DETROIT – The rest of the Detroit Lions headed toward the middle of the field or the locker room. The Lions had lost to the Seattle Seahawks moments earlier and the sideline was empty – except for one player.
Teez Tabor sat in the middle of the bench for almost a minute, not moving, no one talking to him, immersed in thought. It had been that kind of day for last year’s second-round pick – a day where nothing went right and for the cornerback, one he’d like to forget.
“I just feel like I let my teammates down,” Tabor told ESPN after the game. “You know, a couple of those plays could go either way, but that’s the game of football.”
Tabor himself admitted Sunday was “not a good day.” Matched up against Seattle receiver David Moore, he allowed Moore to catch all four passes thrown at him for a team-high 97 yards and a touchdown. Moore averaged 24.3 yards per reception. Tabor gave up two of the Seahawks’ three longest plays of the game.
And in addition to allowing the four catches, Tabor also had an illegal hands to the face penalty that gave Seattle another first down.
The final stat line was rough for the 22-year-old who was thrust into the lineup after Jamal Agnew injured his left knee against Green Bay. With Agnew out, the Lions mostly moved Nevin Lawson into the slot, opening the outside corner spot for Tabor in five and six defensive back packages.
Sunday was particularly tough for Tabor because of how those four catches unfolded. One showed one of the biggest knocks on him – his speed – when Moore ran away from him for a 45-yard gain that set up a Seattle touchdown.
The other three, though, Tabor was in position, and Moore just made tough catches. One was a pass defended, which would have been Tabor’s first of the season, but it ended up bobbing its way back into Moore’s hands for a touchdown. Another looked like an incompletion but was reversed to a completed catch.
But it’s the one where Moore got away that bothered him the most.
“Yeah, but the other three, if you said you want to be in this position when the ball is in the air, that’s the position you want to be in,” Tabor said. “Credit to him, he made the plays. Ball bounced his way [Sunday].”
But it also showed what the young cornerback still has to learn. In some ways, it brought back memories of another cornerback still growing who had a bunch of one-on-one balls go against him in a game early in his career. It happened to Darius Slay against Denver in the 2015 season. Slay learned from it and by the end of the year was one of the better young corners in the NFL. Slay, though, said it didn't remind him of his game against the Broncos, plays he has long since forgotten about.
"Everybody has their moment," Slay said. "That might be his moment."
Not saying that is what will happen with Tabor. They are two very different players – for one, Slay had already shown glimpses of his potential before that rough Denver game in 2015 – but it’s proof that every cornerback has days like Tabor did Sunday. Slay said he didn't believe Tabor had a rough day -- that defensive backs are, by nature of their position, going to give up plays. He did say, though, that he spoke to Tabor after the game. He felt Tabor was in good position for all but one of the catches he allowed -- the deep ball to Moore -- but the tipped ball off of his helmet and the play where the catch rule change turned what would have been a likely incompletion last year. Slay felt Tabor made those plays "but it went wrong on him."
But it’s also symptomatic of how Tabor has played this season. In 173 snaps, he has yet to have a pass breakup or pass defended. In 351 career snaps, he has yet to record an interception and has only two passes defended.
The day after, Lions coach Matt Patricia said he has confidence in Tabor. But he also said he had confidence in every player he was asked about during his 10-minute session with the media.
“We’re putting everybody out there that we think can help us win in their roles, and he’s someone that has definitely come through the course of the spring and training camp and the season that has shown us things that we like that he can to help us win in certain points,” Patricia said. “So, you know, look, like I said, it’s a team game so we all have to do a better job in that accord.
“But he certainly has shown us things on the field, on the practice field, in games where when you put him out there, we have confidence that he’ll do those jobs for us.”
Tabor is a smart player – that never has been a question – and he has good instincts. But it also has been a rough year so far.
When asked how he gets through following a game like Sunday, he said he just has to “keep fighting.” And that his confidence is there. It’s his confidence, he says, where he has made the most progress.
“I feel like, yeah, you know it’s the NFL, guys are going to make plays,” Tabor said. “You just have to stay calm and stay confident. Guys are going to catch passes. You just have to make the play when they come.
“It’s not like guys are just, everybody is gonna get beat once in a while, but it’s not like, I just don’t feel like, I just gotta keep going.”
At this point, with what he’s being asked to do this season, it’s about all he can do.