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Unsung Hero of the Week: Putting the special in special teams

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With not much going the Lions’ way Sunday, we take this week’s Unsung Hero of the Week to appreciate our special teams unit.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 19: Don Muhlbach #48 and Matt Prater #5 of the Detroit Lions celebrate after Prater kicked a 52 yd. field goal in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on November 19, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Detroit Lions defeated the Chicago Bears 27-24. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Sunday was ugly. It’s over, much like the Lions’ playoff hopes and their season, so let’s move past it. At this point, I’m rooting for draft position in a class chock full of exceptionally talented defensive players, particularly along the line. I’m sure most people may not like that mentality, but we knew from the start of the season when the Lions were shedding skin at positions of need during roster cuts that this was going to be a long-term process.

That being said, there wasn’t a lot to be happy with Sunday, and thus we take the opportunity to appreciate some of the most unsung players on the team.

Unsung Hero of the Week: the Detroit Lions’ field goal unit

Don Muhlbach, rinse, repeat,” the old saying goes.

Sunday was a reminder of how fortunate the Lions are to have one of the most consistent and reliable field goal units in the league. Somehow, the 37-year-old is still going strong as the Lions’ long snapper. Muhlbach has mastered the art, with punter/holder Sam Martin stating last year that Muhlbach has gotten so good at it that Martin receives the ball with the laces already out on field goals. That makes a big difference when it comes to timing in the field goal process.

Martin also deserves credit as holder. He rarely bungles his duties and if kicker Matt Prater is off target, it rarely has to do with the hold. That brings us to Prater, ole reliable, quite possibly the only man who makes 50+ yard field goals seem automatic.

Lots of folks have been caught up in the narrative that Prater seems to have lost a step over the last year of two, but it’s important to remember that that is all relative. If losing a little bit of power means still clearing 52-yard field goals with several yards to spare, then that’s not something to worry about.

Notice that I gave this award not to the entire special teams unit, but the field goal unit in particular. Sam Martin has been a little shaky this year, and with Martin going to the hospital after Sunday’s game at Soldier field there may be some sudden uncertainty regarding the punting unit. Thankfully, it seems like Martin is going to be okay.

There wasn’t much of the Lions’ performance Sunday to be happy with, but there is always something to be grateful for. In a year in which the league has seen unprecedented amounts of special teams instability (just look at the Bears and how kicks went for them Sunday), it’s important to take some time to appreciate what the Lions don’t have to worry about.