being out of the play.
“On that particular play, [receiver blocking is] key obviously, because they help get it started,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “But if you analyze the play and take a look at it, there were linemen out there, too. Tackles, (Rick) Wagner had a block.
“There were a number of different guys that were moving out that direction, but you’re right, the wideouts do get it started.”
The Lions were aided by not facing a defender sitting in the middle of the field. That gave Tate the angle he needed to cut inside for the 40-yard touchdown.
“TJ made a heck of a block. Marvin made a heck of a block and I had two linemen coming out to cover whoever else,” Tate said. “Just kind of opened up like the Red Sea and the next thing you know, I’m on my way to the end zone.
“I felt fast there.”
A lot of it happened due to the blocking -- something that also assisted Abdullah on the Lions’ longest rushing touchdown of the season.
The Lions had the ball on Cleveland’s 8-yard line and lined up in a single-back set with three receivers -- Tate and TJ Jones to the right and Marvin Jones to the left with Ebron in-line on the left side next to left tackle Brian Mihalik.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter called a trap play, which allowed Detroit’s offensive linemen to get into the second level. Abdullah took the handoff on Stafford’s left side and immediately had a hole.
“Basically trying to get in the middle,” Robinson said. “Defense, get on them fast. They were playing a lot of Cover 2, that backer plays pretty far back so we figured we could hit him quick.”
The potential success of the play was shown on film during the week, Robinson said. The entire offensive line worked in concert to make the hole. Center Travis Swanson helped create the hole at the line of scrimmage by pushing Danny Shelton up. Left guard Graham Glasgow briefly chipped on Shelton before getting out into the linebacker, where he sealed Schobert out of the play 6 yards downfield.
This created the path for Abdullah to run through. The play was kept from being blown up by Mihalik, who got a good block on James Burgess Jr.
“Jim Bob called a good play and we got out and it was a look that we had seen during the week and it was something that we just executed fundamentally,” Swanson said. “Thankfully, it worked.”
Swanson said he doesn’t think about whether or not the hole opens on a certain play -- like it did for Abdullah on this run -- but they can tell as the play is going on. But they’ve been playing long enough, there are ways to know.
“It’s more you can feel, a lot of times you can feel the back touch you,” Swanson said. “They’re fast.”
Swanson said on that play, he felt Abdullah dart past for the Lions’ longest rushing touchdown of the season.