Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown ‘better than gold’; Lions set fourth down conversion record

Detroit Free Press

Amon-Ra St. Brown knew exactly how many yards he needed to break Roy Williams’ franchise record for receiving yards by a rookie, and when he got them on his first catch of Sunday’s game, he calmly tossed the ball to a ball boy and went back to work.

“I want to keep that ball,” St. Brown said. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”

St. Brown capped the best season by any rookie receiver in Detroit Lions history with a standout eight-catch, 109-yard performance in Sunday’s 37-30 win over the Green Bay Packers.

He scored on a 2-yard pass from Jared Goff in the first half. He set up two more Lions touchdowns as a decoy on trick plays.

And 17 games into his career, he left the Lions feeling like they have a star in the making.

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“This kid is, I mean, he’s better than gold,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “When you’re the athlete he is, explosive, but then you’re tough and you’re competitive, it’s just the way you’re made up and he’s smart. And those guys are hard to find that are all-encompassing like that, so I’m glad we’ve got him and he proved again. The consistency is there, that’s for dang sure.”

St. Brown finished the season with 90 catches for 912 yards; he caught at least eight passes in six straight games to end the year, the longest stretch by any rookie in NFL history.

After a slow start — just two games with 50 yards receiving or more before the Lions Week 9 bye — the fourth-round pick proved a catalyst for the Lions’ second-half offensive turnaround.

“Watching him grow into that role was so cool,” Lions quarterback Jared Goff said. “Sometimes that’s how it happens, and it happens later in the season. And if T.J. (Hockenson) is healthy and if (Quintez) Cephus is healthy and if Tyrell (Williams) is healthy the whole year, he probably doesn’t get these opportunities. That’s how this league goes, and he got those opportunities and clearly made the most of it. He’s a special player, a special dude. Look forward to playing with him for sure.”

St. Brown opened the season as the Lions’ slot receiver and finished it as Goff’s preferred target.

He said his big season was a case of “when opportunity meets hard work,” and he said he expects even more when he returns in 2022.

“I think I can be really good,” St. Brown said. “I mean, I know I can be really good. But there’s so many things that go into football. There’s injuries all the time, you never know what can happen. So just playing, do whatever I can do. I mean, you can only control what you can control, right? So controlling what I can control. Going out there, putting the work in the offseason. Making sure I’m ready for this team, bring my all and being as consistent as I can.”

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Record book

The Lions set NFL records for most fourth down attempts (41) and conversions (21) in a season Sunday, when they converted two of three fourth-down tries in the first half.

The Lions tied the record for attempts on their opening possession, when they tried their fourth fake punt of the season. Jack Fox’s pass sailed incomplete through Godwin Igwebuike’s hands, but the Lions converted their next two tries in the first half.

Goff threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to St. Brown on fourth-and-goal midway through the second quarter, and Goff completed a fourth-and-1 comeback to Josh Reynolds to extend a field goal drive on the Lions’ final possession of the half.

The 1995 New England Patriots, who were coached by one of Campbell’s coaching mentors, Bill Parcells, held the previous record for fourth-down attempts in a season with 39.

Briefly

With Sunday’s win, the Lions secured the No. 2 pick in April’s NFL draft. The last time the Lions picked that high, in 2010, they took defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was a three-time first-team All-Pro in five seasons with the Lions. Pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan and Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon are among the players expected to be in the mix for the Lions at No. 2. …  Left tackle Taylor Decker left early in the third quarter with a foot injury that Campbell said he does not believe is severe. Decker missed eight games at the start of the season with a fractured finger.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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