Detroit Lions play of the game for Week 16: Special teams trickery earns first down

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In yet another Lions-Falcons matchup that was decided in the last minute of the game, Detroit was unable to come away with a win despite a very strong defensive effort.

On offense, things didn’t always click, but they were able to keep this game within one score. The biggest play of the game for the Lions wasn’t on offense or defense though — it was on special teams.

Here’s how it went down:

The Lions started the drive at their 25-yard line thanks to a touchback by Atlanta’s kicker Younghoe Koo. The very first play of the drive never even happened thanks to a false start by rookie tight end Shane Zylstra.

Now backed up to the 20-yard line, quarterback Tim Boyle handed the ball off to Jamaal Williams who took it and ran for 14 yards before being pushed out of bounds. The next three plays were all Craig Reynolds. The running back gained the first down on the first carry but lost yardage on the second. He then was able to take a screen from Boyle for 14 yards while eluding several Falcons’ defenders to gain another first down.

The next three plays stuck to the run game but were slightly hindered by a false start from rookie right tackle Penei Sewell. The Lions now had a conundrum as they were faced with fourth-and-one. Down four points, they call a timeout to decide on their game plan and send the offense back out. Unfortunately, left guard Jonah Jackson committed the third false start penalty of the drive and moved Detroit back five yards once again.

The Lions called for a personnel change and the punt unit came out. Former Pro-Bowler took the field along with gunners Bobby Price and KhaDarel Hodge. Fox took the snap from Scott Daly but instead of punting the ball, he dropped back quickly for a pass.

Hodge and Price both sold the fake and their defenders were already trying to jam them downfield. The defense gave their initial push before preparing to block for the return that they thought was coming. Fox, standing on Detroit’s 42-yard line, made his first read and quickly passed it to Hodge. The receiver caught it at Atlanta’s 39-yard line and took it 15 more yards while making defenders miss.

This play was big, not just because it was risky to pull off and gained a first down, but it led to Detroit’s first touchdown of the game. That gave the Lions a 10-7 lead over Atlanta in the first half.