Amon-Ra St. Brown lined up as the slot receiver in a bunch formation just to the right of the line of scrimmage, with Kalif Raymond in the backfield, and immediately heard squawking from the Green Bay Packers sideline.
“I’m lined up and all I hear from the sideline is, ‘Fourteen’s getting the ball coming across. Fourteen’s getting the ball,'” St. Brown said. “And I’m just smiling cause I already know what’s about to happen.”
St. Brown set a single-season Lions record for most receiving yards by a rookie Sunday, catching eight passes — his sixth straight game with at least that many receptions — for 109 yards and a touchdown. But his most meaningful contributions might have come as a decoy on two trick-play touchdowns the Lions scored in their season-ending 37-30 win over the Packers.
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On the third play of the Lions’ second offensive possession, St. Brown took an inside handoff from Jared Goff out of a formation the Packers sideline correctly identified as one the Lions had run St. Brown out of twice in a December loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
He flipped the ball to receiver Tom Kennedy on an end around, and Kennedy threw a perfect spiral to a streaking Raymond wide open down the Green Bay sideline for a 75-yard score.
The Lions also tried a fake punt on the opening drive Sunday, when Godwin Igwebuike let Jack Fox’s pass sail through his hands, and scored on a 36-yard Goff-to-Brock Wright pass early in the third quarter on a pitchback reverse in what Lions coach Dan Campbell described as an empty-the-playbook game.
“This is one of those where we did, we had everything going and we wanted to have enough ammo,” Campbell said. “We wanted our guys to like — it gives you a little jolt. You know you have a reverse in, or you have a reverse pass in, or it’s freaking Tom Kennedy throwing it. I mean, his quarterback average is like unbelievable right now.”
Campbell said Kennedy’s touchdown pass was originally designed with another receiver in mind as the passer, but that when the Lions tried the play in practice this week the receiver threw “a duck.”
“It went about 10 yards,” Campbell said. “And so it was like, ‘OK, no.’ I said, ‘Who’s next?’ And Tom Kennedy jumped right in there. And we gave it to him, and it was, ‘OK, he can throw.’ So he did a great job. Worked out good.”
Kennedy, a former pro lacrosse player with four receptions in his NFL career, said his career passing exploits include a pitch pass in his 9-year-old championship game, when he threw a touchdown; a pass off a receiver bubble screen in high school, when “I think the sun was in the receiver’s eyes because it went through his hands at the goal line;” and a Philly Special-type play in college that went for a touchdown.
“That was like inside the 5, though,” Kennedy said. “Nothing this long. So it was cool.”
St. Brown also played a key role in Wright’s touchdown, which started with a pistol formation handoff to Jamaal Williams.
Williams then flipped the ball to St. Brown on an end around, and St. Brown tossed it back to Goff, who threw to an open Wright after the rookie tight end sold a block at the line of scrimmage.
Goff said there may come a time when the Lions don’t need to resort to trickeration to beat teams like the Packers, but “if they’re scoring touchdowns, I guarantee you we will keep calling them.”
“f they aren’t, then yeah you can pull back a little bit, but it’s fun,” he said. “Dan is that type of guy. He’s very aggressive, we all know that. If we were playing with a lead, I would imagine we wouldn’t have called either of those plays, but the way the game was going, they were in a perfect situation, and last game of the season and let it all go.”